I was planning to write a piece on Lieberman’s “brilliant” plan to move the towns and villages of Wadi Ara to a Palestinian state, or about “Omar”, the Palestinian Oscar candidate for best foreign film, but then I heard about Pete Seeger’s passing, so the other topics will have to wait.
Somehow I thought Pete would always be with us. He was a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. As I note in the piece I just posted for the Times of Israel (Remembering Pete Seeger), he probably would have wanted all of us to sing together “Turn, Turn, Turn.” A part of my piece follows:
My memories of Pete begin with The Weavers, the wonderful singing group that he led, together with Lee Hayes, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, who’s first hit was none other than the Israeli song Tzena, Tzena,Tzena.
This was not coincidental, since the story of Jewish national liberation was an inspiration for the progressive forces around the world. . .
My cousin Yochanan from Kibbutz Hatzor tells me how Pete came to the cheder ochel (dining room) of the kibbutz to play for the members in the late 50s/early 60s, particularly impressing the children. The story behind that performance was that Pete came to visit the editors of the Tel Aviv-based Israeli peace monthly New Outlook, and said he wanted to visit a kibbutz, to see socialism in action. Since Managing Editor Shmuel Be’eri, who had been an American sailor on the Exodus ship in 1947, was a member of Kibbutz Hatzor, the rest was easy.
When Pete came to perform at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv in May, 1967, I joined the members of my kibbutz, Barkai, many of whom were originally North Americans, who climbed on to the benches of a MANN truck to make their way to the big city, to see the historic, heartwarming and inspiring performance, which was in many ways a sing-a-long hootenanny, with Pete leading the way.
One month later, after the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War, which relieved Israelis from the sense of threat but also saddled us with the beginnings of the occupation over the Palestinians, Pete declared that he wouldn’t return to Israel again until the occupation ended. And he kept to his word. He even contributed a portion of every royalty that he received for the song Turn, Turn, Turn to the struggle against house demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
While he was perceived to be a supporter of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) against Israel, he continued to support progressive Israeli causes, clearly continuing to long for the pioneering image of the State of Israel that inspired him when he was with The Weavers.