Thursday, August 28, 2008

After 43 Years Israel Is Ready for Beatlemania

In 1965, when Israel had no television, and public entertainment consisted largely of kibbutz songfests celebrating the wheat harvest, the Beatles, already international celebrities, were booked for a concert here. To young Israeli fans, it seemed an impossible dream.

And so it was. The official permission required to withdraw precious foreign currency to pay the band was denied because a ministerial committee feared the corrupting influence of four long-haired Englishmen singing about pleasure.

As the committee report put it, “The Beatles have an insufficient artistic level and cannot add to the spiritual and cultural life of the youth in Israel.”

Since then, especially in recent years, Israel has expressed embarrassment about the episode and tried to make amends. Last January, it sent a letter from its London embassy to the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, asking forgiveness for the “missed opportunity” to have the band that “shaped the minds of a generation, to come to Israel and perform before the young generation in Israel who admired you and continues to admire you.” The artists were asked to consider again coming to perform.

There was little progress until recently, but now Mr. McCartney has been booked for a huge outdoor concert in Tel Aviv on Sept. 25. And nearly everything about the event — the $8 million price tag borne by a high-flying Israeli financier who expects to turn a profit, the tickets selling for hundreds of dollars that are being gobbled up through Internet sales, indeed its very existence — is a parable of a nation transformed.
The Beatles in London in 1965 before flying to the United States. They were also booked for Israel, but the concert was canceled. The band was deemed to have “an insufficient artistic level.”

Read the entire New York Time's piece by Ethan Bronner: Israel, After 43 Years, Is Ready for Beatlemania.