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David Broza is no stranger to sticky situations but, he says, the events unfolding in the north of the country have left him rattled. "I went to Lebanon in the Eighties and I've performed for soldiers all over the place, but I was really scared in the north," the platinum-selling singer said yesterday from his home in Tel Aviv. "I went to the Galilee a few years ago when Katyusha rockets were being fired there, but this is something else. This is really scary. It really didn't feel good driving around there. This isn't something I've encountered before."
Broza's concert tour across the Galilee on Saturday and Sunday was on his own initiative and is continuing this week. "No one contacted me. I just called the various regional councils and municipalities and coordinated the time and place of each show," he said. "They weren't organized to accommodate musicians coming to perform for them. For now it's a matter of physical survival for them."
Broza's hasn't been just a token foray to the north - the singer did his best to get to places where locals are afraid to venture out of their security rooms and bomb shelters. "I performed in a shelter in Cabri and, in the middle of the show, 14 Katyusha rockets landed very close by. It wasn't just the odd missile, it was a barrage. It's really no joke up there," said Broza, whose most famous song, "Yiyeh Tov" (It Will Be Good), comforts listeners with the promise of a better future. The song has become an anthem of peace and Arab-Iraeli reconciliation over the years, with the singer occasionally performing verses penned in honor of Israel's 1979 peace agreement with Egypt.
A number of musicians have volunteered their entertainment services to soldiers on the frontline over the years, including artists from abroad. Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, for example, arrived in Israel in the middle of the Yom Kippur War to play for IDF soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, but Broza has done more than most. Still, he says, it doesn't get any easier. "I don't think about the fear, and what's really going on there," he said. "I think I'm repressing it. I just go into shelters with my guitar and no amplification. It's a completely unplugged-in-war scene."
The singer is planning additional trips to the north, with eight performances planned in Nahariya today. "I'll just get there, do my show, pack my guitar away and drive off to the next place," he said.
Broza says his one-man show provides northerners both moral and physical support. "Instead of hiding away in their security rooms and their own shelters, people come together for the shows," he said. "I did a show at Kibbutz Snir and someone came up to me and thanked me not only for coming, but also for bringing some of the kibbutz residents together. There were about 40 of them in the shelter for the show. The man said he and his family thought they were alone [at the kibbutz], and that everyone else had fled."
Broza's description of his current travels sound like something from a war reporter's chronicle. "We drive by burnt fields where rockets have landed," he said. "There are no other cars on the road. Places like Moshav Amirim are like ghost towns. All the restaurants and guest houses are closed. There is absolutely nothing moving there. You see a war situation in the eyes of the people you meet there."
Broza's says his concerts are greatly appreciated by local residents, who express their gratitude to him in sometimes dramatic ways. "People are scared to come out to the shows, but they do come," he said. "At one show, a guy left the shelter to pick some lychee for me. He said he really wanted to give me something. While he was in the field, Katyusha rockets started falling around him, but he kept on picking. He said he considered running, but kept on picking because he was determined to bring me a whole box of lychee. He was shaking as he gave me the fruit. It's really sad what's going on now."
His efforts are having a positive effect, he says. "I see how tense people are when I get to the shelters, and how relaxed they are after the show. Suddenly, they all start talking to each other and sharing things. Every little bit helps. We chat a little after the shows, but I don't really have time to hang around. I have to get off to the next gig."
In addition to his work to boost morale in northern Israel, Broza has also spoken with members of the foreign media about the current crisis. "I think they want to hear what I have to say, rather than just getting the regular stuff from the politicians," he said. "I think I represent the mood of the people better than the army spokesman or the politicians. In a way, I've changed from a dove into a hawk. Right now I'm not interested in expressing my views on how to conduct negotiations. I'm more interested in making sure Na'ama or Iztik who live in the north don't despair about the situation. That's the least I can do."
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