At the last minute, Israeli singer and songwriter Amir Benayoun received a visa to the United States and will appear at the UN on Monday.
Benayoun will be there to perform the original song “The Last Survivor” – which he created along with Moshe Klughaft – in Hebrew, English and Arabic alongside Miri Mesika and David D’or, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Earlier, Benayoun had been refused a visa by the US Consulate, though Mesika and D’or had their requests approved.
At the time, the embassy said Benayoun did not sufficiently prove he was intending to return to Israel, but the singer claimed the refusal was for political reasons.
“I’m happy to represent my land and my nation at a ceremony in honor of Holocaust victims,” Benayoun said in a Friday statement. “What’s done is done and we have an important task ahead of us.”
After Benayoun’s first visa refusal, he was invited back to the embassy to appeal, but since he wasn’t guaranteed approval, the singer refused to go.
“Of course I won’t go back to the embassy,” Benayoun wrote on Facebook last week. “If they wanted to give me [a visa] they could just do it without all this rattling around.”
But when embassy officials asked him this time to come back, Benayoun went, and soon he’ll be off to New York to perform at the ceremony arranged by Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Organizers say 350 to 400 people are expected to take part in Monday’s event, including ambassadors from around the world and Holocaust survivors. The song is also slated to be used as part of Holocaust memorial ceremonies held in Turkey and Kosovo this year.
While several Israeli officials had promised to help Benayoun receive a visa, at least one was working against him. When the trip was first announced, Meretz MK Esawi Frej sent an official letter
to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that Benayoun not be allowed to perform due to what the lawmaker deemed his racist views. In response to Frej’s letter, Alison Smale, a deputy of Guterres, said Benayoun was not invited by the UN to appear at its UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony that will be held on Wednesday.