To hip hop and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like “a rap beef” that can be resolved through dialogue and understanding.
“A little trust, and it’s over,” he said.
The cofounder of the pioneering Def Jam Recordings record label, which has represented such artists like the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J and Kanye West, is in Israel on the invitation of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
When he isn’t managing his clothing line Phat Farm or promoting artists, Simmons champions an eclectic mix of causes, from veganism to gay rights to yoga.
In Israel, he’s focusing on interfaith trust. He said creating dialogue should be as simple as a mediating a rap battle, were it not for the political deadlock between Palestinians and Israelis.
Muslims and Jews “have the same aspirations and goals that are much greater than the things they call differences,” Simmons said.
Simmons is one of the wealthiest figures in hip hop, with a net worth reportedly totaling at least $340 million.
He was one of the first players in the burgeoning hip hop scene in the 1980s. His younger brother is Rev. Joseph Simmons (“Run” of Run-DMC).
Simmons arrived in Israel on behalf of a foundation that aims to promote face-to-face dialogue between ethnic and religious communities. He discussed yoga with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmed Hussein, and received a blessing from the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz.
Simmons even did a headstand in front of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites to Muslims, though he said it was “for the kids” and not for any yogic spiritual reason.