Michael Jackson 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli fans of Michael Jackson are trying to cope with the death of their hero.
One man, when contacted by The Jerusalem Post, said he was "too sad to talk to the press." He simply asked that the Post keep its coverage positive, because "[Jackson] got enough unfair and negative press in his lifetime, it's the least the media can do now."
Jackson performed two sold-out concerts in Tel Aviv in 1993. Marcel Avraham, who produced the concerts, told Walla! News that Jackson "really loved Israel, and was very excited to be here."
On an Israeli "Michael Jackson" forum, surfers expressed shock and disbelief at his death.
Wrote one user, "What? What? How? It can't be! But it's Michael! How did it happen to him, of all people? I don't believe it... I want to die!"
Said another, "I am listening to the song 'You Are Not Alone,' but I feel so alone. It is impossible to explain how much inspiration this man gave to people in his life, and I hope he will continue to after his death."
Abigail Eisenbach said she couldn't describe how she felt when she heard about Jackson's death. "I have loved him for 16 years, since I was 10 years old," she told the Post. "Something died in me, too."
Dror Cohen is another long-time fan - he said he has loved Jackson for 17 years, since age 13. He can't believe the King of Pop is dead. "It seems like a bad movie," he said.
In an effort to cope with her grief, Eisenbach organized a get-together for Jackson fans in the park opposite Tel Aviv's Arlozorov/Savidor train station on Sunday night. Participants were encouraged to bring guitars so they could sing as a way to celebrate Jackson's life and music, to wear Michael Jackson T-shirts, bring candles, and simply to bring "anything that [they] think will help [them] to support each other."
The point of the get-together was "to honor Michael, but also to be with other people who are feeling the same things. You just can't be alone right now. All over the world, people are getting together to honor him and support each other," Eisenbach said.
"Everyone is taking it differently. Some people aren't in a state where they can go out," she said before the meeting. "We want to be together, to support each other... to sing, to celebrate his life."
She didn't know if they would be able to sing. "We will try."
When asked if she thought the event, and being surrounded by other fans, would help her, Eisenbach simply answered, "I hope."
Jackson maintained a large Israeli fan base despite what Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, described as "an anti-Semitic streak."
In a series of tapes from 2005, Jackson is heard using anti-Semitic language in a voice message. "They suck... They're like leeches," Jackson he said. "It's a conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose."
A Jackson song called "They don't care about us," written in 1995, included anti-Semitic stereotypes that were later removed.
Said Foxman, "Every time he [had] a problem in his life, he [blamed] the Jews."
However, negative aspects of Jackson's life and character seem to have been swept away in the waves of grief affecting his many dedicated fans.
Jackson, in New York for an induction ceremony into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2001, showed up at a private reception for then-prime minister Ariel Sharon as the guest of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and self-styled psychic Uri Geller.
Sharon said he exchanged a few words with the reclusive Jackson, who told him he was "a big fan" of Israel.
Asked whether he knew of Jackson and could recognize him on the street, Sharon - a well-known classical music aficionado - replied, "Sure, what do you think, that I am not familiar with the modern music scene?"
"I just hope that people will remember him for his music," said Cohen, "and not because of the stories and rumors that circulated about him throughout the years. I have so many good memories from him and I will never forget him, and who he was for me."
"Michael Jackson influenced the lives of his fans and people in the world in such a strong way in everything he did, in his music... I can't believe that he is dead," Eisenbach said.