Gal, a cadet in an IDF officer’s training program, arrived at Jerusalem’s
Ammunition Hill on Thursday morning with his class for an “education day.” In
addition to hosting obligatory visits by IDF groups, the museum at the site of
one of the pivotal battles of the Six Day War also attracts numerous visitors
from around the world.
But the last people Gal expected to run into on
his way to learn about Lt.-Gen.
Motta Gur and the Harel Brigade were the
members of one of his favorite bands – Swedish heavy metallers
“I’m trembling, I can’t believe I met them,” an emotional Gal
said after getting autographs and being photographed next to a tank with the
five band members, who were preparing to perform that night at a sold-out
Reading 3 club in Tel Aviv.
“I knew they were in Israel, but what were
the chances they’d show up here?” Those chances were higher than with most
visiting artists. Because not only are Sabaton’s leaders, vocalist Joakim Broden
and bass player Pars Sundstrom, knowledgeable students of the miraculous Israeli
victory in 1967, they even wrote a song about it – “Counterstrike” – on their
2006 album, Primo Victoria
, that touted the reunification of Jerusalem with
lines like “Three nations fallen in six days of war/Traitorous
neighbors/Received as deserved/Under the sun in the dust of the war/One nation
standing stronger than before.”
Chronicling historic battles in song is
Sabaton’s thing, and that rather unique niche has helped make it one of Europe’s
most popular metal bands over the past decade.
Albums such as Attero
and Coat of Arms
focus on historical periods like World War II and the
Falklands War, while The Art of War
is based on a book of the same title that
was written in the sixth century BCE by Chinese strategist Sun Tzu.
its latest album, Carolus Rex
, the band tackles the history of Sweden’s military
“Early on, we decided to write songs that people would care
about. There are so many bands that write lyrics only because they need to have
something to sing,” said Sundstrom, who writes the band’s lyrics together with
“At some point, we decided to focus on the topic of war, because
wherever you live in the world, you have some kind of contact and impression
from war. Even in Sweden, which luckily has been free of conflict for some time,
but we are also aware of what’s happening in the rest of the world.”
fascination with history led Sundstrom to research the Six Day War, and when he
learned about the against-odds victory of the IDF, he was impressed enough to
write “Counterstrike.” The song became an underground hit among Israeli metal
fans upon its release in 2006, and since then, Sabaton has appeared in Tel Aviv
twice, in 2008 and 2010. The band regularly praises Israel on its website and
even posts information in transliterated Hebrew.
It is that sense of
empathy and identity with Israel that has helped generate a rabid following for
Sabaton among young metal heads in Israel, including soldiers like Gal who know
all the lyrics to its songs.
“They identify with Israel, and you can tell
by the way they’re so eager to be photographed with us in uniform,” said
“They’re Swedish and don’t have any connection to Israel, but they
make us proud to be Israeli and defending our country.”
family,” added Yishai Sweartz, the Tel Aviv lead of Raven Music, which promotes
metal shows and albums and brought Sabaton to Israel on its previous
“They love Israel. The last time they were here, they asked to
visit Latrun, and this time they asked me where else they could visit, so I
suggested Ammunition Hill.”
The IDF fought Jordan’s Arab Legion at Latrun
during the War of Independence; today it is the site of the Armored Corps
Memorial and Museum.
The band’s unique relationship with Israel and its
fans here has even prompted a writer and photographer from popular British
magazine Metal Hammer
to accompany the group here for a four-page color spread
in a coming issue.
Walking around the underground bunkers of Ammunition
Hill on Thursday, the band and its entourage – uniformly wearing black, and
sporting various tattoos, earrings and facial hair – received a fair share of
bemused stares from visiting soldiers, who apparently didn’t possess the same
musical affinity as officer-in-training Gal.
But when they were offered
the chance to pose for pictures with the band, Israel’s fighting finest were
reduced to nervous school kids, stealing a moment with the “bad”
“Ah, girls in uniforms with big rifles, what could be better than
that?” joked Broden, surrounded by a group of young, eager female soldiers. They
just giggled, and moved in closer.
The band was herded into the screening
of a 20-minute filmed presentation of the history of the Six Day War, including
descriptions of the battles lit up on a 3-D map. They were silently rapt
throughout, following every word and picture.
“When you read about
something, which is what we did before writing the song ‘Counterstrike,’ you get
your own images in your head,” Sundstrom said afterwards. “So even though I knew
most of the information already, I like the movie because it helped me visualize
better what went on.”
Taking their leave of Ammunition Hill, the band
headed out to an army base near Maccabim for lunch with more soldiers.
seems like they can’t get enough of the military. And the feeling may be
“I never heard of them,” said Adi, another officer-in-training
watching them walk away. “But I’m sure going to look them up now.”
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!