Show off, but Charedi rockers stay in Belgium
The Gat Brothers became serendipitous celebrities in Jewish circles worldwide
following their 2013 appearance in the Israeli version of “American Idol” called “Rising Star”. In this video they’re singing “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel from Rising Star.
A Gat Brothers concert is a natural fit for Antwerp, which has many Charedi Jews. Brussels has a far more secular community and not a single kosher butchery. Those among the 18 000 Jewish residents who are observant have to get their meat from Antwerp or Paris.
“For many years now, Yiddishkeit has been standing still in Brussels,” said Aryeh, who grew up in a traditionalist family but became Charedi with his brother 20 years ago.
As the Gat Brothers were tuning up for a sold-out show in Antwerp, terrorists killed at least 31 people in a series of bombings at Brussels’ airport and a subway station. The attacks plunged a grieving country and its Jewish community into lockdown.
All gatherings were cancelled as authorities instructed residents to stay indoors.
RIGHT: Aryeh and younger brother Gil Gat
They had been scheduled to kick off Antwerp’s famous Purim street celebrations (which the city’s non-Jews refer to as “Jewish Carnival”.)
But the tragedy didn’t stop Aryeh, 51, and his younger brother Gil, 41, from completing their mission. The Gats became unlikely celebrities in Jewish circles worldwide following their 2013 appearance in the Israeli version of “American Idol”.
Now, instead of performing a repertoire of upbeat rock for 1 000 spectators, they have set up an intimate concert at a local Jewish family’s living room. There, they performed for a handful of guests a selection of soulful ballads, including Paul Simon’s “Sound of Silence”, Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and “Mi Ha’Ish” – a song from Psalms.
The Gats’ manager, Lior Ashkenazi, said he and the brothers had nowhere to go in the paralysed city, and were grateful for the family’s invitation. He emphasised that the performance was impromptu.
“We are devout believers, and so was our audience in Antwerp,” Aryeh Gat said this week after the duo’s premature return to Israel. “So we worked with what we had, as Judaism teaches us. There was no Purim cheer but there was spiritual uplifting, strengthening and, yes, there was solace.”
Aryeh, a follower of the Breslov Hassidic sect, now lives in Beith Shemesh near Jerusalem. Originally a drummer, he began to play musical instruments at the age of four in his family’s native city of Eilat at Israel’s southern tip. He began performing several years ago in jazz and blues clubs with his brother, a career guitarist, but they turned to busking after becoming disillusioned by an industry “in which musicians need to pay club owners to perform”, Aryeh said.
Producers of “The Next Star”, Israel’s version of American Idol, launched them into stardom after seeing videos of the brothers on YouTube, he said. Since then, they have performed in New York, Toronto, across Europe and even in Panama, at the request of Jewish groups and wealthy fans.