Historic Visit (Extract)

By LEORA EREN FRUCHT
September 28, 2008 11:42
3 minute read.

 
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Extract from an article in Issue 13, October 13, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. On September 25, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney gave a single concert in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary. The visit, McCartney's first to Israel, comes 43 years after the Israeli government banned the Beatles from arriving for a scheduled concert. The local media have called the 1965 decision a historic mistake that is about to be "righted" and comes in the wake of an official apology recently issued by the Olmert government to McCartney and Ringo Starr, the other surviving Beatle. McCartney, who is on a world tour, said that he did not cancel his trip to the Jewish state despite a threat on his life by an Islamic militant. "I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel," he told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Ticket prices were unprecedented, ranging from 490 shekels ($150) for standing room only, to 1600 shekels ($450) for front row seats in the park, which can accommodate 70,000. Menachem Granit was 14 when the Beatles' visit to Israel was cancelled, but says that the group nevertheless changed the direction of his life. Today, Granit, who frequently lectures on the Beatles, is director of the entertainment department of Kol Israel Radio, which will be broadcasting the concert. He spoke to The Report about the historic visit. Jerusalem Report: What kind of impact is the McCartney visit having in Israel? Menachem Granit: I don't think any entertainer has sparked such excitement. Why do you think there is such a commotion? For a very long time, few top artists from abroad came to Israel because of the security situation. In the last year or two, the situation has changed. We've had visits by some major stars like Deep Purple, Joe Cocker and, soon, Blood Sweat and Tears. But none of them have the stature of McCartney. It's seems to signal a change. After a long, dry period, we are back on the cultural map. Is there also some kind of collective guilt or embarrassment over the decision to ban the Beatles when they were set to perform in Israel in 1965? I don't think guilt really plays a role in the excitement today - despite what you read in the local media, which have inflated that side of it. Why did the Beatles decide to perform in Israel in 1965 and why is McCartney coming now? In 1965, Brian Epstein, their manager, who was Jewish, was interested in bringing them here. Now McCartney says he wants to play in places of the world where he has never performed. And why was the Beatles' 1965 visit cancelled? There are two main versions about that. One is that an Education ministry official [Yaakov Schneider], who was the father of [former Meretz leader] Yossi Sarid - didn't allow the Beatles to enter the country because he thought they would corrupt Israeli youth. The other theory is that there were two rival impresarios and one of them sabotaged the visit in order to hurt the other one. What's the true version? Who knows. Was there Beatlemania here in the 60s? Young people knew about the Beatles - as a teenager then I would listen to them, but there wasn't Beatlemania. You have to remember the conditions in Israel in 1965. The communications infrastructure was primitive; there was no television. There were one or two radio stations. They did play the Beatles on the radio, but even the broadcasters would ask: "What is this noise?" Israeli radio was very conservative. If you wanted to be exposed to world cultural trends in those days, you had to listen to the BBC World Service. Extract from an article in Issue 13, October 13, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.

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