When Eddie Van Halen brought peace to Israel

Mike Cohen
3 min readFeb 9, 2021

Jewish Telegraph, October 2020

GUITAR legend Eddie Van Halen, who died this week, helped bring peace to Israel . . . according to animated comedy South Park.
The Ginger Cow episode from 2013 saw Jews, Christians and Muslims settle their religious differences in Israel.
And to celebrate, rock band Van Halen — with Jewish singer David Lee Roth — took to the stage in Jerusalem to perform their hits Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love and Hot For Teacher.
Eddie Van Halen died on Tuesday, aged 65, from throat cancer.
He founded the band in 1972 with his brother, Alex Van Halen.
Van Halen credited Jewish-American guitarist Harvey Mandel for opening his eyes to the power of the guitar.
And it was Kiss’ Israel-born frontman Gene Simmons who first saw the potential in the band.
In 1976–77, Simmons signed a management/production contract with the group and produced a Van Halen demo tape.
Simmons allegedly wanted to change the band’s name to Daddy Longlegs.
He opted out of further involvement after he took the demo to Kiss management and was told that “they had no chance of making it”.
Simmons, 71, told Good Morning Britain on Wednesday that he was devastated by the news.
After host Piers Morgan showed a clip from when he interviewed Van Halen, Simmons said: “Look, today you show videos of you and Eddie and that’s wonderful, its interesting, and I talk about how I helped record their first album, but I was just there in the beginning.
“But, it ain’t about us, sadly the good die young and I am devastated by this.”
He added: “You seldom meet a beautiful soul, I’m not talking yours truly, I couldn’t sign Eddie’s shoes.
“I fell prey to ego and fame and all things like that and I never saw Eddie fall into that and the self-aggrandisement etc, it was all about his music . . . not since Hendrix, Eddie changed the world.
“Eddie Van Halen never said a bad thing about anything . . . when I heard the sad news, the first thing I thought of was his smile, which might seem strange.”
Other Jewish rock stars added their tributes.
Fellow Kiss founder Paul Stanley tweeted: “Oh NO! Speechless. A trailblazer and someone who always gave everything to his music. A good soul. I remember first seeing him playing at the Starwood in 1976 and he WAS Eddie Van Halen. So shocked and sad.”
Former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick, who lost his brother Bob this year, tweeted: “He expanded the landscape of lead guitar playing, and took it to another level like a turbocharged muscle car leaving everyone behind. I was very influenced by his emotional lead playing. EVH RIP.”
Van Halen singer David Lee Roth simply tweeted a picture of himself with the guitarist and the message: “What a Long Great Trip It’s Been . . .”
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian posted on Instagram: “He brought SO MUCH JOY to so many for so long. RIFFS! The best f******* riffs. He’s the greatest of all time — past, present and future. Untouchable. Sorry if this is a bit all over the place. I’m gutted.”
Singer-songwriter Billy Joel described him as “a consummate musician and an extraordinary virtuoso on the guitar”.
He added: “He leaves a giant footprint and an irreplaceable void.”
Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman was in awe of Van Halen.
Friedman had formed Cacophony with Jason Becker in 1986, but Becker’s career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“I didn’t know him (Van Halen) very well personally, but he LOVED Jason Becker, was extremely protective of him, and because of that he was very friendly to me,” Friedman wrote on Facebook.
“The first time we met was when we both played at a benefit for Jason in Chicago.
“He gave me his home phone number and told me to call him anytime for any reason. Of course I never did.
“What was I gonna do — just call Eddie Van Halen up and chat?”

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Mike Cohen

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email Mcohen@jewishtelegraph.com with your Jewish arts stories