For more than 50 years, Pat Boone has gifted the world with song. Later this month, he will “give a gift to Israel,” he said, by celebrating the Jewish state’s contributions to the world at an extravagant concert in Jerusalem.
“I want Israel to be proud of itself, I want all the Jews to be proud and I want Christians to realize the debt we owe the Jews and Israel,” Boone told The Jerusalem Post.
On May 13, Jerusalem Day, Boone will host a 70th anniversary gala at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall in the Jerusalem Theater.
The event is “a major tribute show for Israel and its achievements,” said Boone. It will center around seven prominent speakers who each will speak live or via video recording about one of the last seven decades of Israel’s modern history.
“These seven mini-documentaries will be presented by people who admire Israel and will celebrate what Israel has done for the rest of the world,” said Boone, noting that these tributes will include rare archival footage that will allow the audience to experience these modern-day achievements and miracles.
Presenters include International Fellowship of Christians and Jews president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, veteran basketball star Tal Brody, outgoing Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Reverend Franklin Graham, Christian Broadcasting Network CEO Gordon Robertson, and the Youth Ambassador from Krembo Wings, the only inclusive youth movement in Israel for people with disabilities.
“I have been to the Holy Land more than a dozen times, and the timing couldn’t be better in a world where peace, brotherly love, respect and reaching out couldn’t be more important,” Boone told the Post. “We are all more excited than words can describe.”
Singer Barbra Streisand will open the event in a video greeting, which will likewise feature iconic musicians Shiri Maimon, the Israeli star of Eurovision 2005; Dino Kartsonakis, a world-renowned pianist and winner of eight Gospel Music Association Awards; and the Israeli Moran Choir.
The highlight will be Boone’s own performance with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra – “something I have always wanted to do,” he said. Boone will perform “Israel, O Blessed Israel” and “Exodus.”
“I will be singing the best I can at my age of 83,” Boone said with a chuckle. “I am told my voice still sounds the same as when I was 40.”
Boone has been working as a singer, actor, TV host, producer, songwriter, author, motivational speaker, TV pitchman, radio personality, record company head, TV station owner and sports team owner for more than 50 years.
He has sold more than 45 million records and has appeared in 15 movies. His record of 220 consecutive weeks on the Billboard charts with one or more songs is still unbeaten.
He is also a humanitarian with deep biblical beliefs and loud-spoken views on faith and politics.
“It is not just liberals who can stir things up,” he said.
Boone has been to Israel more than 20 times and brought with him thousands of Christian tourists on those visits.
“I am a Zionist,” Boone said. “In my perspective, a Zionist is a person who believes God created Israel for the Jewish people... Israel has fulfilled the prophecy and promise that God made to Abraham, and through Israel all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
He said that the Land of Israel “nearly passed out of existence” between 70 CE and 1948. The land was arid and dry. Boone said that there “were some nomadic people that would drift through,” but a century and a half ago, when Marc Twain traveled on an excursion with his American church group to Europe and the Middle East, he described the area as desolate and devoid of inhabitants.
“There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for 30 miles in either direction,” wrote Twain in The Innocents Abroad. “There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride 10 miles, hereabouts, and not see 10 human beings... Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince... Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.”
“A lot has changed since 1948,” said Boone.
Boone endeared himself to Jewish fans and Israel supporters when in the early 1960s he took the Ferrante and Teicher theme music of the Otto Preminger film Exodus and added lyrics. Since then, “Exodus” the song evolved into a standard that has closed Boone’s shows ever since: “This land is mine God gave this land to me This brave and ancient land to me And when the morning sun Reveals her hills and plains Then I see a land Where children can run free So take my hand And walk this land with me.” Boone said, “I believe Israel is mine, too. I would as soon die for Israel as for the United States. I believe I have been adopted into the family of God’s chosen people.”
Boone said he wrote the lyrics after reading Leon Uris’ book Exodus and the Exodus story in Bible.
“When I heard the piano instrumental of that gorgeous theme song, I knew I had to sing it,” he told the Post. “Then I found there weren’t any lyrics and wouldn’t be, because the three gentlemen who had a veto power over the words – Ernest Gold, the composer; Chappell Music; and the director/producer of the film Otto Preminger – that had been submitted by professional writers had not been able to agree.
“So, I sat down on a Christmas Eve trying to think of a start to some words to suggest to a professional writer – and the first four words, ‘This land is mine,’ came to me. I realized that those four words told the whole story of the people of Israel and the land God gave them.”
Boone grabbed a small white piece of paper and started writing – and in 30 minutes, had written all the words on the back of a Christmas card. The lyrics were quickly approved by all three parties. Today, that Christmas card is now framed on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem.
“It’s an absolute milestone in my career and in my life,” he said.
Boone recalled a visit to Israel soon after the Yom Kippur War, when he went to visit troops in the Golan Heights and was requested to put on an impromptu concert in a bunker.
“I asked them, ‘What do you want to hear?’” he recalled. “And they said ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ – one of my rock hits. I did the best I could to sing it without any music, and they enjoyed it. But then I said, ‘Hey, let me sing this,’ and I sang ‘Exodus’ in the bunker. And again, it felt like it was being sung through me, and it was a moving experience for all of us.”
A few years later, Boone met thenprime minister Yitzhak Rabin in his office and told him about that trip. Rabin went to a map and pointed the location out to Boone.
“Where I was singing ‘God gave this land to me’ is now part of the map of Israel,” said Boone. “I stood there and sang, and it turned out to be prophetic. So, it always gives me goosebumps to sing the song.”
Boone shares a close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he said affectionately calls him “Speedy,” in reference to his hit song. Boone said he believes “Netanyahu is God’s man,” and that the prime minister “knows how Israel came to be and what Israel will look like in the future.”
It says in the Bible, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you – a lot of people don’t like to talk about the second half of that promise.”
Boone pointed out that Netanyahu says the greatest supporters of Israel in the world are Evangelical Christians.
“Jews and Christians are linked together by God’s purpose, by their histories and their belief in one God – in the same God,” said Boone. “We have much more in common than differences.”
He said the Bible continues to be the best-selling book in the US every year, and while this Bible is divided for Christians into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament, from his perspective it is all Jewish.
“From the first words of Genesis in the Bible until the last word in the Book of Revelations, it was all written by Jews, about Jews,” Boone said, noting that he believes the world is in “horrible shape” because too few people learn Bible today or “understand God, His plan for the world, and why God chose the little nation of Israel to be His.”
Boone said every time he is in Israel, the pages of the Bible come to life, and for him, Israel is not just the past, but the present and future.
Boone said that at 83, he recognizes that this visit to the Holy Land might be his last.
“I wanted one of my last acts on earth to bring a lot of people to Israel, to help them come to this revelation – that Jews and Christians, we are in this together,” he said.