I have been involved in the Palestine-Israeli conflict for years. Being neither Jewish nor Arab, when I spoke in favor of the Palestinian side of the conflict I was many times dismissed as an anti-semite. On the other hand, when I spoke about how the injustices inflicted against the Palestinians (and there are too many count) did not legitimize attacks against the civilian population on the Israeli side (or the occasional religious fundamentalism that springs up in Gaza and the Occupied Territories) I was simply dismissed as a Zionist.Up to this point, my knowledge of Orphaned Land was very small, to say the least. Having seen Sam Dunn‘s Global Metal, I was aware of the existence of the band and had some familiarity with a small part of their discography, but in reality I knew next to nothing.
While we were researching the bands that were going to play in the PPM 2013 in order to determine which interviews we would like to conduct, I went through many interviews of Orphaned Land, and found myself intrigued by some of the things I was reading. Kobi Farhi, the singer of the band, seemed like a very interesting person with a lot to say, even beyond the realm of music, and with whom I thought I’d be able to have an interesting conversation.
Check the video at the bottom of the post!
Metal Blast: Kobi, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today. First of all, your show today was great; I had never seen Orphaned Land live and it was really amazing.
Kobi: Thank you; I’m happy to hear that.
MB: I’m sorry that we have to start on this note, but most of the interviews that are done with Orphaned Land focus on the political situation of Israel, the Occupied Territories, etc.
Kobi: That’s OK.
MB: Do you think that it is to be expected for a band from Israel, that it will always be attached to the discussion of the conflict?
Kobi: You can also say that since we are coming from that region our topics and subjects are always attached to that situation; you can never find a song that I wrote about my ex girlfriend or my personal life, it’s always about the macro situation of the middle east. We are not taking sides in any conflict, we just think that people lack the education and understanding… people forget so many things and they are swamped with media, brainwashing, propaganda from politicians and manipulation from so many people that we have to deal with this subject.
I come from a region where 50 kilometers up north thousands of children are dying today in Sirya; and 30 kilometers down south there is always a conflict with Gaza, and missiles are flying, whether they’re falling on Tel Aviv, and I have to run for shelter, or the [Israeli] army is bombing Gaza… so the children in Gaza, the children in Israel, the children in Syria, all the children on my region are really suffering from things they shouldn’t suffer, and we are being raised to hate each other, while we forget very simple facts.
I know that I’m going to different subjects here, but your question is very complicated, and I’m OK to be asked about it, because I feel that I have the privilege to be a musician, I have the privilege to bring harmony in a very big place of disharmony, and those people that fight can find something in common, and that’s music, our music. We are an Israeli band with tons of Arab fans, even though we are Israelis; these are not two football teams that compete with each other, these are blood enemies.
I have grown to know the power of music, so I really think that the only hope for this region is music.
MB: It’s interesting that you mention how kids are being raised in hatred; there are pictures of Palestinian children who are virulently antisemitic and, at the same time, there are pictures of Israeli kids painting on the missiles that are going to rain over the children on the other side.
As I said, this is the first time that I see Orphaned Land, and during the show you said something very beautiful when, referring to the belly dancer on stage, you said that “she is our sister, she is from Lebanon, but it doesn’t matter, because this is music”. It’s really nice to see that music is being used in this way, trying to unite people, and at the same time it’s terrible to see that people misinterpret this… wasn’t it her who, after a Hellfest show, had to claim refugee status in France due to death threats?
Kobi: It was her; it is forbidden for Lebanese people, by law, to be in contact with Israelis because Israelis are the enemy. (( I did not find any source to back up this claim. )) There is a law! If you are meeting an Israeli you are disobeying the law, as ironic as it may sound.
All the things you are saying are true. We are the adults; if a child suffers, I don’t care if he’s Palestinian or Israeli, he’s just a child. If I want to bring children into this world, which I still haven’t, I want to bring them to a better world to live in. I don’t know if I can change the world with music, I definitely know that music can be a good example for people to see another way. We are not the politicians who manipulate people to go on a certain way, we can just show a way; we are not like religion, forcing our opinion, “missionaring” our opinion or manipulating our opinion, we just show it.
