Taking my children to a war zone when they wanted to play Call of Duty

In 2009 I visited the West Bank for the first time. I remember how I stepped through the passport control at Ben Gurion Airport carrying a crate of beer. I had expected a working vacation with Terje Carlsson who had lived in Ramallah for six years while recording his documentaries  (Welcome to Hebron & Israel vs Israel). We had a few dj gigs booked at clubs and I had a few interviews lined up.Nai'lin - 2009 - demonstration_maskerad_man_slungar_sten_1The same morning I landed Terje and I went off to a demonstration on the West Bank in a village called Nai’lin.

Nai'lin - 2009 - demonstration_maskerad_man_slungar_sten_2I started to scratch at the surface of one of the world’s most difficult conflicts.

Nai'lin - 2009 - demonstration_Ungdomar_i_gasmask

When I came home I wasn’t the same person as when I left. I had many unanswered questions. Even though I had been pretty much all over the world I had never felt and urge to return to the same place twice. This changed.

Terje Carlsson at TarqumiaTerje and I did more trips. We hung out at check points in the middle of the nights, we went up to the Syrian border and we drove through large parts of Israel that were accessible to us. These trips gave me new perspectives on the situation in the Middle East.

Then one day my sons asked me if we could buy the latest Call of Duty game. I made a deal with them: if they would come with me to a place were there had been war and make interviews with people who have been affected by war, they could choose to play any game they wanted upon returning.

Stridsvagn_23So in April 2014, we went to the Middle East and visited Jerusalem, Shafat refugee camp, saw the mine fields in the Golan Heights and looked into Syria from the border.

I wrote an article in Swedish in a magazine called Filter.

Then a web paper called The Local picked up the story and then it was all over the planet. The Times, Wellington Post, The Gueardian, papers in the US, I’ve been live on BBC five times, the list goes on…

Want to feedback me? Drop me a tweet @cmhelg or send me an e-mail: c-m@helgegren.se



Sinksundet, Swedish Lapland, May 2014

Photo of Sandro Puig Guerola and Bruno the dog

Photo of Sandro Puig Guerola and Bruno the dog(c) Carl-Magnus Helgegren 2014

I live 100 km from the arctic circle. I love cycling. have some extra space and when other cyclists come by I let them stay for free in my yard and have a warm shower, wash some clothes, eat some grilled chicken.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a Spanish guy called Sandro who had gotten rained on all night. So I just invited him in to dry his tent and have a warm meal. It hardly costs anything and for someone else it means the world. Share. Provide value up front. Laugh, eat, have a sauna together. Suddenly you just made the world better. Just like that.


Copenhagen March 2014

Homeless CopenhagenThis is Mounir, a Moroccan 29-year old male living illegally in Copenhagen. He is one of the 3,2 million illegal immigrants living in the EU (Eurostat). I met him on Sunday morning. It was 9 o’clock and he snapped his third beer.

Mounir had been on the road since 2010 when his father was killed in an Italian prison and he was forced to leave his home to avoid getting killed as well by the Camorra. He is happy that the nights aren’t as cold anymore. To be able to sleep he takes drugs and drinks. He has been searching for a job for three years, but this has resulted in nothing, he is an illegal. He survives doing petty crimes. In my opinion Mounir is a victim of a structural violence, regardless of why he fled his home. Mounir did not use to have a drinking problem, he was not a thief, he did not use hard drugs and he was not illegal. I believe that we are distributing the world’s resources in an unjust manner, striking the people at the bottom of our pyramid.

Last week hundreds of African immigrants stormed the border in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco. The more unfair this world is the heavier we will have to guard the borders of Fort EU. Our high standard of living is on the expense of people we don’t know and care about, like Mounir. Or do you care? Let’s talk about this. Share if you care…

Abba concert on ice instruments

Today I saw a flash on Facebook from a friend abput a concert. I had heard of these instruments built out of ice and I really wanted to see them. Also, my children haven’t been to a concert before so I thought this could be a cool first time.

Inside a huge double igloo joined in the middle, there was a concert hall! All out of ice!


It was great to see people of all ages sing and be encharmed by the light and the genius of the instruments. What a great job! We even got free warm Lingonberry-juice from Jokk.

Xylophone Ice Instrument Luleå Sweden

Golan Heights (occupied Syria) 2013

Carl-Magnus Helgegren Terje Carlsson Taxi JerusalemMy good friend Terje Carlsson and I moved out of our apartment on Jaffa Street 51, Jerusalem. The next destination was the Golan Heights.

