Bob Dylan (Shabtai Zushia,his Hebrew name)at his oldest son Jesse’s (Yishai) Bar Mitzvah,at the Kotel,about 37 years ago.From left to right,Bob Dylan,Moshe Schlass (Officiating Rabbi,in charge of Bar Mitzvahs for the Ministry of Religion,at the Kotel),Bob’s son Jesse (Now a well known public figure)
Dylan attend the bar mitzvah of their son Jesse at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Israel, September 20, 1983.
The bar-mitzvah is a religious initiation ceremony to which every Jewish boy undergoes; with it, the initiate is admitted to the cult and since that day has to observe the precepts of their religion.
Bob Dylan visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on the day of his son’s bar mitzvah, September 20, 1983.
Bob Dylan in Jerusalem, taken by Sara Dylan (1983)
On May 24th, Dylan’s 30th birthday, a photographer got a shot of him praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem while wearing a kippah, the traditional Jewish head covering.The photo ended any possible privacy. At some point in late May or early June, the Dylans visited Givat Haim, a kibbutz, to explore the possibility of staying there for a while. Eve Brandstein, a member of the kibbutz, told Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin that Dylan wanted to stay in a guest house but not work on the kibbutz. The kibbutz members did not want to accept his conditions for living there and were scared their home would be a magnet for the curious.
From April 11th to May 17th 1983 Dylan spent 19 recording sessions producing his album Infidels. On April 19th he sang six versions of a new song, “Neighborhood Bully,” and on May 17th, at the very last session recording the very last song, he did another take of the song, which, to me at least, indicates he wanted to get it right. “Neighborhood Bully” is a sarcastic, unvarnished full-throated defense of Israel. The Israelis, ironically called the bully of the neighborhood, have “got no place to escape to, no place to run.” They are “criticized and condemned for being alive.” There’s no subtlety here, no nuanced view of Middle Eastern history. The persecuted Jews are in the right and are simply defending their lives. Dylan invokes the Jewish people’s tragic history as a way of defending Israel:
The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land,
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man.
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn,
He’s always on trial for just being born.
The album wasn’t released until November 1, 1983, but in September that year Jesse Dylan, Bob’s then seventeen year old son, had a late bar mitzvah in Israel, and his father flew over for the event. He was again photographed wearing Jewish religious items.