Let me give you an example: We were on tour with a band from Algeria and Tunisia, they are Muslims, we are Jews. We didn’t live together in the same landscape, we lived together in a tour bus, with our shoes, our snoring, the different languages and religions… but we shared a bus. And when it was time to say goodbye, we cried, like kids, because we love each other. The simple truth is that we are brainwashed.
MB: There is this Jewish activist for Palestine, Norman Finkelstein, and something that was very sad was an interview that they did with one of his friends in Palestine, who said that she “didn’t know Jews could be like this; I thought that they all hated us”. And it’s sad when you hear the same from Israelis, about “I thought all Palestinians hated us”.
Kobi: This is because we shape our opinions by stereotypes; people have their own solid opinions about other people without even meeting them. They know it from the papers, they know if from the news, they know it from pictures that they have seen…
I know it from my own experience, if an Israeli and a Palestinian would sit for 10 minutes and I ask the Palestinian to ask the Israeli what his biggest fears are, he’ll say “According to my history, my biggest fear is when someone is saying that he will wipe me from the face of the earth”; when I hear a Palestinian, an Arab, a Muslim, the President of Iran saying that “I’m going to wipe Israel from the planet” ((There is some debate as to the actual meaning of Ahmedinejad’s words on this issue. )) , the Jewish people will do everything in their power to prevent this plan from succeeding.
MB: There is, of course, the memory of genocide and extermination.
Kobi: Exactly, so if there is a dialog and the Palestinian could listen to those words, that would be interesting. On the other hand, I can tell the Israeli to ask the Palestinian what his greatest fears are, and the Palestinian will say “You were gone all over Europe with your Nation… you were gipsies (( Meaning “nomads” )) you were in Africa, in America, you travelled all around the world, you had the genocide and then you came back to this land where I was living with my father in the meantime for hundreds of years.
MB: It’s about territorial displacement; in the end everybody is afraid of being told “grab your stuff, get out”.
Kobi: You cannot wipe the fact that the Palestinians had homes for centuries, for generations… and you know how much people are attached to their home, to their land, and they had to just get away, to get out of there, and they became refugees. You must have sympathy for that, in a way that you can put yourself in that situation. As Jewish people we were in this situation of being the minority, of being hunted, of being persecuted, of being out of our land, of being gypsies or refugees; it’s just a matter of dialogue and education.
I want to tell you an interesting story; we just finished recording our new album, it’s going to be released in June. We were mixing it yesterday and one of the songs is called “Brother”. Historically speaking, if you put side-by-side the Israely/Arab, Jewish/Muslim conflict, both of these nations are descendants of Abraham, because the Jewish people consider themselves to be the sons of Isaac, while Arabs consider themselves to be the sons of Ishmael. They were both sons of the same father so, historically, if you take me and you take an Arab, we are brothers.
MB: Well, you are both Semites.
Kobi: Yes! We are both Semites, but when you say that to a lot of Israelis and to a lot of Arabs, they don’t even remember that; the hate is so strong. They don’t even remember that we come from the same source, we have the same names! My name is Jacob, and Arab guy would be called Yaqub; our guitarist’s name is Yossi, an Arab guy would be called Yusuf; Abraham and Ibrahim… the names are the same, the stories are the same. One thing is different, and this song “Brother” speaks about it: The Jews say that Abraham took Isaac to the mountain to be sacrificed to God; the Arabs say that it was Ishamel. The conflict even began back then, because they were sons of the same father but from different mothers. This is why we have this new song, we want to go to the source of this problem.
MB: In an interview that you gave to MetalIsrael, you were asked “Don’t you care about our soldiers that are being blown up?!”. Do you find that it is hard for you, as an Israeli, to tell people “well, it’s terrible when we lose people, but it’s terrible when they lose people”? Do you think that people give you a lot of flak for this?
Kobi: I always say that we are here for everyone and that I judge people by their hearts. I have personal friends of mine, who are my soul mates, and they are Palestinians; I sleep in their home and they sleep in my home. I judge people by looking into their hearts; you may say that it sounds like Jesus, but that’s the truth. How can you stereotype people because they’re gypsies or Indians, how can you tell? Some of them are probably scum of the earth and some of them are probably angels, how can you stereotype an entire group?
