NEW YORK – Reading the program ahead of time, the final sessions of Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York City formed a sort of crescendo.
Right before lunch, Sen. Robert Menendez, the powerful leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and fierce defender of Israel, was slated to talk. Following Menendez was Post senior contributing editor Caroline Glick, who published a controversial new book about a one-state solution.
And after that, Glick was to join several members of the Knesset and a retired military leader for a sobering analysis of security threats.
Smack in the middle was a performance by Rita.
It seemed a bizarre scheduling choice to interrupt impassioned political debates with a production by the Israeli star, whose full name is Rita Jahanforuz. But as Glick’s emotional talk concluded with a roaring standing ovation, it became clear that Rita sought a different effect.
Singing several of her renowned works and peppering in others, Rita appeared to soothe the crowd of 1,000, providing a sort of antidote to the passions of the day. She was accompanied by a pianist.
She performed “Hallelujah,” though she admitted it was her first time singing it, and she had to peek at the lyrics.
As Rita moved onto another song, she stepped from the stage, much to the confusion of the audience and the cameramen who lost her in the crowd.
She sat down in an empty seat next to Ron Prosor and asked the startled Israeli ambassador to the UN to sing with her.
Prosor did his best to sing along, drawing polite laughs from the audience, and Rita gave Prosor a big hug before returning to the stage to perform “Jerusalem of Gold.”
“It was emotional,” Prosor said as he attempted to extricate himself from the crowd that formed around him after the final panel discussion.
Moving his hand to his chest, Prosor added, “she touched my heart.”