Monday, May 19, 2014

Aliyah Stories: Bishop

“In Israel people do what they’re passionate about, and people notice them. I don’t play music to be famous, but because I like it, and if other people like it that’s cool.”

Bishop, 20 years old, has just made Aliyah to Israel this past February, from Memphis, Tennessee. A young musical artist, spiritual but not religious, for Bishop Israel is about creativity and passion, and it is where he has chosen to come to make his music.

Bishop loves the vibrancy and variety of Israel’s music scene, which he says is a result of Israel’s general diversity, welcoming Jews from all over the world each with their own musical style.
His group is called Red Music, the color of both anger and love symbolizing life’s contradictions, just like Bishop’s music, which blends the style of the 1960s with modern music.

Bishop grew up Jewish in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a Moroccan Jewish mother and an African-American father. He is often mistaken for Ethiopian or Sudanese here in Israel and people are always surprised to find out he’s American.

Bishop describes the Jewish community in Memphis as close-knit. He shrugs off anti-Semitism in the States, saying he has experienced it in the form of off-color jokes and references but that it was subtle and he didn’t feel hurt by it. Bishop doesn’t think the racist joke-tellers are necessarily anti-Semites or bigots, but the remnants of a worldview passed down for generations among a certain class of white Christians; a slight distaste for those who don’t share their religion and skin color.

After graduating High School in Memphis, Bishop first came to Israel on a Masa gap-year program. A group of friends encouraged him to sign up so he decided to give it a try. He participated in a program called Aardvark Israel, living in the Florentine neighborhood of Tel Aviv and studying Hebrew, Jewish business ethics and Middle-Eastern politics while volunteering at Ozen Bar, where he met many Israeli musicians and even performed himself.

When he looks back on that semester he lived in Israel, Bishop recalls it was filled with signs he was meant to be there. He cites the extraordinary occurrence of finding an iphone on the ground at the shuk whose owner welcomed him into her family with gratitude and became his “Israeli mother”. He met amazing Israeli musicians, made great friends, and built his own fan base here in Israel.

He returned home after the program and started studying at the University of Memphis, but he knew it wasn’t where he was meant to be. When he looked around him, he saw his friends doing the same things they’d been doing in High School. Nothing was changing, and he couldn’t see himself living the life he wanted there.

So he came back to Israel, this time for good. At the moment he is working several jobs while performing his music. This summer he is going to volunteer at Kibbutz Magan Michael, learning Hebrew and working the avocado fields. “I’m a vegan, so it’s like heaven for me!” he jokes. Soon he’ll begin his army service.

And after that? Eventually, he wants to return to school, Bishop says. But until then he is happy making music and seeing what the future will bring. “If the universe wants it to happen, then it will happen.”

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