Reggae artist and former hassidic Jew Matisyahu has opened up in an interview about his experience at the Rototom Sunsplash festival Spain last week – and he says was not a pleasant one.
The singer-songwriter has been hailed as a Jewish hero since the festival, in which he faced down a hostile, PLO-flag-waving audience and even sang his song “Jerusalem.”
He told The Daily Beast in a phone interview that when he stood back stage, he noticed a PLO flag in the audience, but when he stepped on stage “about 20 flags came out.”
“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger. It was intense. It was not peaceful. It was like ‘F*** you, Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”
He said that the performance was one of the only times he’s ever felt unsafe onstage.
“I just assumed everyone in the festival was going to be regular reggae festival-goers, so I got really nervous. I felt totally open and that anyone could do whatever they want,” he said.
His performance followed pressure from anti-Israel forces that led to the cancellation of his invitation, international controversy, and then to a last-minute apology and re-invitation.
While his performance was seen by Jews as an in-your-face affirmation of his Judaism and Zionism, Matisyahu made no such statement in the interview. “I’m not a political scientist, and I don’t claim to know all the details and the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I haven’t chosen a side,” he told The Daily Beast.