Israel Festival opens with boos for minister Regev, cheers for singer Hanoch

Likud’s outspoken new culture minister hails pluralism and multiculturalism; crowd underwhelmed

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

The Israel Festival opens in Jerusalem on May 28, 2015 (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
The Israel Festival opens in Jerusalem on May 28, 2015 (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Israeli rocker Shalom Hanoch opened the 2015 Israel Festival Thursday night in the open-air Sultan’s Pool theater overlooking the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

But the 68-year-old singer made headlines prior to his Thursday performance by objecting to Likud member Miri Regev’s announcement that she would be giving a speech before the singer took the stage, joining Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and longtime Israel Festival head Yossi Tal-Gan. Regev, a colorful right-wing personality, was recently appointed minister of culture and sport, and as such received the festival organizer’s standard invitation.

Prior to the performance, Barkat introduced Regev to a largely booing and whistling crowd. Reading from a prepared speech, Regev called the festival a “Zionist” enterprise and said there is no better place than the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem, to hold the festival in that the city essentially reflects pluralism and multiculturalism.

“I love Shalom Hanoch,” and all the artists involved in the festival, said Regev, who continued that there is place for everyone here — Jews, Arabs, Christians — and that she is the minister of culture for all.

After a smattering of applause for Regev, Hanoch began the show with his classic hit, “Adon btoch etsmo hu gar” or “A man lives within himself.”

As his band slowly joined Hanoch on stage, the audience took on the role of backup singers and the show was underway.

For the past 54 years, the Israel Festival has been the country’s premier cultural event and annually draws world renown artists from all disciplines.

The choice of Hanoch is on par: The musician is considered by many to be the “father of Israeli rock” and famously collaborated with recently deceased beloved singer Arik Einstein on a vast corpus of hits from the late 1960s. In the 1970s, Hanoch and Ariel Zilber were founding members of the milestone rock band Tamouz, which heavily influenced the Israeli music scene.

More recently, in a 2010 concert tour called “Four Stations,” Hanoch’s 50-plus year career was revisited while he hosted popular musicians such as Keren Peles, Dana Berger, Berry Sakharof and Aviv Gefen.

Performing from a new album alongside Hanoch at the Israel Festival opening in the Herodian period summer concert venue were special guests Yehuda Poliker, Dani Sanderson, and Sakharof.

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