UN border in Majdal Shams Golan HeightsI had wanted to visit the Golan Heights ever since my last visit to the Middle East. I had this idea that it would look like Afghanistan, with harsh steep mountains surrounded by gravel and dust. Only partially true. The Golan Heights is a great area for growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Terje and I arrived right in the apple harvest season. Old men on tractors pulled cartloads of what is said to be some of the juiciest apples on Planet Earth (go and see if it’s true!).

Tank X-ing in Golan HeightsOn the way to the Golan Heights, not your ordinary road sign: Tank crossing.

Sign waring for mines in the Golan Heights photo Carl-Magnus Helgegren 2013The Golan Heights are also the home of vast mine fields. As our friend who used to serve in the IDF said: ”Guys, don’t mess around in these areas, it’s not a joke, if you need to step out of the car to pee, don’t leave the road at any time”

After  five hour drive from Jerusalem we arrived in Majdal Shams.

Terje Carlsson at Ram Lake in Majdal Shams, Golan HeightsSurprisingly there was a lake up in the high mountain. It is an old volcano crater called Lake Ram, which by local custom is used as a place admire nature and dump all the shit you have lying around in you car. It’s a disgrace. Sad. In my opinion, littering is a terrible crime and should be treated the same way as assault. Big up to the people of Majdal who try to keep the beach clean!

Alaa Alshaer with UN border in backgroundWe were welcomed in the most friendly way. Alaa Alshaer, local musician, put us in contact with all the people we wanted to meet. His family is Syrian, as most inhabitants of the Golan Heights (read more about the occupation of the area on wikipedia). Israel claimed the Golan Heights in 1980 and continues to do so. The inhabitants see themselves as Syrians in exile. Alaa has never been to his homeland Syria, although the land is right across the fence erected by the UN (in the background of the picture).

Majdal Shams bass playerIt turns out that the small village of Majdal Shams has a thriving music community. Although its’ small size, the village harbors 6 different successful bands in a tightly knit network of collaborations. As a way of escaping the never ending talks about politics and occupation the young men and women of the village engage in music. The style is a wonderful cross-over between classic arabic tunes and reggae, ska, rock, rai and psychedelica.

Drummer in Majdal Shams, Golan HeightsHere is one of my favorite songs by the local band Toot Ard.

Another great band from Majdal Shams is Hawa Dafi.

You can really hear the backbeat and the arabic grooves blending in a delicious mix.

Yzn Ibraheem producent ägare Corridor records och basist i Toot ArdAnother wonderful musician and producer is Yzn Ibraheem, a musical genius who runs Corredor Productions. From his home studio in Majdal Shams he produces music together with Terez Sliman, a Plalestinian singer (among others).

This place in Majdal Shams is known as ”the studio”. This is where the magic happens.

Studio in Majdal Shams

Terje Carlsson sleeping in Majdal Shams Golan HeightsThis is also the place where Terje and I slept during our stay in Majdal Shams. I will never forget Allaa’s words before leaving us the first night: ”Play all the drums you want guys! Good night.”

Sunset Majdal Shams, Golan HeightsMajdal Shams in the Golan Heights is a very special place with very special and talented people. I admire them for their positive view on life, for believing and doing their own thing.

Carl-Magnus Helgegren Majdal shams golan heightsLove and respect to Majdal Shams.


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P3 Dokumentär: Operation Stella Polaris och signalspaningen

Siglanspaning Stella Polaris
Finsk signalspanare. Foto: Finska krigsarkivet via Pertti Hänninen.

Under andra världskriget var finsk och svensk signalspaning bland världens mest ledande. För Finlands del var det en viktig del i att kunna försvara sig mot Sovjet. Numerärt underläge kompenserades med en för landet stor underrättelseapparat. Så blev det 1944 och i september misstänkte Finland att Sovjet inte skulle hålla sin del av fredsfördraget. Finska försvarsmakten fick i uppgift att förbereda för en finländsk exilregering Stockholm, samt etablera signalspanare för verksamhet på svensk mark. ”Stella Polaris” var det hemliga kodordet som för 750 personer innebar en flykt över Östersjön tillsammans med hundratals lådor topphemliga dokument och signalspaningsutrustning.

Logo SR P3-> Lyssna direkt via SR-spelaren!
(…och läs gärna vidare, boktips mm.)

