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International pop star Shakira, rock/folk music legend Bob Dylan, and opera superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa issued stunning repudiations to the BDS movement with recent appearances in Israel.  BDS is the movement that seeks to isolate Israel through academic and cultural boycotts.  Shakira, Dylan and Te Kanawa joined thousands of academicians and artists, including dozens of Nobel prize laureates, by affirming the greater power of art to build bridges for peace.

Shakira Participates in Israeli Presidential Conference

Shakira, the international pop star, is participating in the Israeli Presidential Conference at Jerusalem's International Conference Center this week.  Despite a Facebook page urging her to join the cultural boycott of Israel, Shakira, "a Unicef ambassador, philanthropist and founder of the Barefoot Foundation, which promotes the right to a quality education for children worldwide, said she never had any doubts.

“Kids in countries like mine or this one, in conflict, need a voice,” Shakira said in an interview. “They need to be put at the top of political agendas, so I knew I had to be here.”

The Israeli Presidential Conference, in its third year, has grown into a three-day international pow-wow of global leaders and experts in their fields who come together to brainstorm on ideas for a better future for Israel, the Jewish people and the world."

Also present at the conference were Sir Martin Sorrell, the CEO of WPP, one of the three largest companies in the global advertising industry, and Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.  

While BDS seeks to shut down conversation and creative collaboration, Shakira had quite the opposite in mind in deciding to participate in the conference:

"There can never be enough of this — spaces where we can discuss the steps we have to take,” she said. “The leaders here will listen and absorb.”

Jerusalem, she said, was “the city of cities, the cradle of civilization. It was there at the beginning of mankind’s efforts and it should remain at the forefront of social development and human innovation.”

She added: “I’m here for the Israeli kids and the Palestinian kids and kids in every region of the world where there is not enough quality education.”

Shakira, who is from Colombia but is also partly of Lebanese descent, had been the subject of a false internet rumor that she would rather have pigs listen to her music than Israelis. In response, she said, “It made me really, really sad to hear that someone could say that about me.”

At the opening of the conference, Israel's 88-year old president, Shimon Peres, showed how hip he is by referring to her as "Sharika."  I guess we can rest easy, knowing that Peres will not be tweeting photos of his nether-regions anytime soon.

Shakira (n/k/a Sharika) visited the Hand in Hand Max Rayne Bilingual School in Jerusalem, where children of all ethnicities and religions study together in Hebrew and Arabic.

Bob Dylan Gives First Israeli Concert in 20 Years

Bob Dylan gave his first Israeli concert in twenty years, performing in Ramat Gan earlier this week.  While Dylan isn't quite of the stature of The Pixies, he is known for writing a few good songs.  Indeed, on the occasion of Dylan's 70th birthday, Rolling Stone magazine devoted its May 26, 2011 issue to the 70 greatest Dylan songs.  Among them were Like a Rolling Stone (#1), Tangled Up in Blue (#3), Blowin' in the Wind (#20), The Times They Are A-Changin (#28), and one of my personal favorites, Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat (#67, should have been much higher).

Volleyboy's hero, Bradley Burston, loved the concert, writing:


Not perfect in the sense of flawless, polished, faithful to the original. Perfect in the sense of fearless. Perfect as in the meaning of what rock and roll feels like in the gut of guts. Mean and knowing and growling and real. Fearless as in willing to take on anything and everything and, in particular, your own self, your own fame and perception and even your own life's work. And, while you're at it, to get thousands of people to get up and dance and sing and roar.

Burston noted that Dylan had even considered living on a kibbutz at one point, but "it occurred to me [Burston] that I don't know of a single kibbutz that Dylan doesn't live on, his incomparable music, the brutal poetry of his words."

Referring to a review of the concert, Burston writes:

The reviewer wrote that Dylan, who was last here in 1993, is unlikely ever to visit again. And he may be right. But the crowd in Ramat Gan showed something else. Dylan lives here. He lives in the culture of Israel. He lives in the thought processes of many of the nation's artists and intellectuals and activists, and, of course, its musicians and songwriters and poets.

He has influenced Israel for the better more than any other American Jew – and I say this with some sadness, as, along with Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein, the designation includes Golda Meir, who, in retrospect, blazed Israel's current trail of refusal to read signs of peace and refusal to respond appropriately to signs of danger.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa To Perform in Yerushalayim

New Zealand opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will perform at the Israel Festival this weekend, at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.  The soprano, who performed at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, said in a phone interview:

"I am anticipating the visit to Israel with great excitement...I will sing the program I sang here: songs and arias by Handel, Richard Strauss, Jake Heggie - who wrote the operas 'Dead Man Walking' and 'Moby Dick' - and Terry McNally."

Te Kanawa is of Maori descent, and will perform in Israel with a baritone who is also Maori.  

This is Te Kanawa's second visit to Israel, and she speaks well of her first concert here and the country in general. According to her this is also because of the Israeli connection of her first teacher, the great Hungarian Jewish teacher Vera Rozsa.

Recently there have been appeals to you on the Internet to boycott Israel for political reasons. Does this disturb you?

Te Kanawa is obviously surprised: "This is the first time I've heard about it. The appeals haven't reached me at all."

Kiri Te Kanawa is the founder of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting New Zealand singers.


There are reports that the Israeli-American actress and international hottie Natalie Portman has given birth to a baby boy. Portman, who speaks Ivrit fluently, won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Black Swan, earlier this year, and turned 30 last week.  So, a hearty mazel tov to Natalie!

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