Singer-songwriter and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira lauded the power of education in promoting prosperity and peace yesterday, at the 2011 Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

Speaking at the conference’s opening plenary session, titled “My Recipe for a Better Tomorrow,” the international pop-star said. “I’m fascinated by the transformational power and speed that education has. You don’t have to wait 50 years to see tangible results. There is no waste when it comes to investment in education.”

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“Israel,” Shakira said, “is the perfect place to talk about how urgent it is to make education a priority. Israel has been a melting pot of cultures for many centuries... We are all inheritors of an Abrahamic culture that has been forged here,” she went on, “therefore we are all Israeli.”

The 2011 Israeli Presidential Conference kicked off on Tuesday with a joint press conference between President Shimon Peres and Shakira.

President Peres welcomed the singer, incorrectly introducing her as “Sharika.”

Quickly recovering from the gaff, he said “You are an ambassador for the youth, for education.”

Shakira, who had been urged by many of her Facebook followers not to attend the conference as a political statement in support of Palestinians, was instead celebrated by Peres for her nonpartisan pursuit of change.

“You don’t belong to any camp, but the camp of peace,” he said.

Peres quoted Shakira’s famous song “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” stating, “What is true about Africa is also true about the rest of the world. Falling doesn’t prevent you from getting up again. It’s true about peace. It’s true about freedom. It’s true about all human beings.”

The president went on to tout the artist’s achievements in the advancement of global education, highlighting her unique position as a spokesperson for young people around the world. He said, “Please raise your wonderful voice for the young.”

After Peres finished his introduction, he presented the singer with a necklace designed by Ben Zion David, an eighth-generation Yemenite silversmith. A nine-year-old girl from a local elementary school assisted in the presentation, reading a short letter of thanks and helping Shakira with the clasp.

Shakira began her address by focusing attention on the need for education in order to bring about stability in the Middle East.

“This is the time to act like a team,” she said. “I believe early child development programs and education are the very foundation of peace.”

This was the world-renowned pop star’s first visit to Israel, and she spent the day visiting local elementary schools in Jerusalem, including in the Beit Safafa neighborhood.

She was particularly impressed by the Max Payne Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education which teaches Palestinian and Jewish children together.

“It was very inspirational to see so many kids learning and playing together in such a healthy and safe environment,” she said.

Shakira’s speech at the conference focused on early education, which she called “the antidote for violence and poverty.”

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She ended her remarks by urging the world to take a stand.

“I believe in education for prosperity. I believe in education for peace,” she said.

Later in the evening, Peres weighed in at a session exploring “Nation, Interests and Ethics in the Journey Toward Tomorrow.”


The conference, which will welcome over 4,000 attendees from around the world, will examine contemporary issues that will impact Israel’s future, while brainstorming initiatives that will “guarantee a better tomorrow for the world, the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The conference continues through Thursday, and will feature many celebrity speakers, such as Israeli author Amos Oz, American comedienne Sarah Silverman, Quartet envoy Tony Blair and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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