MB: It’s really terrible when we need to specify this.
Kobi: Of course!
MB: One of my best friends is Palestinian and one of his best friends is Jewish, and he has to specify “not every Jew is evil”, while you need to go “not every Palestinian is trying to murder us”.
Kobi: We all share assholes and great souls, because we are all humans. I don’t have a problem in saying my opinion, and I do it many times, that when a Palestinian kid suffers because of my army, then that’s bad for me. I’m not coming to say the army is wrong or right, I’m saying that I hate that these children are suffering; I don’t want them to suffer, they are children, they shouldn’t live with the sound of bombs. We are the adults, so what’s the problem in finding a channel of communication?
I am the little metalhead from a little metal band, and yet I succeed to do it all the time, for people from Lebanon, from Tunisia, from Egypt, from Syria… people will come to see our shows in Turkey all the way from Iran! If I can do it, I’m sure my leaders can do it. Who the hell am I?
MB: I don’t know how serious the proposal was, but you do know that you were proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize, right?
Kobi: I know about the petition, which started from some of our fans. I saw thousands of signatures there, and I was thrilled to see that many people signed from Arab countries as well. But, to be honest, I’m sorry for using these words, but I can let go of the prize, I just don’t want children to suffer in my region. One of the most sad songs that we wrote in the new album is called “Children”, and it’s about those children that are suffering in our war zones, you have to check that song as well.
I don’t need prizes, I don’t need rewards, I just want to have children and I don’t want them to be soldiers. That’s all I want.
MB: Since you mention this upcoming album, which is coming out in June 24th, tell me a bit more about it.
Kobi: The name of the album is “All is One”. The cover of the album was made combining the symbols of the three Abrahamic religions into one. Ironically, however, the whole album deals with the fact of how we as people failed to see that all is one, how we’ve failed again and again. It’s a very conceptual album, with amazing songs, with some of which you can dance on the table because of how happy and joyful they are while, on the other hand, if you won’t shed a tear listening to some of the other songs, then we probably failed. It should be a very happy and a very sad album at the same time.
I think that it is our greatest creation to date, our best album so far; lyrically, musically and production-wise, and I recommend it for people who like folk metal, who want to hear something different or who are bored with what they listen today… they will find a treasure.
MB: You are considered a progressive metal band with ethnic elements. Will the new album focus more on one of these elements or still finding this great combination that you have been able to do?
Kobi: I think that it is still that great combination, because every song is different from the others, so you can definitely find a lot of variation. We never repeat ourselves, so if you listen to one song you will never hear three more like it, it’s always different. It is going to be a great journey for every listener. Check it out and judge for yourself!
MB: Kobi, sadly, we have been told repeatedly that our time has come so it’s time to pack it up. What is your message to your fans?
Kobi: I want our fans to be proud. If they think about the middle east, so many politicians are doing all of these conversations… many musicians write their music, many poets write their music, but if there is one band that succeeded more than anyone else in bringing enemies together in the Middle East, that would be a metal band called Orphaned Land.
I think that metal people should be proud, because this doesn’t belong to us; the Nobel Peace Prize belongs to metal music, because metal music brings people together, and that’s what I love about metal music so much. That’s my criticism towards religion, because metal music succeeds to do it better than religion, that’s a fact.
MB: Yesterday when I was coming to this festival I saw all the kids coming here, dressed in black and everything. But there is a certain comradeship between everybody, even though we are the minority. I remember this Shakespeare quote, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, and you really feel that way. You know that, even though metalheads don’t tend to be the best at social interaction, there is this love and care for each other.
Kobi: There are festivals of hundreds of thousands of people, like Wacken and Hellfest, and I’ve never heard about people being stabbed, killed by being drunk… I’ve never heard about violence in those festivals, no drugs…
Those people with the long hair, the tattoos and the skulls on their t-shirts? Take example from them.
Thumbnail Photo by Markus Felix