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
All roads lead to Jerusalem at President's Conference
Opinion: To shape tomorrow, look to the past
“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
The 2011 Israeli Presidential Conference kicked off on Tuesday
with a joint press conference between President Shimon Peres and
President Peres welcomed the singer, incorrectly introducing her
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
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
“This is the time to act like a team,” she said. “I believe
early child development programs and education are the very foundation of
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
Shakira’s speech at the conference focused on early education,
which she called “the antidote for violence and poverty.”
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
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.