The celebrated singer-songwriter Shalom Hanoch, who is scheduled to open the annual Israel Festival in Jerusalem Thursday, told event organizers he was unwilling to share the stage with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev.
Hanoch said Wednesday that he would respond “strongly” if any politician was allowed to address the audience at the opening ceremony before the start of his performance.
He told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that he was informed one day before the festival was set to open that Regev, of the ruling Likud party, was asked to take the stage at the premier cultural event.
While the 68-year-old musician said he had no intention of canceling his appearance, he was annoyed that he was not made aware of the addition to the lineup.
“I won’t accept that the stage I’ll be performing from will be used as a platform to idealize or advance the position of a politician from any party,” he told the paper.
“As an artist I never agreed to it and never will,” Hanoch said. “Therefore, if a political official does address the audience from the stage, I intend to speak my mind on this matter and respond strongly.”
“Its nothing personal against her,” a spokesperson from Hanoch’s PR firm told the paper, emphasizing that throughout his career the rocker was careful not to politicize his performances.
The spokesperson also noted that the Israel Festival was not paying for Hanoch’s performance. Rather, it was a private event taking place within the framework of the festival.
Hanoch said that he had no problem with President Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcoming audiences at the 54th iteration of Israel’s premier culture event.
Regev, who described herself as a longtime fan of Hanoch’s music, said she was surprised to learn of his opposition to her presence at the festival.
“I’m not out to upset any artist, but if I’ve already been invited, I don’t think the artist should have a say in the matter,” she said in a statement posted to Facebook Thursday.
The festival is set to take place from May 28 to June 24 in Jerusalem and boasts a packed lineup of local and international dancers, musicians and actors performing at venues across the city.
Hanoch will be joined by other popular performers including Berry Sakharoff, Danny Sanderson and Yehuda Poliker, who will open the festival at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool on Thursday night.