Cancel culture

Israel’s Ishay Ribo scraps UK gig amid COVID, Haredi boycott

Organizer says European concertgoers can’t attend due to surging cases; ultra-Orthodox rabbinate says events with mixed seating are ‘forbidden’

Ishay Ribo takes a moment to talk about his latest album and what makes his music appeal to religious and secular fans alike. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Ishay Ribo takes a moment to talk about his latest album and what makes his music appeal to religious and secular fans alike. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Ishay Ribo has cancelled his planned concert next month at London’s O2 Arena, in what was to be the first such appearance for an Israeli musician at the 20,000 capacity concert hall.

Ticket-holders were told the gig, to be held in conjunction with a charity, was cancelled due to “rising rates of COVID infection, lockdowns being imposed in parts of Europe and uncertainty regarding travel,” the Jewish Chronicle reported. They all received a full refund.

However, ticket sales were also said to be down after the rabbinate of the Union of the Orthodox Hebrew Congregations declared that “concerts of this kind are forbidden.”

The ruling from the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate was because the event was to have mixed female-male seating, with small sections reserved for a segregated audience.

A number of Jewish high schools had additionally told their students not to attend, London’s Jewish News reported.

Ribo, who has gained popularity in Israel in recent years with his religiously-inspired songs laced with lyrics taken from Jewish prayers, was due to take to the stage on December 5, during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

The one-night-only concert was being held in conjunction with Bedside Kosher, a United Kingdom-based charity that provides kosher hospital food.

The chair of Bedside Kosher, Ari Feferkorn, told the Jewish Chronicle that surging virus cases across Europe meant that many people would be unable to travel for the concert.

“We have worked with partners in Europe who can no longer be certain regarding international travel. This uncertainty means that we cannot be sure that we can deliver a safe event of this scale,” he said.

“I do not want to let people down at the last minute so we have taken the hard, but I think correct decision, to postpone the concert now. There is simply too much uncertainty.”

Ribo told the newspaper that he had been “very much looking forward to being with you during Chanukah to light up the festival and our hearts in unity. But we are living in a new reality, one where decisions are often not our own.”

In August, Ribo performed at the venerated Kings Theatre concert hall in New York.

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