They’re calling him a mensch. Rocker Neil Young, whose Tel Aviv concert scheduled for Thursday was canceled by the Tel Aviv municipality and police over security concerns, announced in a statement that he will be making donations to Jerusalem’s Louise & Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center and Heartbeat, two organizations that teach music to Palestinian and Israeli youth together.
The show would have been Young’s first in Israel since the 1990s. With a steady barrage of rockets into Tel Aviv since last week, the authorities couldn’t allow some 30,000 people to gather in Yarkon Park, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we must cancel our one and only Israeli concert due to tensions which have rendered the event unsafe at this time,” a representative for Young said in a statement. “We’ll miss the opportunity to play for our fans and look forward to playing in Israel and Palestine in peace.”
In the same statement, Young said, “I will be making donations to both the Louise & Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center of Israel, and Heartbeat, two organizations that teach music to Palestinian and Israeli youth simultaneously by enabling them to play music together.”
It’s not yet clear how Young chose Heartbeat and Beit Alpert, as the Louise & Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center is known locally.
Beit Alpert was established by the Jerusalem Foundation in order to make music education available to all children. It now serves as the home to music ensembles of children from all over Jerusalem, including the Arab Youth Band and the Ensemble for Jewish & Arab Youth.
Liat Rosner, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Foundation, said that neither the foundation nor Beit Alpert had heard about Neil Young’s planned donation.
At Heartbeat, an organization of Arab and Israeli youth ensembles, executive director Aaron Shneyer said he received an email on Monday from Oren Arnon, the head producer for concert promoter Shuki Weiss.
“He’s been extremely supportive and he’s promoted us on quite a few occasions,” said Shneyer.
Once the announcement was written up in Variety and Rolling Stone, Shneyer said he received many congratulatory messages.
“It’s very heartwarming,” he said. “It gives us a lot of encouragement and we’re extremely grateful to both Neil Young and to Crazy Horse for understanding this work of bringing together Palestinian and Israeli youth. We’re touched that he sees the importance of supporting our youth musicians’ effort to develop a powerful alternative to violence.”
Heartbeat has about 30 active musicians, most of them high school students, with an ensemble in Haifa and an ensemble in Jerusalem. There are also graduate bands; Zaatar is made up of Heartbeat musicians who have been playing together for several years and Shneyer hopes another band of recent graduates in Haifa will also step into “this ambassador role.”
“I hope we can turn up the volume,” he said.
Shneyer reflected on the last month as time of contemplation and reflection for Heartbeat participants.
“They’re speaking with each other, asking tough questions and we’re making sure the Heartbeat space can be a strong alternative to the status quo,” he said. “We’re trying to take it one step at a time.”