(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli music fans, much like sports fans, tend to pick their favorites by a criteria of how they stand on Israel. Elvis Costello was everybody’s darling until he canceled two shows in 2008 after deciding that his conscience wouldn’t allow him to perform in an “occupying” country. Roger Waters? We’ll still listen to Pink Floyd, but he’s persona non grata.
Carlos Santana was always a thornier issue. He performed in Israel in 1987, but a 2010 scheduled appearance was canned, with the official reason being schedule conflicts.
But the boycott genie was out of the bottle, and his name was regularly listed – by both pro-boycotters and Israel defenders – as being among those artists who have boycotted Israel.
So when his upcoming show in Tel Aviv on July 30 was announced, Santana was hailed by pro-Israel activists for bucking the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) juggernaut. At the same time, BDS organizations picked up steam in campaigns calling for the superstar to cancel the show and stop “supporting the oppressor” and “endorsing occupation.”
Santana responded by issuing a video clip in which he said, “The band and I will bring our open hearts and musical energy that will resonate with your soul long after the last song has been played. We look forward to seeing you at Park Hayarkon. Shalom and salam alaykum. Peace.”
Santana’s manager, Michael Vrionis, put out his own statement on the matter.
“Carlos Santana is a citizen of the world and he plays his music and spreads his message of love, light & peace wherever he goes. Carlos believes the world should have no borders so he is not detoured or discouraged to play anywhere on this planet. We look forward to performing in Israel this summer.”
According to his wife and his band’s drummer, Cindy Blackman, Santana has never been part of any boycott campaign against Israel.
“What I see as Carlos’s perspective on it, is that he wants to go to the region to unite people,” Blackman told The Jerusalem Post. “He’s looking at the show as a gift to all people, a loving gift. He’s not looking at music as something to be fearful of, but as an opportunity to do his best to bring people together.”
Like other entertainers who have performed in Israel (Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson) and contributed part of their proceeds to coexistence causes, Santana is putting his money where his mouth is.
Part of his concert fee will be donated to Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, which runs six schools around the country that brings Arabs and Jews together in the classroom.
Jerusalem’s Max Raynde Hand in Hand School made headlines in 2014 when right-wing arsonists set fire to a pre-school classroom in the school.
According to Hand in Hand spokesperson, Gaby Goldman, Santana’s charitable Milagro Foundation has provided funding to the organization since 2005.
“It’s not as much a matter of donations but rather of support and of sharing the values we believe in and stand for,” said Goldman. “Values like peace, justice and equality that guide us in what we do daily...
aimed at building a shared society for Jews and Arabs.”
Hand in Hand CEO Shuli Dichter added that it was “very natural to continue this thing around the concert.”
Blackman doubted that she and Santana would have the time to visit the school during their time in the country later this month, but added that they are open to returning to the region.
“We’re hopefully going to have a day before the show to see part of the country, but I would love to come back,” she said. “There are so many spiritual sites that we would like to visit.”
It appears, in this case at least, that the concept of going hand in hand trumps the concept of boycott.