Iron Lion Zion: How Bob Marley Redefined Zionism

By David J. Chernobylsky. Illustration by Zohar Achiasaf.

He inhaled deeply, extracting the smoky air richly through his nose so that it reached far into his powerful lungs. But even deeper, he wanted his breath to reach the very soul of his being; the very core of his ethereal prowess—his crux and spiritual support. This was his Rastafarian spirit; the same spirit that reflected itself in the Lion of Judah and in the six-pointed Star of David that brought him so much strength and power.

It was this spiritual austerity of the Lion of Judah and the bold resilience of the Star of David that, when incorporated into his Rastafarian beliefs, infused a real supreme reverence into his art, passion and musical capacity.

It was this same supreme reverence that was felt by each and every single audience member in his sea of fans at this very concert. They were not just there for his music. They were there for his spirit and the power that his music had over their very souls.

His connection to the world of the past—of each of our ancestors and predecessors—as well as his austere sense of will for the future and destiny gave hope to all those in the audience.

But what his audience members didn’t realize was that his beliefs resided in that single breath. And it resided in each and every single breath that he took. For it was in those moments, with his eyes closed and the lines on his face slowly retreating, leaving only his glowing face under the hot-white spotlight, that gave him the strength of the Lion of Judah and of the land of Zion.

To him, his people’s return to Ethiopia was infused with the same hope and energy as the Jew’s return to their home in Israel. He saw the land of Israel—through the symbol of Zion—as a beacon of hope for the path of his own people’s greatest dreams and aspirations, for the future and beyond.

The Lion of Judah was real to him. That was the Zionist. The warrior that fought hunger and hate, pain and poverty, suffering and shuddering fear, only to return with victory in hand to a home that welcomed him with a luscious sunlight and bountiful crop—one that flowed of milk and honey. Time was a friend to the Zionist, not an enemy. Time favored the Zionist for time gave the Zionist the ultimate salvation—the ultimate revival of hope by fulfilling a promise long believed to be unachievable by so many and for so long.

But right now, Bob Marley stood supernaturally still right up there on that stage. His wooden-lacquered guitar was gripped firmly in his dexterous hands and the microphone hovered mere sweat beads away from his thinly-pressed lips. A sudden flash passed over him and his eyes shot opened with a start. His pupils shrank violently against the spotlight, as if they were eyes of a lion that had awoken after a hearty and well-deserved meal.

The strength of Zion was now inside of him—he felt it and knew it. Bob Marley was ready for his Zionist spirit to set forth on its path to the universe, to reach every single unique soul that wished to receive his great power and the very belief in Zion that propelled this singular man to become something more: a legend, passed down from one generation to the next—through his words, his music and his unalienable spiritual energy which intertwined with that of the Zionists that believed that an Israel in the land of Zion would be their salvation as well as a fulfilled promise of freedom in a world that was otherwise not their own.

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