Amid a flurry of television camera crews, photographers, radio reporters and
print media correspondents, American singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer
and TV personality Paula Abdul exchanged banter with President Shimon Peres on
Tuesday as the two met in one of the President’s Residence reception
The petite Abdul, best known to Israeli television audiences
through her eights seasons as a judge on American Idol, was in Israel for the
first time with the goal of celebrating her bat mitzva – albeit almost four
She came in escorted by her team and representatives of the
Tourism Ministry, under whose auspices she was in the country. Former tourism
minister Isaac Herzog had originally invited her some six or seven years ago,
but she hadn’t found the time to visit until now.
Wearing a long
ultramarine sweater, light tan skinny pants and tan platformsoled slingbacks,
she waved a hello to the media as she sat waiting for Peres to enter the room.
Someone asked how she felt, and she replied, “Fantastic, beyond
“I hear he’s sababa,” she said of Peres, using the Hebrew word
Asked what it was like to be 12 again, she replied, “I don’t
remember” – then corrected herself, saying, “I do remember 12. I don’t remember
what I ate yesterday.”
As Peres entered the room and greeted her, she
told him it was a pleasure and honor to meet him, then threw her arms around him
and hugged him. Peres did not resist, nor did his bodyguards close
She introduced the president to the members of her team, and in front
of the throng of media reps, declared, “And these are all my
Peres told Abdul he was jealous of her, explaining that he’d
already had his bar mitzva, but as she had never celebrated her bat mitzva, she
had something to look forward to.
He said he was also jealous that she
could sing and he could only speak.
“Can you dance?” she
Peres preferred to ignore the question, but Abdul went on to say
that two of her great passions were singing and dancing – the latter more so,
because “dancing breaks all language barriers.”
“overwhelmed” to be in Israel after having wanted to come for so long and
listening to the tales of family members who had already been here, she said
this was her first vacation in eight years. It was her first opportunity to be a
tourist, she said, “and I know that when I leave, I won’t want to
“So stay here,” Peres responded.
“In your humble
“I’m sure the Ministry of Tourism will find a
place,” he retorted.
Obviously enjoying the repartee, Peres told her that
“most meetings are a duty, but this is a pleasure.”
He advised her to
have a really good look at the country during her stay.
talking that you are so sababa – and it’s true,” Abdul enthused.
‘sababa,’ but my grandchildren call me saba [grandpa],” rejoined
Abdul then wanted to know how many grandchildren he had. Peres
told her he had three children, eight grandchildren and three
great-grandchildren, commenting, “Every addition is better.”
He then sent
his deputy director-general, Yona Bartal, to fetch a photo of him with his
“My greatest achievement wasn’t achieved by me, but
by their parents,” he said proudly.
Peres told her his
greatgrandchildren’s ages – six, five and one – and said he was certain that the
oldest of the three was destined to become a performing artist.
sings and dances and steals the show. She writes her own songs and tells her own
stories,” he said in a tone of admiration.
The television crews and
photographers then made their exit, prompting Abdul to ask, “Was it something I
said?” The president’s spokeswoman Ayelet Frish replied that it would be easier
for Abdul and Peres to talk without the presence of the media.
wanted to know how Abdul’s career had started, and she said that when she was
four years old, she had been sitting with her family, watching Singing in the
Rain on television. She had been so entranced that she edged up to the
television set and kissed the screen, saying, “That’s my daddy.”
father had tried to dissuade her, saying, “No, I’m your daddy,” but when it came
to her career choice, it was the screen daddy who won out.
to tell Peres about musical instruments that she had learned to play, but by
then it was time for the print media reporters to leave the room. In the few
minutes that they remained together sans media, it transpired, he gave her a
quick outline of Israel’s achievements over the past 65 years.