An open letter to The Boss

Israel is the Bruce Springsteen of the Middle East – living every day to its fullest and always striving for a better future.

Bruce Springsteen 311 (photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Bruce Springsteen 311
(photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Dear Bruce,
The rumors have been running rampant ever since the biggest daily paper in Israel, Yediot Aharonot, earlier this month inaccurately published a headline – “Springsteen on the way to Israel.”
Of course, anyone who then read the story learned that, while indeed promoter Shuki Weiss had made an offer to you to perform here next summer, “it’s too early to announce any good news.” So much for burst expectations.
On the other hand, the story didn’t appear out of thin air. That same week, your own website announced that you would be taking the E Street Band out on a European tour in the spring and summer, the first since your longtime sax man and sidekick Clarence Clemons passed away in June.
Those two items – put together – are reason enough to fill the hearts of the many Springsteen fans in Israel with the prospect that there is indeed a chance that – 39 years after the release of your remarkable debut album that introduced you to the world as a once-in a- generation talent – you’ll finally be making your Israel debut.
However, it’s certainly not a sure thing. Over the last 11 years since you brought the E Street Band back together, there have been numerous tours of Europe without an Israel date. Is it going to happen again?
Confirmed dates are beginning to appear on your website – a few in Italy and some in England, solid and predictable destinations that you faithfully return to each time you reach this side of the world. In all likelihood, dates in Stockholm, Lisbon and Barcelona will soon be on the docket as well.
It’s always a matter of scheduling, routing and logistics, and it’s clear to everyone – including yourself and your management – that deciding to perform in Israel includes considerably more baggage than doing a show in, say, Copenhagen. And it’s not only the equipment shipping, the distance, and whether the Israeli promoter can supply the right kind of bottled water you might require.
If negotiations work out, and you do sign a contract to appear in Israel, you’re also signing on for something bigger than just showing up and performing one of your soul-stirring, uplifting shows.
In short, it will be difficult for someone of your stature to come here without having to deal with the “Israeli-Palestinian issue.” Whether it will involve making some kind of grand gesture – like Leonard Cohen’s coexistence fund – or a more modest endeavor, like Paul McCartney’s visit to a Palestinian music school or Elton John’s defiant “nobody’s gonna stop me” speech from the stage – remains to be seen.
And let’s not forget the headaches that await you with the “boycott Israel” campaign folks who will be jamming your website and management with pleas, threats and calls to avoid playing in “apartheid” Israel.
But knowing how you’ve stood on your principles in the past – from dueling with US presidential candidate Ronald Reagan over his inverting your anti-war “Born in the USA” into a patriotic call to arms, to your boldly unflinching identification as an overtly heterosexual rocker with the victims of AIDS – it’s clear that you would find the honorable way to steer through the potential land mines of Middle East polemics.
Your music and career have always been about grand gestures and small moments: the triumph of human spirit and battling against adversity, the celebration of life and freedom amid the realization of what the costs of such triumphs are.
Those are the same qualities that Israel embodies – nobody knows about struggling with adversity and overcoming insurmountable obstacles better than we do, just as nobody has captured the concept of bittersweet joy as often as we have. That’s why Israel is the Bruce Springsteen of the Middle East – living every day to its fullest and always striving for a future that will bring salvation and tranquility.
Bruce, you can be assured that the extra effort required to perform in Israel will be worthwhile – just ask Sir Paul, Madonna, Sir Elton or any number of world class artists who have had their eyes opened about the country and its people.
I remember the last time I saw you in concert – in Boston in 1978, as you introduced your then-new album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, about desperate people refusing to give up. You performed as if your life depended on it. At the end of show, before the encore, you thanked us and concluded by saying something like “Nobody wins unless everybody wins!”
Those are words to bring back now – a Bruce Springsteen show in Israel in 2012 will be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Bruce, it’s time to finally see the promised land that you’ve been writing about all these years. Our door is wide open, but like you told us long ago, the ride ain’t free.