Risto Heino Operation Stella Polaris Foto Carl-Magnus Helgegren

Risto Heino, den sista nu levande finländska signalspanaren som anställdes vid FRA efter Operation Stella Polaris. Foto: Carl-Magnus Helgegren

Risto Heino är 94 år gammal (nov 2013). Han är bara en i raden imponerande personer jag träffat under mitt arbete med denna dokumentären. Så utmanande att göra detta jobb. Jag har börjat förstå att det berör långt fler än de 750 – 1000 personer som ingick i Operation Stella Polaris.

Ett särskilt varmt tack till alla medverkande och Johanna Parikka Altenstedt för all hjälp. Det var slitsamt att göra den här dokumentären, med det var värt varenda lång timme på tåg.

SÄNDS lördag 10 november 2013, kl 14:03 i P3

-> TILL P3 Dokumentärs sida för Operation Stella Polaris och signalspaningen

-> Till alla mina andra P3 Dokumentärer

Carl-Magnus Helgegren Jerusalem 2013 Al Aksa
Har du lyssnat på dokumentären?

Jag älskar feedback, svidande som värmande, bara den är ärlig.

Maila mig vad du tyckte! (jag svarar på alla mail)

Rekommenderad läsning

Operation Stella Polaris av Johanna Parikka Altenstedt

Operation Stella Polaris – signalspanare på flykt
Av: Johanna Parikka Altenstedt

Ryska elitförband : spetsnaz, osnaz, VDV och andra elitstyrkor
Av: Joakim von Braun & Lars Gyllenhaal
Svenska Kryptobedrifter
Av: Bengt Beckman


Jerusalem 2013

Jerusalem wall between Jaffa Gate and Damascus GateI has been four years since I last visited Jerusalem. This city combines world religion, an ever present conflict, bad local beer until sunrise, soothing lemonade at Jerusalem hotel and people of many cultures getting on with their everyday lives. When you think of it you could easily choose a more practical destination, like the beaches of Greece, the surf of Sri Lanka or the nightlife of Berlin. But Jerusalem has this magnetic attraction. Everyday I tell myself ”Come on Carl, don’t make it another one of those 04 a.m. nights…” And I fail.

Terje Carlsson profil kontrast JerusalemLike last time I am traveling together with my good friend Terje Carlsson. Terje has spent the last 10 years of his life roaming back and forth to this part of the world sometimes seeking refuge from the boring swedish lifestyle, sometimes fleeing back to the same detestable, safe and comfortable ground of the patria. The filth in the street, the hard headed religious people, the need for a liver change, the political status quo… I can line up many arguments for staying at home. I can also line up a longer list for buying a plane ticket with the holy city as destination. Let’s try, follow me for a few lines and pictures.

Noam JerusalemThis is Noam. He is a bipolar saxophone player, one of the creatures of the night that come out when the scorching heat of the day has passed. Jewish, muslim, christian? In Jerusalem most young people don’t care, or at least they don’t express it. When a regular day offers you military patrols with automatic rifles and orthodox jews passing you by while the impressing Al Aksa mosque towers up over the Old City. The streets are paved by stone laid down by the crusaders… or was it the ancient Egyptians? The Assyrians? The Persians? The Romans, Byzantines, soldiers of the Arabic caliphate? …Ottomans? (I’ll spare you the rest of the list)

Jerusalem Old CityDuring it’s 5000 year old history the city has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Apparently I’m not the only one finding the city magnetic and appealing. Situated on high ground the warm breeze from the surrounding desert finds its’ way through the narrow streets. I get up round noon, again having failed to stay out of the waterholes of midnight.

Toalett D1 JerusalemJerusalem offers something for everybody. Tagging anarchists, partying christian Russians, the local Israeli pot smokers and acid heads, fat couch surfers,  upset journalists… We all have a purpose, and we don’t mention the war. Not any of them. We save it for our articles, photo jobs and radio recordings.

Carl-Magnus Helgegren Radio Voice of Free JerusalemA few days ago I played a dj set @ a local radio station, The Voice of Free Jerusalem. I had a blast, pumping out Swedish and international reggae straight into the airwawes of Israel. Many laughs, beers, maybe the odd cigarette. Rootsy vibes. In Jerusalem, the Do-It-Yourself-Culture is strong. This non-commercial radio station makes its’ revenue via the bar downstairs. Keep it rocking people, impossible is nothing.

