Yulia Karra
May 7, 2023, Updated May 8, 2023

In the past few years, Jewish heavy metal star David Draiman has become nothing short of an advocate of the Israeli state. By his own admission, it has alienated him from certain circles of the showbiz world. But he says that negative public opinion of his political views no longer bothers him.

In fact, American rock band Disturbed, which Draiman fronts, is returning to the Holy Land in June for its second live performance in the country in four years. The first show, on 28th June, sold out quickly, and a second show has now been added on the 29th.

Extended family

“The experience last time was absolutely amazing,” he says, referring to the concert in July 2019.

Back then, Draiman made headlines in Israel for singing Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem. “I don’t know how we’re going to have a better one this time.”

Draiman’s grandmother immigrated in the 1920s from Yemen to pre-state Israel, where she resides to this day. The singer’s grandfather used to be part owner of the Hamodia daily newspaper, while his brother Benjamin recently moved to Israel. All that in addition to “thousands of cousins and uncles and all kinds of relatives.”

“I have so much family in Israel, and I’ve been there three times just in the last couple of years. I don’t need many excuses to keep coming back. It’s not a hard sell for me,” he tells ISRAEL21c.   

“It’s always nice to come home. I’ve been dreaming my entire life of being able to play in Israel. I finally got to the last touring cycle. It was honestly a dream come true to have 10,000 Israeli Jews chanting ‘Never Again.’ It was something I didn’t think I would ever be able to see in my lifetime.”

‘Israeli audience is more appreciative’

Another reason for Disturbed’s decision to include Israel on its tour schedule was the appreciation of the Israeli audience’s passion for music.

“It’s similar to European audiences, and certainly above and beyond anything you see in the United States,” Draiman says.

Metal icon David Draiman on why Israeli audiences are unique
David Draiman on stage with bandmates. Photo by Alon Levin

He says that international artists’ reluctance to perform in Israel due to political concerns or simply due to its less appealing geographical location, makes local music fans appreciate the bands that do show up that much more.

“In the US we’re a little spoiled. There are places that have more energetic crowds than others, but typically if artists go to the other side of the pond, the energy level goes up. In Israel in particular, because it doesn’t get as many shows as it deserves, the fans are that much more excited. I was pretty blown away by it.”

The 50-year-old rock star says the unique qualities that characterize the Israeli audience also apply to the local music scene.

“Any Israeli band that I have come into contact with always seems to bring a little bit of their heritage into the music to give it a certain styling. I hear that a lot — the cultural influence in the delivery. [Israeli metal band] Orphaned Land is a good example of that,” he says.

“I couldn’t help it myself. In our first-ever single, ‘Stupify,’ in the bridge part of the song you have me singing ‘tefached,’ be afraid in Hebrew.”

Draiman jokingly adds that his family is even helping to revive the Israeli rock music scene. “I have a cousin [in Israel] who has a black metal band, and it’s actually really good. But I don’t remember what it’s called, he’s gonna kill me,” he laughs.

‘It’s home’

He says that he isn’t currently thinking of joining his relatives in Israel permanently since “logistically it doesn’t make sense for me to have a home base there.”

Logistics may not be the only thing keeping the singer from relocating full time. He says he was traumatized by hot-tempered Israeli drivers when he was a teen. “As a kid I used to be terrified of going on buses because the bus drivers were flying through these tiny, narrow streets at 55 miles per hour,” he laughs.

“There are so many things I like about Israel, but I don’t ever want to drive in Israel ever, ever, ever again. Israel has the most aggressive drivers I’ve seen anywhere on the face of the planet. I’m even scared to death in taxis; it’s like warfare on the streets. The drivers are next-level insane.”

Metal icon David Draiman on why Israeli audiences are unique
David Draiman during a concert in Israel in 2019. Photo by Alon Levin

But he hasn’t ruled out that maybe one day — when he puts the microphone down for good — he might indeed come to live in Israel.

“I love Tel Aviv, I love taking trips to Masada and Ein Gedi. I love the food. I love knowing that everywhere I go I’m going to run into somebody who’s potentially a family member. I love the sense of comfort. I love the feeling of togetherness, which hopefully will reemerge after the current craziness comes down,” he says, referring to the judicial reform crisis. 

“It’s where my family is. It’s home.”

For more information on Disturbed’s upcoming shows in Israel, click here.

For information on other concerts scheduled for this summer in Israel, click here.

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