Bieber Knocks ‘Em Dead in Tel Aviv

Bored Parents, Wowed Kids and 700 Tickled Teens From Rocket-Plagued Sderot

By Nathan Jeffay

Published April 15, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Tel Aviv became Teen Aviv last night, as most of the adult population took cover and girls from across the country headed for Hayarkon Park to see Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber.

The 17-year-old sensation sang and danced for an hour-and-a-half as his fans sang along and screamed. They hung on his every word, jumping, chanting, and closing their eyes when he asked. He wowed them with his favourites like “Eenie Meeni” and “Never Say Never” – and with his charm, telling the crowd “I would do anything to see you smile.”

Star Power: Justin Bieber, seen above performing in Milan in April.
Getty Images
Star Power: Justin Bieber, seen above performing in Milan in April.

Parent-child roles were reversed, as it was the moms and dads who stood texting on their cell phones because of boredom. They were the ones asking the children how long before they could go home.

“I only agreed to come to get out of the Passover cleaning,” admitted Jerusalemite Itai Erdiv, 38, who took his 12-year-old daughter Devora as he headed for the refreshment stand. To his disappointment, where the beer pumps usually stand, there were toffee apples and cotton candy.

“My wife convinced me to come by saying that our daughter learns all her English from him, and I believe her,” said Michael Levi of Rishon Le-Zion, who was there with 13-year-old Daniela. “But I don’t understand what everyone sees in him as a singer.”

But for the 12 to 16-year old girls, who accounted for most of the 21,000-strong audience, it was a perfect night. “All the grown ups like to knock Justin, but where are their pop stars? Where is that Elvis Costello?” asked 15-year-old Tel Avivian Orly Menit. Costello, 56, cancelled his concert last year because of his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Except for one word of Hebrew – “sababa” which means great – and a remark that it was apt to play his song “Pray” in the Hold Land, he didn’t make any reference to Israel. But he did give the strangest of tributes to Holocaust survival. “This is Scooter’s grandma – she’s a Holocaust survivor,” he said as he strode over to the Israel grandmother of his manager Scooter Braun. He then serenaded her with a song about his first love at age 13, jumping up and down singing “baby, baby, baby, oh.”

Perhaps there would have been more chat about his location had his plan to tour the country worked out. “I want to see this country and all the places I’ve dreamed of and whether it’s the paps or being pulled into politics its been frustrating,” he commented via his Twitter account on Tuesday, a day in to his trip. A few hours earlier he posted: “Staying in the hotel for the rest of the week u happy?”

His tweets related to being followed by the paparazzi, including at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and unconfirmed press reports that he had refused to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he learned that youngsters from Sderot and other areas under fire from Gaza were due to attend.

But while Netanyahu reportedly failed to get kids from the so-called Gaza envelope a dose of Bieber fever, three Jewish American charities managed it.

A few days before the concert, Nir Kouris, a 28-year-old social media entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, decided he would arrange to treat children living within range of rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza to the concert in consideration of the long periods they have spent in bomb shelters lately.

Kouris took 700 children, providing tickets, transport and chaperones, with help and funding from the Washington-based Morningstar Foundation, the ROI Community of young Jewish leaders, and the Israel arm of the Tulsa-based Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Kouris had done some media strategy work ahead of the event for the concert promoters, and used his contacts to negotiate a discount on tickets.

Shoval David, 14, was in her bomb shelter when she received a text message from the municipal community center in Sderot asking her if she wanted to go. “I couldn’t believe it – I was so excited,” she recalled as Bieber made his way on to the stage. “After all the time in the shelter it’s great to be here doing something normal,” she said.

The community center’s youth coordinator Ruth Ben-Abu said that youngsters in Sderot have very limited horizons. The rocket attacks are just the immediate problem, she said. After years of living under threat from Gaza rockets, Sderot residents who can afford to leave have moved out. Those who remain have few venues for entertainment locally, and most youngsters have very limited financial means, explained Ben-Abu. “Because of this, just coming to Tel Aviv is something they rarely do, and going to big concerts like this just isn’t part of their lives.”

As 12-year-old Oren Bucanim danced to the music, she commented that the songs have become the soundtrack to her shelter sessions. “We have a computer in the bomb shelter, so I go on Facebook and listen to his music – so to see him in person is just amazing,” she said.

Maayan Froum, 12, had been offended by Bieber’s failure to meet with youngsters from her region — nevertheless by the end of the concert all was forgiven. “So he doesn’t want to get in to ‘politics’ — this makes me angry because it’s not ‘politics’ it’s our lives, the reality we live with every day. But the show was fantastic and I still love him.”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.