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Unholy land, unholy wars, or a story of my life in the middle east.

Updated: May 24, 2019

I never thought that my nationality or the passports I hold will ever play more important role for some people than the music that I do. My life path led me from Russia through Israel to Berlin where I'm currently living. It has shaped me as a person and as an artist. I can't change my past, only present and future. But if you are interested in my past, especially in the Israel related part of it - here you go.

In this text I tried to give a full perspective on who I am, why do I live in Berlin, why do I play the music that I play and befriend people who I want to make friends with. Read it through and make your opinion either to love or hate me as well as to come to my concerts or boycott it. 

Before telling you my story I want to give a little disclaimer: I am probably not as bad person and not as good person as you might think and my role in political processes is way smaller than some people might see it. I am sharing my story to be clear with everyone who claim to know it. 

Another little one – English isn't my native language, so please judge this text by its content and not by its grammer.

I was born and raised in Russia into a Russian-Jewish family. My mom is Russian and my father is a Jew. My childhood happened in the crazy nineties, when most of the people in Russia lived in poverty, political and economical chaos and a life threatening danger in absence of a functioning law. I was also exposed to the echoes of the antisemitism, which was cultivated during the 70 years of the soviet regime. For example I knew from my family that I'm not supposed to talk in public about the ethnicity of my father because, well, some people might not see it in a positive way. Under those circumstances I've also made my first steps as a musician.

At the age of 14 I was exposed for the very time to the activities of the Jewish agency, which was working on shaping our Jewish identity and slowly nudging us towards the repatriation aka aliah aka going to live in Israel.

Now, to all those who wants already drop the first bombs on my head – there were fucking nineties in Russia. There was no internet. There was no international media and no way to get any more information about Israel and Palestine, but this one which was given us by the Jewish agency and the official mass media – TV, radio and newspapers. Now we all live in a lucky time when you can simply google things from your phone. At the time when I was a teenager we had nothing. I've got my first personal computer when I was 21 years old. By that time I was already living in Jerusalem.

Yes, when I was 19 I moved to Israel. Not because I was a zionist. Not because I was a religions Jew, but simply because I was willing a better life. The way of the Jewish agency to „sell“ the idea of living in the „holy land“ to us, Russian Jews, was based mostly on promising the economical and educational advantages. And only now, about 15 years later, I understand how ironic it all was.

In 2004 I started my studies in the Jerusalem Academy of Music where literally for the first time in my life I have meet face to face an Arab. Till then I could only hear or read about Arabs from the available to me media sources, profiling Arabs in a very certain way. And what have I discovered when I meet one? - well I've seen just another human being, who wants to live in peace and do their thing in life, either it is music, or whatever else. Already then I was realizing that something is wrong about ethnic profiling.

But life often takes over you. I simply didn't have any time to go deeper and research this topic, I had to think about my studies, work and my future, which I knew I want to dedicate to music. Not to political debates, but to music.

And so it was till one crucial event came into my life and hit me like a hummer on my head. You probably ask yourself how did it happen that I became to be a part of the Zionist Occupation Army also known as Israeli Defense Forces?

I never wanted to do it at the first place, and I never believed in doing so, but after one week in jail (I guess it's not as bad as Asad's jail, but still..) there was a deal on the table – I do the service as a musician, or go back to jail. And at that time I took a decision which left me the possibility to keep being a musician. I am not proud of it, but it's a fact that I can't change by now. I was working with military bands and sometimes performing by myself. I wasn't involved in any military operation, never stayed at block posts and checked Palestinians. Although my service was pretty calm I still hated it, but it was my way to survive and my way to keep making music.

In 2010, after almost two years and a half I was finally free again. I got back to my studies and founded my first band which was aiming as a goal to play music from all over the world. Partly because we were pretty good and partly because I was considered to be a „success story“ that Israeli propaganda organizations can use to promote their values, we were invited to play in many events in Israel and abroad. If you think that when living in Israel you have a very clear picture of a situation around Israeli-Palestinian conflict then you are very far from the truth. Also we had to pay bills of the one of the most expensive countries in the world, so of course we were doing those concerts.

This was going on till 2013, when partly intuitively I have realized that there is something wrong about what I was doing. I didn't want to live anymore in the zone of constantly ongoing conflict and in December 2013 I have used an opportunity and moved to Berlin.

The very first time when I've seen the other, Palestinian side of the story, was when I already lived in Berlin. It happened thanks to my Arabic roommate, who was patiently explaining me how Palestinians see the conflict and what do they claim. It was the time when I started to learn historical facts which I didn't know before and for the first time was able to see what this all means in the perspective of my own life choices.

Since I wanted to know more about the other side I started to participate Arabic cultural events in Berlin and meeting people who I previously barely had a chance to get to know. I was amazed by the richness of the Arabic culture, it's tradition and of course music. Although at this time I was still involved in many Israel-oriented activities, mainly for the reason of making living and paying my bills, I was realizing that I want to do way more than that. I wanted to play Arabic music and by doing so to get closer to the people and their culture which by circumstances were previously denied from me.

That's how the Berlin Oriental Group came to life. There was no idea of normalization behind it. No wish to whitewash the name of Israel and no idea to promote any sort of cooperation between Arabs and Israelis. The only idea was my personal motivation to share with my crowd the beauty of the Arabic culture which I have recently discovered. And I was really enjoying that finally in Berlin I can bring my ideals of multiculturalism to the stage and into my life.

But there was another thread awaiting me just around the corner. Like if I didn't went through enough trash in my life. Some people started to see me as a secret agent of an Israeli government. Rumors were spread that my band is secretly supported by world controlling zionists and that every single action of mine is targeting one goal – to advocate the Israeli side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Well, what can I say. Maybe if it would be true my band would be way more famous and I would have way more money in my pocket. But it is not the case.

Neither me nor one of my current projects are sponsored or supported in any way by the Israeli government or any other Israel or zionism related institution. Every concert which me and the other band members are organizing are based on our own initiative and the choice of music is driven by our own artistic taste. No concerts in cooperation with Israel or zionism related institutions are planed for the future. All our projects are independent and represents only us ourselves as independent people and artists.

And here are just a few other statements which I find necessary to share with all whom it may concern:

1. I have left Israel in December 2013 because of various reasons. I didn't want to live there anymore and I don't plan to go back. I do not promote or support zionism and I am not a zionist by myself.

2. Although I have both passports I do not identify myself as a Russian or an Israeli. I live in Berlin and I choose to live in this city because of it's multicultural freedom and acceptance. I treat people with resect independently of their race and nationality and hope to be treated by others in the same way and manner.

3. I believe that artists as any other people should be able to cooperate and build a constructive dialog with each other independently from their ethnicity and nationality, especially if such a cooperation happens outside of a conflict zone and doesn't aim to promote or support the conflict.

 4. I believe that a dialog between Arabic and Jewish people and artists can have a great potential and bring both sides to the point of recognition and better understanding of each other.

5. I condemn the violent and oppressing actions of Israel towards Palestinians and call for a peaceful solution. Yet I defend my right to keep my art apolitical.

6. I am planing to keep my artistic work based on my personal artistic choices. The reason for that is because I like to do what I'm doing and there are quite a few people who likes the results of my work. Therefore – so far my music makes people happy I will keep doing it.

Now, when I've presented truthfully my personal story you can decide either to come to my concerts and support my work or not.

Forever yours,

Alexey Kochetkov

Berlin, 24 August 2018

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