A Red Hot Night To Remember

This is a guest post by Jesse Abelson, a Minnesotan from St. Louis Park. Abelson is currently a participant on Young Judea’s Year Course In Israel, a gap year program for post-high school students. A version of this article was original published on the Year Course blog.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers came to Israel recently for their first ever concert here. Fifty thousand people packed the house, and the Chili Peppers delivered a concert that will surely never be forgotten by anyone in attendance. My two Year Course friends and I were part of the 50,000 people that night at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. The concert was an incredible experience and I am so grateful that I had the freedom to attend. While we ended our night with thousands of Israelis screaming to “Californication” and “Can’t Stop”, we began our day at a much different spot in Israel.
We started the morning with a Year Course siyur (field trip) to Hebrew University and Mount of Olives, learning about the history of Israel. We traveled to the cemetery and got to see the glistening city of Jerusalem from many different angles and perspectives.  One thing was constant:  Israelites always stick together. From the beginning of the history of Jerusalem to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, all Israelis stick together (and sometimes, at the concert, a little too close together).  But standing next to random people, starting chants as we waited for the Chili Peppers to come on was an experience of its own. It didn’t matter who we stood next to or spoke to at the concert—just being together in Israel, we instantly formed a connection to everyone. Whether it was an Israeli, an American, a Canadian, or anyone else, there was always that connection to being in Israel and sticking together, not only as Chili Pepper fans but also as a country.
I began my day learning about Jews in Israel thousands of years ago and ended my day spending time with thousands of Jews at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Israel. None of this would have been possible if there had not been the incredible Jewish state of Israel. If Israel didn’t exist, I would not be here. I would not have been able to have the most amazing experience of my life. I never would’ve been able to meet all kinds of Israelis with some incredible stories.
The concert, which was dedicated to the band’s late guitarist Hillel Slovak—a Haifa native who sadly passed away in 1988—was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Not only was it an incredible concert, but the fact that we were in Israel for it made the concert that much more special. With every song we would sway or jump to the beat, hanging around 50,000 other Israeli Chili Pepper fans. There was nothing that could have made that night any better.
Having the freedom on Year Course to have these experiences is what is going to make these nine months the most incredible nine months of my life. Already I have met so many amazing people from Israel and other countries. I spent a Shabbat in Jerusalem, attended a crazy Friday night service, a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, and an Israeli national soccer game! These experiences are what make my time here so special. Being more than just a tourist, having the freedom to be immersed in the Israeli culture, makes Year Course so much more meaningful for me. These experiences are teaching me what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be a Zionist. These past few weeks have been an incredible experience for me; I can’t wait to see what these next eight and half months have in store for me.
(Photo: _bmo)