by Jack Mendel

American reggae star Matisyahu met Israeli statesman and former president Shimon Peres during a visit to Israel.

The America-Jewish artist known for blending Orthodox Jewish themes with reggae made the trip to this week to play a show in Jerusalem, which will include Israeli artist Idan Raichel.

Upon meeting Peres, he encouraged people not to be deterred from visiting Israel by the current climate of tension and violence.

He told Peres: “A lot of people are going to be asking me why… you’re coming to Israel now, it’s a dangerous time to come.”

“I think it’s an important thing for Jews outside of Israel, American Jews like myself, to come to Israel no matter what’s happening here, the ups and the downs… be a part of what’s happening.”

“That’s exactly what happened with me in Spain,” he added.

Matisyahu performed in Spain in 22 August, after initially having been banned, after he was labelled “a Zionist” who was “seen to represent Israel” by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Following the ban, a Spanish government and media criticised the decision, with the government saying “puts into question the principle of non-discrimination”. He was allowed to play, and performed one of his oldest hits “Jerusalem”, despite a strong presence of Palestinian protesters in the audience.

“My music stays out of boycotts, which create barriers,” he said. “This is not the way to advance peace. I call on all Jews to come to Israel and to support the joint effort toward peace.”

“To come together, to create, to make art which goes above.. so thanks for having me.”

“I’m excited about performing [in Israel].. Maybe you can make it to the show” he asked Peres, whilst grinning.

Following violent riots in Jaffa-Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, the former president said: “We must do everything in our abilities to prevent disturbances of this kind, and to continue to maintain a mixed, harmonious city of Jaffa.”

Peres paid tribute to Matisyahu’s fusing of positive music with his strong conviction and sense of Jewish identity.

He said Matisyahu was “special” for facing down boycotters in Spain.

“Not only do you represent peace and hope and togetherness, but also courage,” Peres told him.

The two met at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on Wednesday morning.