David Broza may not be a familiar name to local music-lovers, but he's an Israeli superstar with an international following, currently celebrating the 40th anniversary of his biggest hit, the peace anthem "Yihye Tov," with a coast-to-coast "Broza & Friends" tour.
Variously translated as "Things Will Be Better," "It Will Be Good" or the more colloquial "It's Gonna Be Alright," the song was written in 1977 during the peace talks between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. It will be part of the concert Dec. 20 when Broza brings some of his Israeli, Palestinian and American musician buddies onstage at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
Broza, who has been called "The Israeli Springsteen," sings in Hebrew, Spanish, English and Arabic, and is a pretty cool guitarist. For decades, he's been touring widely, maintaining home bases in New York and Israel, giving an annual "Not Exactly Christmas Eve" concert at NYC's 92nd Street Y and a summertime sunrise concert at Israel's famous fortress, Masada. Much earlier in life, he spent a year or so shuttling between English boarding schools before completing his education in Spain.
"Spain gave me a foundation in many things, including my connection to Spanish guitar," he said in a recent interview. "As a teenager, I was more into rock 'n' roll, like Jimi Hendrix and The Band, but then I was drawn to Spanish music. From the age of six, I'd been mostly into art, and was always painting. At 22, I switched to music, and I haven't looked back since."
Another big influence was his family heritage. His grandfather, Wellesley Aron, raised in England and educated at Cambridge, had been a Boy Scout in the days of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. After starting a Scout-like organization for disadvantaged Jewish youth in London, Aron decided to move to British-mandated Palestine, where he worked with Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel's first president. He ultimately helped create Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace), a Jewish/Arab community between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Like his grandfather, and his father, too, Broza became an activist for peace and tolerance. A goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, he brings music workshops to refugee camps in East Jerusalem and beyond. "I go to the darkest, most extreme areas, with no budgets, so everybody pitches in," he said. "There's no end to what's needed, and it's a game-changer for kids, because it's so often music that gets them off the streets."
In 2013, Broza won widespread acclaim for his album "East Jerusalem West Jerusalem," produced with a mixed band of Israelis and Palestinians. A documentary about it, now streaming on Netflix, was praised by Vanity Fair, with the added tribute: "If no one else is going to try and heal the world, he will."
The JCC concert will feature Ali Paris, an award-winning young musician who plays the qanun, a kind of ancient Arabic zither, combining traditional Middle Eastern and contemporary Western genres. It's the last day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and the evening promises to be unusual, heart-stirring and fun, lighting up the troubled skies with the joyful sounds of cross-cultural coming together.
"We will squeeze every drop of juice out of the music," Broza promised. "We'll give it our all, give the audience the best time we can, and hope they'll be swept away by the magic."
• IF YOU GO: The David Broza & Friends concert starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive. Tickets: $45-$65. (818) 483-8818. teev.simpletix.com