Paul McCartney said Thursday he will not come to Israel at the end of May to receive the 2018 Wolf Prize in music, citing scheduling reasons, Hebrew-language media reported. His win will be revoked if he also fails to attend one of the next two award ceremonies in Jerusalem in 2019 or 2020.
It is the second time in the last few weeks a celebrity declined an invitation to come to Israel to receive an award, after Natalie Portman said last month she wouldn’t come to get the Genesis Prize due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. Her refusal sparked widespread outrage.
But McCartney didn’t cite political reasons, meaning he may still eventually visit the Jewish state and receive the prize.
The ex-Beatle played a warmly received concert in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park in September 2008.
The only other living Beatles member, drummer Ringo Starr, is to perform in Israel on June 23 at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim arena with his All Starr band.
“It it very flattering and I am grateful to be a winner of this year’s Wolf Prize for Music,” he told the Wolf Foundation, which in February declared the former Beatle a winner of its award, which is handed to laureates every year in a ceremony at the Knesset at the end of May.
“It is definitely a great honor for me to be included among the greatest artists, creators, scientists and history authors of our times,” he added. “But after reviewing my schedule I have to announce that I won’t be able to come on the set date.”
According to the Wolf Prize regulations, laureates are required to come to Israel in person and receive the prize from the president as a condition for winning it.
“If they refrain from coming for the designated ceremony in the year in which they were chosen, there is an opportunity to attend the awarding ceremony at the Knesset in the two years after the announcement as well,” the Wolf Foundation said in a statement.
The foundation cited previous occasions when winners received the prize one year after they won, such as opera singer Jessye Norman who won its music award in 2015 and molecular biology professor Joachim Messing who won the 2013 agriculture award.
“We thank Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy Shevell for the cooperation and respectful correspondence and expect to see them in Israel in May 2019,” said Reut Inon Berman, the Wolf Foundation’s director general.
Delighted to host the announcement of this years Wolf Prize. Congratulations to musical legend Sir @PaulMcCartney and all the winners in the fields of sciences and the arts. pic.twitter.com/RNd7ayyI71
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) February 12, 2018
“Sir Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” the foundation said in a statement in February after announcing the winners. “His versatility underlies an extraordinary wingspan, from the most physical rock to melodies of haunting and heartbreaking intimacy. His lyrics have an equally broad range, from the naive and the charming to the poignant and even desperate. He has touched the hearts of the entire world, both as a Beatle and in his subsequent bands.”
Comparing the 75-year-old to classical music masters Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, and Claude Debussy, among others, the foundation added that “there is little doubt that his songs will be sung and savored as long as there are human beings to lift up their voices.”
The Wolf Prize is distributed annually in five out of eight disciplines (the disciplines change on a rotating basis). The Wolf Foundation began its activities in 1976, with an initial endowment fund of $10 million donated by the Wolf family. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded prizes to 329 laureates, 14 of whom are women. Over the years, 21 Israelis have won the prize, with 176 laureates coming from the US — the biggest number of laureates — followed by the UK, with 29.