Wine glasses were raised high at Saturday night’s reception welcoming Russian-born classical pianist Evegeny Kissin as an Israeli citizen. Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky handed the musician his very own Israel identification card and passport.
“It’s not a traditional move,” said Sharansky, commenting on the 42-year-old pianist’s decision to register as an Israeli citizen, in order to identify publicly as a Jew, and to travel the world with an Israeli passport.
The Grammy-award winning pianist began working with the Jewish Agency about a year ago, said Sharansky, planning his citizenship decision.
Kissin is a Moscow native who has lived in New York and London, and is also a British citizen. His decision to take on Israeli citizenship, however, was far more personal.
“I’ve cared about Israel my whole adult life, and I felt I couldn’t continue to enjoy my success with the growing hatred toward Israel all over the Western world,” he said at Saturday night’s ceremony. “Then I thought, ‘which country do I represent, which country do I fully identify with.’ And the only answer was Israel.”
“I now feel I have more in common with my soul, it feels more natural,” he added.
Kissin told the Times of Israel that he hasn’t made any decisions about whether he would actually be living in Israel for any period of time each year.
“We make plans and God laughs,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, I’m not saying no to anything.”
Evgeny Kissin is performing Monday, December 9 at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.