Ronny PearlmanYesterday we were invited to Ronny Pearlman, an impressive lady fighting for human rights. Originally from the Czech Republic her family suffered the oppression of the nazis. Today she fights for better human treatment of the Palestinians crossing into Jerusalem from Ramallah. By standing at the Qalandia check point (close to where three plaestinians were shot dead last week -Aug 2013-), Ronny acts as a witness and reports to the UN if soldiers violate the rights of Palestinians.

Carl-Magnus Helgegren cooking in JerusalemInvited to Ronny’s colorful home we cooked her a traditional meal of fish, potatoes and spinach stew. (pretty cute in that apron hu?)

Ronny Pearlman portraitRonny is 68 years old. I admire her spirit, her unwillingness to accept the policies imposed on her and the people she does not know but supports. When the last lights of day dimmed outside we gathered in her living room along with some of her friends. We discussed the current situation in Syria, news on the occupation of Palestine and life in general. We listened, we discussed and we laughed. Ronny gives me hope. We need more ladies of this sort.

Orthodox jews on the way to prayerOn my way to one of my favorite places, Versavee café, I walked behind a jewish family on the way to prayer. The wall on the left is the wall surrounding the old city. The slope leads down to Jaffa Gate where Versavee is located in a small alley. It’s one of the few places in Jerusalem selling Chimay and other Belgian classics. The coffee is great, the setting is even better.

Versavee Jerusalem Roman MilestoneThe stone pillar in the middle of the inner court is a remain from the Roman empire. Dated to 70 AD it is one in the great ancient networks of milestones erected by the Romans all the way to Rome. Today it is used as a flowerpot stand. Works fine. Jerusalem, full of people, injustices, love, passion, religion, evening breeze, an odd place full of history. See you here next time.

#GRÄV13 #LNS Brandkåren rycker ut

Gräv13 DJ Carl-Magnus HelgegrenAng GRÄV13 och Late Night Show

Jag förvånas över hur många som inte var på plats som framför starka åsikter. Jag stod där hela tiden eftersom jag spelade skivorna under kvällen. Till att börja med så kan jag säga att det hela var ganska tråkigt. Det var liksom ingen hätsk stämning rakt igenom som jag får uppfattningen om att många tror. En av damerna som tidigt visade sitt missnöje över innehållet tog upp det med Terje som direkt uppmanade henne att gå fram och uttrycka vad hon tyckte. Det hände inte. Istället väntade hon ca 20 minuter och då hade alla säkringar gått. Det blev ”gubbslem”, hejjakör i bakgrunden och inget utrymme för vare sig diskussion eller debatt. Det var synd, det kunde blivit ritkigt bra.

Vidare så tycker jag att det är märkligt att man ska utkräva ansvar från arrangörerna. På scenen sitter en journalistelit. Jag upprepar: en journalistelit. Är det på Gräv som styrningen och pekpinnarna behövs? Jag tycker det rimmar illa. Idag när jag läste Krzysztof Baks artikel i DN om svenska studenter som rättfärdigt svarar istället för att ställa frågor så fastnade just dessa rader:

”Birgitta Trotzig, en författare jag ägnat åtskillig forskningstid, brukade jämföra det svenska kulturetablissemanget med en moralisk brandkår, som rycker ut så fort någon vågar avvika från den enda rätta Normen. Mina svenska studenter praktiserar gärna samma slags moralväkteri. Eftersom de i sin förståelseprocess saknar den distans som bara frågandet kan ge, formulerar de ofta sina svar i personligt hållna, moraliska termer.”

Dagen efter #Gräv13

20130310-133631.jpgKvällen kickade igång fint.
Körde showen tillsammans med Janne J och Karin M från Uppdrag Granskning.
Jättekul att jobba med dem!

20130310-133639.jpgDet låg ju en guldspade bakom scen. Var bara tvungen att låtsas som att jag vunnit en spade. I bakgrunden Frida Boisen (Chefred GT & operasångerska)

20130310-133648.jpgDen coolaset setupen jag någonsin kört. Skivspelarna monterade i en talarstol!

Gräv13 DJ Carl-Magnus Helgegren

Carl-Magnus och alla Guldspadevinnare i bakgrunden.

Jag hoppas att alla hade lika kul som jag. Alla ni som önskade låtar: Tack! Men som ni vet finns inga garantier, vill man ha sin egen playlist med sig är mitt bästa tips att bli DJ och se till att spela på nästa års gräv! Skämt åsido, jag körde en hel del från den öppna Spotifylistan GRÄV13. Alla dansade. Hoppas vi ses igen.