An Israeli Competes for an ‘American Idol’ Title

Image: MICHAEL BECKER/FOX

She has the name of an Israeli, but the voice — maybe — of the next American Idol.

Vered Benami, a 22-year-old raised in Tennessee, cleared the first round of Hollywood Week on Fox’s “American Idol” on February 9, even earning praise from Simon Cowell, the show’s famously sharp-tongued judge. A waitress now living in Los Angeles, Benami and her fellow contestants are still competing for places among the show’s final 24, who will move on to the next round of competition, but the singer is already being touted as a front-runner to win the show’s ninth season. “Entertainment Weekly” ranked Benami third among all performers in the series’ initial round of auditions — a seven-city tour that attracted 100,000 would-be pop stars, according to “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.

With a fluid, smoky voice deemed “electrifying” by the New Jersey newspaper The Star-Ledger, Benami has also earned the recognition of “Idol” producers, who have devoted a significant amount of screen time to the performer in each of her first two appearances. Known as “Didi” to friends and to the show’s judges, Benami gives a lesson in pronouncing her given name on the “American Idol” Web site, saying it first with an American accent and then with an Israeli one. The singer’s MySpace page informs fans that “Vered” means “rose” in Hebrew, and the page lists “faith that some day there will be peace in Israel” among her influences. Although her background has not yet come up on “Idol,” the Israeli news Web site Ynet reported that the singer was born in New York to a “family of Israelis.”

Wherever she ultimately ranks, Benami is not the first “American Idol” contestant with Israeli roots. Elliott Yamin, who placed third on the show’s fifth season, has an American Jewish mother and a father who immigrated to the United States from Israel.

Written by

Nathan Burstein

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An Israeli Competes for an ‘American Idol’ Title

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