Weiss Breaks New Ground

In describing the work involved in turning acres of farm land into a venue for his Roger Waters show, Shuki Weiss told Pollstar, “It’s no doubt one of the most complicated productions I’ve ever dealt with.”

He has until June 20 to clear 80 acres of chick peas and 20 acres of wheat, develop a network of dirt roads leading from Highway One – the main drag between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – and cordon off sufficient parking area for an estimated 22,000 cars.

He also needs to sink a huge tank into the ground and build a sewage system.

He has already paid US$128,000 for the chick pea harvest – enough to make several oil tankers full of humus – and the wheat fields.

“It doesn’t read like good business. We had to compensate for the harvest because we needed to clear it before it was ripe, but I did sell the top foliage back to the farmers for US$5,000 and they will use it as cattle food,” he explained.

He received police permission for the show May 11, which was moved from Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park because – in the face of criticism for playing Israel – Waters decided the show should take place at the peace village at Neve Shalom, a community dedicated to the peaceful co-existence of different faiths and races.

In March, the U.K.’s The Guardian and The Independent reported that he was being lobbied to cancel his Hayarkon Park show by political and cultural activists protesting about Israel’s policy toward Palestinians.

At the time, Waters – who is known to sympathise with the Palestinian cause – refused to pull out.

“I would not rule out going to Israel because I disapprove of the foreign policy any more than I would refuse to play in the U.K. because I disapprove of Tony Blair’s foreign policy,” he told The Guardian.

Weiss concedes that both promoter and artist would have made money by playing in front of 55,000 in Tel Aviv, whereas most of the income from the $55 tickets will now be spent on creating the new Neve Shalom venue.

“We have volunteer workers from the local kibbutz and the show has captured the imagination of the whole country,” he said. “We’d sold 34,000 tickets for Hayarkon Park and less than 100 people asked for a refund when we moved the show,” Weiss revealed.

“The new site is midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, about a half an hour from each, and is in a beautiful area between the peace village and the ancient Monastery of Silence.

“Apart from continuing to sell tickets in Tel Aviv, we’re now getting more enquiries in the north from such places as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Haifa,” he added.

John Gammon