Jerusalem Mayor’s Speech Puts Musicians Off Their Beat

Mayor Nir Barkat’s speech in the middle of a Jerusalem concert angered the musicians. 'He wouldn’t have done it to the Israel Philharmonic.’

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
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Musicians who played in the Ahavat Olamim concert in Jerusalem’s Safra Square last Wednesday claim that Mayor Nir Barkat came up on stage in the middle of the concert and interrupted the program to give a speech. The musicians — who included the New Jerusalem Orchestra, cantor Rabbi Haim Louk, Berry Sakharof and Rea Mochiah — said they felt humiliated by his action.

“I wasn’t playing when it happened; I was at the side of the stage,” Rea Mochiah recalled. “Suddenly, when one song was over and another was about to begin, I saw the mayor tearing toward the stage like a hurricane. It was insulting, humiliating. It spoiled the musicians’ mood for the rest of the show. Imagine that the Israel Philharmonic was playing Mozart at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv and the mayor of Tel Aviv got up in the middle, between the first and second movements, to say, ‘Look what a wonderful city I’ve made for you.’”

Another musician who played in the concert said that the musicians knew in advance that the mayor would be getting up to make a speech, but they were told it would happen before the concert, as is usually done. “Before the concert began, we were told that he was delayed, so we thought he would speak after the concert, or if worse came to worst, during the break before the encore,” the musician said. “But he got up in the middle of the concert, and at the high point of the concert too. He stood between Rabbi Louk and Berry Sakharof and gave his speech.

“We were all in shock,” the musician continued. “We all got on board for this project and agreed to receive smaller compensation than usual because it was so important to us. In my opinion, the mayor regretted what he had done and stayed until the end of the concert. He could have left after his speech.” The musician added that it seemed that most of the audience had not paid attention to the interruption. “There were no boos from the audience,” he said.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem municipality said, “The mayor was invited to honor the event with his presence and welcome the audience and was received with a great deal of support. The time he got up on the stage was determined by the professionals who were in charge. He arrived at the time he was asked to and did not seek to change anything.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat: His campaigning upset some musicians.Credit: Emil Salman