BY BRAM BESSOFF / AJT //
I‘m standing on the helipad atop the W Hotel by Centennial Park, looking down at a fireworks display. My 5-year-old is on my shoulders, screaming her head off (“This is awesome!”), and my 9-year-old is doing the sniper crawl, clinging on for dear life.
I’d be lying if I said that in that moment I was thinking of anything deeper than a good time and the safety of my children (who by no means were at risk). But later that night, tucked in my comfy W plush bed, I did start to think a little deeper.
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How would a Jew celebrate their independence? What do Israelis do on this day?
I’m sad to say, I knew very little about it. So I did some Googling, and…
Did you know that July 4, 2013 marked the 37th anniversary of Operation Entebbe?
The movie based on those events – “Raid on Entebbe” – had a huge impact on me back in the day of the dreaded “after-regular-school” Hebrew school. Not only was it my first movie with blood and violence, but the strength and loyalty the Israelis showed for each other and all mankind left an indelible mark that has blossomed into love, honor and total support for this country.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything politically speaking, but I definitely dig how Israel stands for freedom and Judaism on the world’s stage. But I digress.
Back to my online research – I started stumbling onto tons of stuff. I didn’t know that every three years or so the Fourth falls during the three-week morning period that ends with Tisha B’Av, meaning most Orthodox Jews celebrate without music or TV.
And as for how Israelis celebrate their own country’s independence day, Yom Ha’atzmaut – I found out it’s celebrated both as a national and religious holiday. While the president gives a speech followed by artistic performances and a torch lighting ceremony for the 12 tribes of Israel, each movement has its own way of recognizing the occasion through prayer and/or the reading of Torah.
And of course, they also do a little barbecuing…and fly F-16s up and down the shoreline. Tel Aviv gets even more radical by mixing fireworks with speed klezmer; it’s pretty rocking. Check it out on YouTube (link in editor’s note).
Speaking of klezmer, I’ll use that as a nice segue back to music. I know I said we’d talk about this week, but unfortunately most of it got rained out.
On the Fourth, we went to Centennial Park early to catch von Grey, a new artist working with my company, Indiehitmaker. We got totally washed out standing on line to get in; we’re talking umbrella-inverting sheets of rain soaking us four adults and the seven kids to the bone.
Regardless, I love this act – the von Grey sisters, ages 13 to 18, are ridiculously talented musicians and songwriters. In fact, if I had to peg one Atlanta act for national attention, it would be them. Their timing is perfect, and they are primed to rise out of the sound Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers have brought to pop music.
And besides, the music industry loves sibling bands; look at the Followil brothers (Kings of Leon), local greats Evan and Jaron (Lowenstein, of Dunwoody). I think we’ll see von Grey ride the crest of this Americana rock wave before it dies out – check them out at vongreymusic.com.
Anyway, returning to the tale of the weekend. To make up for moments lost due to weather, I took the family to Unplugged in the Park on July 7 to see some other Atlanta greats grace the stage together. Among them was Michelle Malone, who was at the forefront of Atlanta’s listening ear when my band Soup first emerged on the scene back in 1995, hasn’t aged a bit and rocks harder than ever before with her full-on Southern rock and catchy hooks.
And just as good, opening for her was another Atlanta legacy: Jen Lowe, by far one of the most talented percussionists and drummers I have ever met. She’s also a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter and fronted a whole set with yet more local greats, Vanessa Oliveraz (early American Idol finalist) and John Stringer (of State of Man and JAD, and also my business partner).
In short, let me highly recommend Unplugged in the Park for your Sunday evenings through mid September. There are great acts, an awesome atmosphere and killer food and drinks, so you can sit and dine while you watch premium talent from around the country. The show is free, too!
Now, I’m off to Rochester, N.Y. for a week; I’m sure this crazy road trip will provide me with plenty to share in my next column.
In the meantime, share your Fourth of July moments by tweeting to #InItForTheMoment (mention @bram_rocks) or Facebook me.
Sources for this week’s column included religionnews.com and wikipedia.org. See Tel Aviv’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at youtube.com/ouNscCuQtcI. Finally, follow Bram’s experiences on, off and backstage – including shots from Michelle Malone’s July 7 performance – @bram_rocks, and interact with him at #InItForTheMoment and share thoughts, comments and ideas about this column.