Hillel Schenker

Stoned in Tel Aviv

Over 50,000 Israelis went last night to see the historic appearance of the Rolling Stones at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, and I was proud to be one of them, together with my 26 year old son Adi.  As he said, he’ll never be able to see the Beatles or the Doors, both of whom disbanded before he was born, so at least the Stones.  And even if the price seemed steep, NIS 695 for the right to sit or more likely stand and dance on the grass hill opposite the stage, it was worth every shekel


There was a plan to bring the Beatles here in 1965, and is well known, it was shot down by a committee led by the then Chief Education Officer of the IDF, Mordechai (Morele) Bar-On, because their appearance in Tel Aviv would be “damaging to the morals of the Israeli youth.”  My uncle, Dov Bar-Nir, who was a member of the first Knesset on behalf of the Mapam Party, was also a member of the committee, and my cousin tells me that he proudly told her that being a man of the world (who grew up in Belgium), he was in the minority that supported their right to come.  Bar-On later expressed his regrets at his role in preventing them from coming, and on a radio program in which he was asked what record would he bring with him to a desert island, he said “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

As for the Stones, although it took them 52 years, they finally made it.  What a performance!  How does Mick Jagger do it?!   And in the middle of a hot hamsin evening?   Not a word of complaint, and constant motion on the stage, with just a brief break when Keith Richards took over with a few blues solos.  All of his peers like myself can only feel encouraged by his continued energy.

From “Start Me Up” to “Satisfaction”

As for the songs – “Start Me Up” naturally started them off, followed very fittingly by “It’s Only Rock and Roll (but I like it)”.   I could have done without “Get off My Cloud” and “Paint it Black” which they must have been told were very popular in Israel, and would have preferred “Let’s Spend the Night Together” , “Ruby Tuesday”, “Beast of Burden”,”Wild Horses” and “Time Waits for No One” but you can’t have everything.   There were wonderful performances of “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Honky Tonk Woman”, “Brown Sugar”, “Miss You”, “Doom and Gloom” and the very lyrical “Angie”, which warmed my cold winter nights on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.

I wondered if they would dare to sing the challenging “Sympathy for the Devil” in the Holy Land, which is sometimes overwhelmed with too many religious tensions and symbolism, and when the familiar opening percussion notes began, and Mick began “Please allow me to introduce myself/I’m a man of wealth and taste/I’ve been around for a long, long year/Stole many a man’s soul and faith/”, with the familiar “Ooo who who” in the background, I felt chills down my spine.

And what could top an encore of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, with an angelic local girl’s choir in the background, and of course the rocking finale of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.

A night to remember

What an ensemble.   Besides Keith Richards, by common consensus one of the greatest guitarists and white blues masters ever, there was Mick Taylor, listed as the 37th best guitarist in Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarist list, a tremendous bass player, great keyboard and sax players, and the incredible Lisa Fischer, one of the stars of the Oscar winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” doing back-up vocals.

Maybe the Stones are not as political as John Lennon, George Harrison or even Paul McCartney, but we always knew where they stood.   After-all, “I went down to the demonstration/To get my fair share of abuse”.  And perhaps unnoticed by most, Mick, who sprinkled his banter with a surprising number of Hebrew phrases, including “Chag Shavuot Sameach” (Happy Shavout Holiday), and “Atem kahal meturaf! (You are a really wild audience!”) and Anachnu Havavanim Hamitgalgalot! (We are the Rolling Stones!), at one point said “Todah” (Thank you) to the audience, which he immediately followed with “Shukran” (Thank you in Arabic).

However, my favorite comment of the evening was made by Keith Richards, who said “I’m really happy to be here in Tel Aviv. In fact, I’m really happy to be anywhere!”

Did someone say BDS,? Rogers Waters of Pink Floyd called on the Stones not to come to protest the occupation.  Obviously this didn’t make much of an impression on Mick and Keith, or on Neil Young who is coming later this summer.   Which doesn’t mean that they, and most of the people in the audience wouldn’t like to see an end to the occupation and peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

As for the morals of the Israeli youth, well for one night, everyone there, most of whom would qualify as youth, it was a rocking joyful night to remember. And they all sang along with the refrain “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes well you might find/You get what you need.”



About the Author
Hillel Schenker is Co-Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, and lives in Tel Aviv