Demi Lovato 'sorry not sorry' for Israel visit

"I accepted a free trip to Israel in exchange for a few posts. No one told me there would be anything wrong with going," the singer wrote in a post that was later deleted.

Demi Lovato visits shalva (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Demi Lovato visits shalva
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Grammy-nominated American singer and actress Demi Lovato’s love affair with Israel on her recent visit here seems to have come to an abrupt halt.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday that was then deleted, Lovato apologized if her trip offended anyone.
Lovato’s visit initially appeared to have gone well, so the controversy that followed came as a surprise. The pop singer, who has more than 74 million Instagram followers, posted photos of herself at the Western Wall, being baptized in the Jordan River, touring Yad Vashem, and visiting the Shalva National Center for people with disabilities.
“There is something absolutely magical about Israel,” she gushed. “I’ve never felt such a sense of spirituality or connection to God… something I’ve been missing for a few years now... I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel.”
But on Wednesday, she wrote in an Instagram story: “I’m extremely frustrated. I accepted a free trip to Israel in exchange for a few posts. No one told me there would be anything wrong with going or that I could possibly be offending anyone. With that being said, I’m sorry if I hurt or offended anyone, that was not my intention. Sometimes people present you with opportunities and no one tells you the potential backlash you could face in return. This was meant to be a spiritual experience for me, NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT, and now I realize it hurt people and for that I’m sorry. Sorry I’m not more educated, and sorry for thinking this trip was just a spiritual experience. Going against all advice right now and apologizing because it feels right to me and I’d rather get in trouble for being authentic to myself, than staying quiet to please other people. I love my fans, all of them, from all over.”
The BDS backlash began as soon as Lovato posted photos of her Israel visit on Instagram. Angry fans responded with scathing comments that she was ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and that she should boycott Israel.
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I am an American singer. I was raised Christian and have Jewish ancestors. When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes. There is something absolutely magical about Israel. I’ve never felt such a sense of spirituality or connection to God…something I’ve been missing for a few years now. Spirituality is so important to me…to be baptized in the Jordan river – the same place Jesus was baptized – I’ve never felt more renewed in my life. This trip has been so important for my well-being, my heart, and my soul. I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel

A post shared by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

Lovato then deleted the comments on a photo showing her Jordan River baptism where she praised Israel as “magical.”
Her detractors took to Twitter to criticize the singer. Among the comments, Nouran Ahmed wrote: “Hey, Demi... actually, you need to read more about the history of this land because it’s called Palestine, not Israel, and the magical feeling that you felt, it’s back to the history of the land (Palestine) not Israel.”
While BDS supporters have long campaigned to persuade celebrities to cancel planned trips to Israel, the controversy over Lovato’s visit is unusual in that the pressure came following her visit. Apparently, the singer was taken by surprise by the criticism. But why she then removed her apology – which lives on in screen grabs – is unclear.
Meanwhile, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin took credit for inviting her as an initiative of his ministry.
Elkin’s office released photographs on Thursday of him presenting Lovato with a replica of a bulla found in excavations at Zedekiah’s Cave in Jerusalem, where he had dinner with the singer and her party. His office confirmed that the ministry spent about NIS 200,000 on the visit.
“For the past three years the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, in close collaboration with the Foreign Ministry, has been operating a broad program to establish the international status of Jerusalem and give international exposure to the general public of Jerusalem’s deep connection and central place in the history of Israel,” Elkin said in a comment released by his spokesman.
“The program focuses not only on major international conferences held in Jerusalem and giving the Protector of Jerusalem Award (which last year was given to the Czech president), but also on organizing the visits of many public opinion shapers to Jerusalem, including to historical sites such as the Western Wall, the City of David, the Old City, the Mount of Olives and more.
“As part of the ministry’s program, it initiates visits to Jerusalem by celebrities whose social media exposure is generally greater than major media outlets. The successful visit of Demi Lovato and the exposure of historic Jerusalem to new audiences on a huge scale... is another step in implementing the program.”
The Jerusalem Affairs Ministry said in a statement that “Demi Lovato enjoyed her entire visit to Jerusalem and Israel, and even uploaded many pictures to her Instagram page where she told her followers in a positive light about her stay here in Israel. Lovato’s posts have garnered millions of views, comments and shares and sympathetic articles in the international media. Unfortunately, there will always be those who try to put pressure on celebrities who are considering coming to Israel for a performance or spiritual and personal visit...  The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage in close collaboration with the Foreign Ministry will continue its efforts to promote Jerusalem and its beauty to vast and diverse audiences around the world.”
Showing a sense of humor about the controversy, a government-affiliated pro-Zionist Facebook page, Yisrael Sheli (My Israel), posted a photo of Lovato at the Western Wall with the caption, “Demi, Sorry (don’t be) Sorry/ The People of Israel Love U.”