From Tel Aviv to Berlin and back

Published in Jerusalem Post, January 3, 2014

It’s been three years since German-Israeli singer-songwriter Mathia has performed in his hometown of Tel Aviv. In 2011, he served as opening act for Israeli pop star Aviv Gefen’s 20th anniversary tour of his debut album It’s Only the Moonlight. Since then, he has signed a record deal with Warner Music Germany, but on January 4, an unplugged show at Tel Aviv’s Levontin 7 will reconnect him with Israeli audiences.

Born Mathithiahu Gavriel in 1986 in Tel Aviv, Mathia’s life and work reflects the Israel-German cultural intersection that is lighting up in Berlin. There are currently anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 Israelis now living in Berlin, depending on who’s counted.

The recent exodus of Israelis to Germany’s “it” city made headlines in The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Speigel and a slew of local and international media outlets following a controversial post of a comparatively low Berlin grocery bill on the “Olim L’Berlin” Facebook page. Appealing to 2011’s “social justice” protesters, the post bragged how chocolate pudding in Germany costs only a shekel, compared to four shekels in Israel.

But for Mathia, living and working in Germany isn’t a constant negotiation between Germany’s dark past and the desire for a fulfilled, affordable life. Israelis’ attraction to Germany, and vice versa, is about a reconciliation that comes from finding common ground through interesting art, culture and music, a desire to broaden one’s world outlook, and everyday interactions in the big city.

“This generation grew up with parents and grandparents being anti-Semitic and having close-minded thinking, and now it’s time for these people to grow out of this thinking and learn from the past,” Mathia said in a German-accented English at an interview at a Tel Aviv café, joined by his girlfriend and songwriting partner, Jenny Karr, who’ll be performing onstage with him on January 4.

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