March 2, 2008
Support for Sderot is strong at L.A. benefit concert
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Boos greeted the screening of Obama's message, which is the only one of the three currently available on YouTube. Obama was the only candidate to mention the safety of both Israeli and Palestinian children. "Tonight, we stand in solidarity with the people of Sderot. We let them know that they are not only in our thoughts and prayers, but that we are going to actively work with them to bring an end to these rocket attacks, to ensure that we are building a lasting peace that will allow Israeli and Palestinian children to live side by side in peace and security."
McCain's appearance on screen brought roars of approval from the crowd. "The world cannot remain passive in the face of the terrorist rocket assault on Sderot. It is an outrage that the violence exacted on innocent men, women and children has not received global condemnation. Everyone deserves to live in peace," he said, echoing the "Live For Sderot" slogan.
"These three candidates addressed the issue of Sderot for probably the first time in their campaigns," said the consulate's Millo. "That is enormously significant. There is no one else right now that has the country's attention more than these three figures. Everyone is listening to what they have to say and the fact that they lent their voices to this cause is huge."
Other political dignitaries participating in "Live For Sderot" included Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan, making one of his first major public appearances in Los Angeles, delivering an impassioned speech thanking everyone in attendance for coming out to support Sderot and launching the 60th celebration of Israel's independence. Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, expressed her commitment to improve the situation in Sderot in a taped message from Israel. Council member Jack Weiss and Beverly Hills Jimmy Delshad were in the audience.
Ninette Tayeb, introduced by Noa Tishby as "the beautiful face of Israel" and "Israel's sweetheart and superstar," was not only the headliner for "Live For Sderot" but also has become a public spokesperson for the cause in Israel. The actress and singer ,who was the winner in 2003 of Israel's first American Idol-like singing competition, appeared on Israeli television and was interviewed in several of Israel's major news outlets prior to her performance in Los Angeles -- her first in the United States.
Tayeb, 24, had no previous connection to Sderot but has grown passionate about its circumstances. On the red carpet at the Wilshire Theatre before the show, she repeatedly expressed hope that the campaign would succeed in getting the word out.
Her performance of original and cover songs, performed in both Hebrew and English, received mixed reactions from the audience, many of whom left as the singer was performing her 45-minute set.
Some Israelis at the event pointed out that they came to hear Tayeb, an Israeli singer, sing popular songs in Hebrew. They even called out requests for "Yam Shel Dmaot" (Sea of Tears), the song that rocketed her to stardom in her winning performance on "Kochav Nolad." But the singer politely refused, saying, "No, no, I'm past that. No more tears."
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel speculated that the mostly American audience (Millo estimated that 70 percent of the attendees were American) was not familiar with Tayeb or her music and did not come to the event to see her perform.
"They loved the evening, the purpose behind it," said Rabbi Bouskila, whose 11-year-old daughter Shira sang a skin-tingling rendition of "Ha-Tikvah" at the concert. "They came to support Sderot and maybe didn't care to stay that late for the entire concert."
Because of tight security at the theater, it took longer than expected to get the 1,900 ticket holders through the metal detectors and purse inspections. As a result, the program began nearly an hour late.
Nevertheless, the quality of Tayeb's singing overshadowed her glaring lack of confidence on the stage, according to those who know her work, including some Israeli fans at the concert and members of the Israeli media covering the event.
Veteran Israeli reporter Aaron Barnea seemed to think the only success of the night was Tayeb. His critical television segment for Israel's Channel Two complained about the event's lack of organization and pointed out the absence of A-list celebrities. The title of his clip was, "Consulate Organizes Show for Children of Sderot -- Only Rambo Shows Up," referring to the presence of Sylvester Stallone.
Indeed, big names like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were not present, leaving the paparazzi to snap photos of Jolie's father, Jon Voight, and other familiar though not quite as flashy faces, like Mayim Bialik of "Blossom" fame, Elijah Kelley from "Hairspray" and Israeli hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari who also performed that night. Stallone, who has visited Israel twice -- once to film "Rambo" and another time for the opening of Planet Hollywood in Tel Aviv -- made a brief appearance, though he did not stay for the show.
Despite some criticism, the "Live For Sderot" concert accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve.
"This concert had nothing but a positive affect on Sderot," said Rabbi Bouskila, who wrote a special prayer for Sderot that has been circulated to several synagogues in the city and will be recited throughout L.A. in the coming weeks. "It really heightened awareness on the national stage. Now the challenge is keeping the campaign alive and maintaining this level of support. But that's up to us -- the Jewish community."
To learn more about and contribute to the Israeli Leadership Fund for Sderot, visit http://www.live4sderot.org
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