Idan Raichel Project Salutes Jerusalem

by Brian on February 24, 2010

in Music,Only in Israel,Reviews

Two years ago, Israel’s capital introduced the “Jerusalem Card” which provides discounts on a whole range of Jerusalem attractions – from restaurants and museums to music performances and even discounts on parking and taxis. We bought ours at the opening to the annual Hutzot HaYotzer arts and crafts festival for only NIS 18 (around $5) and it’s paid for itself many times over.

Last night, the city decided to celebrate the card’s birthday with a festive concert featuring the Idan Raichel Project at Jerusalem’s International Congress Center. Card holders got in for only NIS 50 ($13) instead of the non-resident price of NIS 140 ($37). In an age when concerts by big names are going for hundreds of shekels, this was a can’t miss deal.

That, apparently, was what half the city seemed to think too. The concert was sold out within hours of tickets going on sale and the performance hall was packed.

Raichel is one of Israel’s most unique talents. Bursting onto the local music scene in 2002, he’s assembled an 11-piece band composed of performers from around the world that sings in Amharic, Spanish, Arabic, English and, of course, Hebrew. Flute, sax, oud and mandolin could all be heard, along with a unique percussion instrument that involved pouring water into buckets. It’s true world music…with a rock beat.

The crowd was a unique Jerusalem mix of young and old, completely covered up religious and scantily clad secular. It was encouraging to see the way that music can bring together an increasingly polarized population.

That may have been due in part to Raichel’s multi-cultural and pluralistic emphasis. He punctuated the 2 hour plus concert with anecdotes about the texts he uses for his songs, many of which come from Biblical sources and have double meanings – love stories about longing for God that at the same time year for a more physical partner.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when Raichel recounted the band’s performance earlier this year for Martin Luther King Day with U.S. President Barack Obama in attendance. On his return to Israel, though, he received a call about several young children under the age of four dying from cancer. His father picked him up at the airport and they immediately drove to the hospital.

The concert in the U.S., by comparison, Raichel realized, was all “shtuyiot” (“unimportant” or “nonsense” in Hebrew). He then proceeded to play an emotional ballad that had the crowd alternately cheering and crying.

Our Jerusalem Card is due to expire soon. There’s no question that we’ll renew it.

You can watch a clip from the concert above or click this link.

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