Meet the Israeli and Palestinian heavy metal bands head-banging for Middle East peace

Orphaned Land and Khalas have shared a stage, cramped tour bus - and touching message of optimism- on their European tour

Many Israelis and Palestinians have long felt as if they have been knocking their heads against a brick wall in the pursuit of a solution to their conflict.

But a pair of heavy metal bands from the two nations have taken an unconventional approach to ending the stalemate - literally head-banging for peace.

Sharing a cramped tour bus, a stage and a touching message of optimism, Orphaned Land - composed of Israeli-Jewish pioneers of “oriental metal” - and Khalas, their Palestinian band of “brothers”, have rocked out in London, Manchester, Norwich and Bilston in Wolverhampton, as part of a European tour.

Khalas, also known as the Arabic Rock Orchestra, formed in 1998 and cite AC/DC and Black Sabbath among their inspirations.

Orphaned Land, who have been around since 1991, have supported Metallica and have been described as “quite possibly the most popular Israelis in the Middle East”. Last year, their fans even started an online petition to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The two groups do diverge when it comes to songwriting, with Orphaned Land creating politically-charged songs, while Khalas (Arabic for 'enough') “let the music speak for itself”.

“I feel that as a Palestinian, I have the right to write songs about beer, about ladies throwing bras at us on stage,” says Khalas' lead guitarist Hathut.

“And it annoys me because when I answer that, a lot of people say, now you are an Israeli. Well f**k that - if I don't talk about the occupation, I am an Israeli, suddenly.”

Hathut and Kobi Farhi, 38, lead singer of Orphaned land, grew up and still live in ethnically-mixed cities -  Farhi in Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv; Hathut in Acre, northern Israel.

The pair met in a radio studio a decade ago and have since built up a firm friendship, which has evolved into a musical coalition opposing artistic boycotts and promoting a small-scale peace process that simply bypasses the excuses and the extremists.

Neither man has ever voted and both claim that by uniting in the name of art, "we're p***ing on all the politicians".

"I don't believe in politicians on any side," says 33-year-old Hathut. "It's a dirty game." Kobi Farhi of Israeli heavy metal band Orphaned Land Kobi Farhi of Israeli heavy metal band Orphaned Land

Farhi, who has long hair, a beard and copious tattoos, says: ”I could never find any algorithm to translate what I know into politics - I'm still waiting.

“While it takes the leaders half a year just to negotiate the terms to sit at a table - not even to discuss the issues - we feel that we are above the problem. Israelis and Arabs are brothers. This is according to history - both are descendants of Abraham.”

Hathut, who rocks a shaved head and goatee, says: “In daily life, I feel that each side does everything to keep us apart. When people are afraid, it's easier to control them. What we do, our friendship, it's very dangerous to those [leaders].”

“We did have some boycott issues,” laments Hathut. “When we announced the tour, they cancelled two of our concerts in Ramallah. And I understand where this is coming from, but I don't believe that it's the right way.”

Referring to Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who earlier this year called on “artists around the world to declare a cultural boycott on Israel”, Farhi says: “I am not Roger Waters, we are not Pink Floyd. But I'm an Israeli admired in the Arab countries. I have succeeded to do that without boycotting.

"I mean, there are human rights violated in Syria. In Iran, rock and roll music is illegal. Maybe I should boycott them as well. Yes, you can raise awareness, but you can also p*** off your fans and they close themselves even to be more defensive."

The Israeli singer is a walking illustration of what can be achieved by embracing, not shunning, "the other".

"I was brainwashed as a kid," he says. "I even did a graffiti once - 'Death to Arabs' - when I was about 14.

“There was a terror attack in my city and a child was killed and I decided: 'there you go, they want to kill us all, I hate all Arabs'.

"I am very ashamed of it today, but I'm very proud to say that, from that level, I have reached a completely different point of view."

Orphaned Land counts tens of thousand of fans among neighbouring Arab countries, from Syria to Saudi Arabia, but many ban their music and all ban Israelis from entering.

One song on their new album is dedicated to the children of Syria, and Farhi says he yearns to visit.

"I will go by foot to perform there. I will pay money to perform there. The dream of a band is to meet your fans, anywhere. I'm reaching 40 countries around the world, but the ones near my country, I cannot visit them.

“I am a musician - I have a sensitive heart. I hear about children injured in Syria, in Gaza, in Be'er Sheva [Israel's seventh largest city]. What the hell do I care where they come from?”

The duo even have an answer to the seemingly impossible question of how to resolve the political standoff.

“Actually, it's not so impossible,” insists Farhi. “A few things should happen. First, a change to the whole education system.

"Instead of starting to feed the kids with toy guns when they are three years old, we will start to just teach them about the value of life.

“I would take Israeli kids to visit Arab villages, I would take Arab kids to visit Israelis, they would play football together, they would learn about similarities in their languages, they would learn about history, they would learn how similar they are.

"The second thing is, out of millions, we need two politicians whose friendship will be similar to mine and Abed's. And they will be as shepherds leading their nations. And it will be a generation until everything is fixed, just like that."

They both laugh when Hathut chips in with a wry smile: "And it's not going to happen."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones