How does John Lennon figure in a Jewish revival campaign?

The Ray of Hope is an ambitious undertaking, but has attracted the attention of Israeli MKs from across the political spectrum, as well as prominent Jews in the Diaspora.

 John Lennon in an advertisement for ‘Imagine’ from Billboard, September 18, 1971 (photo credit: PETER FORDHAM/BILLBOARD/WIKIPEDIA)
John Lennon in an advertisement for ‘Imagine’ from Billboard, September 18, 1971
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

Trevor Bannister was the first artist to be signed by John Lennon to Apple Records, the heart of the Beatles publishing empire. The two musicians shared many deep insights, which continue to play an influential role in Trevor’s colorful life today, here in Israel, where he has dedicated many years to creating an entity that encourages the strengthening of bonds between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, extended to local Arabs and other friends of Israel.

The Revival Project is the vehicle for promoting non-political events and activities to help realize this project’s goals. Israel’s Diamond Jubilee next year, called by the Revival Project the Revival Anniversary Year, or RAY, is the focal point of these events. The Ray of Hope is an ambitious undertaking, but has attracted the attention of Israeli MKs from across the political spectrum, as well as prominent Jews in the Diaspora.

Jewish TV Channel is just one of the many media platforms set up to help spread the message, in a fun and creative way. Although still in its developmental stages, JTVC has managed to create channels dedicated to original video productions, radio content, as well as a community station and a news outlet.

To date, David – his middle name by which he prefers to be known, as many Israelis have a problem pronouncing Trevor – has been mostly undertaking this project alone on his own initiative, but his dedication and professional approach has been successfully bringing others to participate in making the Revival Projects’ main objectives a success. But where does John Lennon fit into this?

Bannister was close to the inner circle of the Beatles and John Lennon when the ‘peace saga’ was being shared with a world reeling from endless conflicts. Does anyone remember Give Peace a Chance? Well, Bannister certainly does, and even more: he is still motivated to integrate that message within the Revival Project’s mission statement. But does that mean turning one’s back on the many threats facing the Jewish people, both internally and externally?

 A long-haired Trevor Bannister when John Lennon signed him with the Beatles’ publishing label, circa 1968 (credit: TREVOR BANNISTER) A long-haired Trevor Bannister when John Lennon signed him with the Beatles’ publishing label, circa 1968 (credit: TREVOR BANNISTER)

It would be inconsistent with Bannister’s background over the past decades to suggest that his attitude is purely of a passive nature. His father was a decorated war veteran, and Bannister was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps when it came to issues related to the nation’s survival. He is proud of his certificates that were presented for exceptional voluntary service with Israel’s Border Police and security forces.

Bannister’s reason for undertaking such a dramatic step followed events in early 2005. He had personally arranged for a delegation of young terror victims to meet with a parliamentary committee in the House of Commons, which included a prominent member of the House of Lords. He was invited to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office before leading that successful mission. It was an educational experience that prepared him for meeting ambassadors and international dignitaries later, which would prove useful in his public role. However, it was the brutal terrorist incident that claimed the life of a young boy from a friend’s family that really brought the message home. Bannister felt obliged to physically help defend Jewish lives as well as initiate appeals for support.

How does that reconcile with a desire to foster peaceful harmony?

Bannister has participated in the Israel–Palestinian Economic Forum, which has included many businessmen from the Jewish settlements as well as local Palestinians. All share a desire for peace, but one that is founded in the bedrock of secure stability. In like fashion, the Revival Project is carefully excluding events and activities that serve to further alienate Jews who could benefit from finding common ground together. Thankfully, this has not been a major challenge.

“I can stand between Orthodox as well as Reform Jews and share a lively conversation about countless topics other than those that highlight their religious differences,” says Bannister. “Anything from global climate to sporting fixtures can be discussed in a friendly atmosphere, which is what the art of communication should afford us. A few years back I hosted a debate to help newcomers to Israel understand the political environment here, prior to the first of those inconclusive elections. After a fiery session including participants who got elected to the Knesset, I raised a challenging question. The preamble explained that many newcomers, or olim, felt that they were entering into a non-stop battle arena. I then went on to ask each person what we all shared in common that could somehow dispel that negative impression.

“What followed was nothing short of a miracle. It included a virtual kiss being shared online between two candidates, one from Meretz and the other from Shas, both otherwise aggressively opposed to the religious and political stance of the other. Others joined the ‘ceasefire’ antics, and the debate was declared a success. In fact, it was due to that approach to fellow Jews that certain MKs confirmed their interest in the Revival Project I intended to promote.”

Bannister’s adventures have taken him through the Arctic Circle, the Sahara Desert, as well as handling a small sailing craft during a major cyclone in the Pacific Ocean, where he also spent time as a divemaster exploring the depths of the seafloor.

In recent years, he has spent time researching and exploring the fate of the lost Ark of the Covenant. That led to close contact with the Israel Antiquities Authority and his bringing leading Hollywood bigwigs to investigate the potential for a documentary series on the subject of biblical archaeology in Israel.

Having gained an Israeli tour guide license, it was a natural progression to want to undertake a scientific exploration of the fate of Israel’s ancient artifacts. Trail of the Ark was established to share valuable information associated with such findings. Since Jewish TV Channel has been brought online, it will be hosting shows that include the Trail of the Ark, to ensure that these diverse interests are kept under one roof where they can find better fulfillment. Bannister reasoned that diversity is better served in a media platform that requires divergent topics.

Regarding the Trail of the Ark, Bannister was invited to join an archaeological team led by Dr. Oren Gutfeld, whose finds a few years ago caused a media sensation. On March 15, Bannister climbed the steep slope behind the place where the legendary Dead Sea Scrolls were found. When asked what he had found, he admitted rather shyly: “Well, I did find some fibrous material that Oren believed could be part of an ancient scroll, but there was something far greater I discovered.” This was an intriguing teaser. I was aware that he had a major struggle descending from the elevated cave, above sheer drops to the Jordan Valley below. “I discovered that I’m getting far too old for this!” he said.

Where to now?

As Israel fast approaches its 75th anniversary, the importance of getting the Revival Project up and running has taken an air of urgency. Despite his advancing age, Bannister maintains a strict fitness program with a determination to see this project through. He is making space available on the Jewish TV Channel for a range of exciting content that can fit in with the aims of the Revival Project. He wants to create a broad appeal for a wide audience. One such undertaking is to promote a show aimed at a mature audience, but with a family-friendly approach. David Ben Reuven is a prolific writer and musician with a flair for getting through to Jewish seniors. He has created a Jewish superhero that JTVC is interested in publishing in a dedicated section.

Content providers include filmmakers, writers and drama producers among other talented contributors, many with a proven track record in their chosen field. Accordingly, the question of what comes next is dependent upon available resources, both financial and human ones.

What is clear is that Jewish communities in the Diaspora and Israel are in need of such a vital project to help strengthen bonds between them. Jewish TV Channel and its promotion of the Revival Project should be worthy of keeping a close eye on. And who knows: maybe the late John Lennon can also play a role in this undertaking from the beyond?  ■

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