Nazareth mayor denies canceling special concert for Israel's 60th

Israeli producer claims Ramez Jaraisy 'got very nervous' at last minute and called off arrival of Austrian orchestra.

austrian orchestra 224.8 (photo credit: Poriya Hospital)
austrian orchestra 224.8
(photo credit: Poriya Hospital)
Did Nazareth's mayor call off a performance of an Austrian orchestra because he didn't want it to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary? According to the producer of the event, Yehuda Kassif, Mayor Ramez Jaraisy cancelled an appearance by Austria's Spirit of Europe orchestra in Nazareth, just one day before the group arrived in Israel this week. The sudden change of plans took place following an announcement by the Austrian Embassy that the orchestra would be performing three celebratory concerts in Israel. Despite having previously confirmed the performance for Wednesday, Jaraisy allegedly denied the orchestra a venue in Nazareth on extremely short notice. "He got very nervous and canceled the concert," Kassif, the producer of the concert series, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "He does not want to have anything to do with the 60th anniversary of Israel. It's that simple." The mayor declined comment, but his office faxed the Post a letter in which he denied cancelling the event over Israel's anniversary celebrations. "I find it strange and despicable that you said I set as a precondition for the concert 'the erasure of all reference to 60th-anniversary events, and even to the State of Israel itself'!!!," Jaraisy wrote. "The responsibility for the cancellation of this event is entirely on you. I don't intend to continue arguing with you. This letter is my final letter on the subject," the mayor wrote in response to Kassif's requests for reconsideration of his decision. According to Kassif, the orchestra had agreed to meet every request of the Nazareth Municipality. This included not performing in a church in order to allow everyone to attend, and not performing on July 4, so as to avoid any semblance of celebrating the independence of the United States. Jaraisy also requested that the concert not be held on July 5, because that would disrupt the city's memorial for Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor and leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement. Finally, Kassif told the Post, the orchestra had, in accordance with the mayor's wishes, agreed to make no mention of Israel's 60th anniversary or to even display the country's flag. "He was very insistent about it. Everything was met according to his words," Kassif said. Just last year, Kassif arranged for the orchestra to perform at the Tel Aviv Museum in celebration of 50 years of cultural collaboration between Austria and Israel. The musicians displayed their talent twice; once as participants in the Israel Dance Festival, and again as a fund-raiser for the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva. "They wanted to come again and play three concerts for the 60th anniversary of Israel," Kassif said. "The government of Lower Austria decided to send them as a present for the 60th anniversary. In order to bring the message of love and understanding between nations, we have planned three concerts." With the Nazareth venue no longer available, Kassif had limited time to find a new location to supplement the already confirmed Jerusalem and Herzliya performances. "I called the Poriya Hospital [near Tiberias] and the manager [Jacob Farbstein] accepted the challenge," Kassif said. "Within a day we organized the concert for the staff and patients. It was wonderful and the hall was full." The audience was composed of approximately 200 people, and to the crowd's delight, the concert was performed for over an hour. "It was very successful and people all over the hospital came to enjoy, even women who just gave birth. It was very nice and everyone was very happy," said Lilach Domingez, spokeswoman for the hospital. Among the highlights of the evening was a private performance the orchestra gave to an Israeli doctor who had to leave the concert early to deliver a baby in a nearby village. The pamphlets and programs prepared for the Nazareth concert, complete with absence of any mention of Israel, were discarded, but the damage had been done, according to Kassif. "The whole situation with Nazareth was annoying and very disturbing," he said, adding: "Especially when you remember that it is a city in Israel."