A few years ago — just like most young teens are — I was obsessed with all the most popular singers and bands. I followed them enthusiastically, devoting much of my time to scouring magazines for posters or interviews, endlessly searching YouTube for new videos, and compiling my mile-long list of the acts I’d give anything to see in concert. I idolized these celebrities, and whenever I heard about a tour, I’d rush to look up concert dates, convincing myself (or my parents) to spend money on tickets and merchandise.
Then, I moved to Israel. Along with all the struggles that a new olah faces, my dreams had been crushed — now I would never see these bands. Why would my favorite singers ever come to Israel? I had never heard of even one of my favorite bands visiting here, let alone performing. I was doomed to a concert-less existence, as far as my 14-year-old self was concerned.
My fears were validated when I learned about the BDS movement, which has gained momentum in recent years. All my favorite bands and singers might hesitate before performing here, as BDS actively discourages artists from making the trip. Some performers might not want to upset their fans, some might not want to be confined to one political stance, and others might not care enough to trigger the problems and arguments that unfortunately overshadow any mention of Israel. Some, I was stunned to find out, are anti-Israel. They believe that we’re oppressing Palestinians and awful for doing so. With a shock, I realized that my idols hated me.
All this changed just last week, when I saw Britney Spears in concert; if the confetti explosions and sparkly leotards weren’t enough, the experience was incredible because it was so meaningful to me. As I jumped along with the crowd, my 14-year-old self jumped and sang alongside me, the hope restored in her eyes.
To the artists who come and perform in Israel, thank you. In doing so, you’re making a statement. Coming here is, although I pray for the day it won’t be, a conscious decision you know you’ll likely face opposition for-it’s not as simple as a manager choosing tour dates and appearances in the rest of the world. I realize this, as does the rest of my country, and we applaud you for making this statement.
You bring hope to us here — all of us, because people of every age enjoy music. Whether it was my parents hearing Steven Tyler of Aerosmith joke that he’ll make aliyah, or me hearing Britney Spears say simple Hebrew words, I am given hope. Hearing her pronounce those unfamiliar words, or even just say “Tel Aviv” at the concert, made me give a cheer louder than any other I had given that night, because by speaking Hebrew, she entered my world, which I had always thought to be separate from the world of pop culture around me. My Jewish side contradicted my band-obsessed side, proven every time my heart sank as I saw a concert near me scheduled for a Friday night or Saturday. Not only did this tell me I could not go, but it told me that my idols did not care about me as I cared about them. Yet now, this amazing performer, whose songs I had on my hand-me-down pink mp3 player in 2007, was here, supporting me just as I supported her.
Madonna, Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Paul McCartney, are just some of the big names who have given concerts in Israel in recent years. Even if not all of them had decided to take a political stance, like I said, it’s a conscious decision to come here knowing they’ll face opposition. More acts are making their way to Israel as well, and I urge them not to bow to the pressure they may be facing. Radiohead announced they were coming, and have since been met at their concerts with protests and Palestinian flags, yet as of now, they persevere.
To all of my fellow Israelis, it’s crucial that we go see these bands when they come to play in Israel and show our support. And, to all those bands and singers out there: come to Israel! Do it for the heartbroken 14-year-old me who gave up hope of going to your concerts. Do it for every kid growing up here who dreams of having the same opportunity to see you as the kids in other countries get. Do it for the fans you have here who wish so badly to see their idols, and pray that those idols don’t hate them as others do. Come support me, as I supported you all those years.