Shlomo Artzi Denounces Ban on Women Artists at Benefit Concert

‘I’ll try to get the rabbi to change his mind,’ singer says ahead of Tel Aviv fundraiser highlighting his music

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Shlomo Artzi performs at the ceremony for outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2019.
Shlomo Artzi performs at the ceremony for outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2019.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Shlomo Artzi spoke out in protest on his Facebook page about the November 20 fundraising concert paying tribute to his music, in which no women artists were invited to participate.

Artzi wrote that he was not aware that the Ezra Lemarpeh benefit show, set to take place at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv with President Reuven Rivlin in attendance, excluded women, saying he would try to change this. Ezra Lemarpeh, founded by Israel Prize laureate Rabbi Elimelech Firer, provides medical referrals and assistance with obtaining medical treatment throughout the country.

“It was only brought to my attention yesterday evening that the fundraising event for Rabbi Firer’s Ezra Lemarpeh, which my songs are to be a part of, actually is excluding women,” Artzi wrote in his post. “My whole life, I have sung and performed on stages with women and I’ve also written many duets that I sang with women singers. While the fundraiser is for a noble cause and anyone can use my songs, I now intend to do all I can to persuade the rabbi to change his mind [about this].”

A number of other artists who were slated to take part in the event have also spoken out against its exclusion of women, and some have also said they would no longer participate. “I cannot lend a hand to the exclusion of women in the public sphere – without Adar Gold, we will not participate,’ singer Elai Botner wrote on Facebook, referring to one of his backup singers. “At no point did I know the list of the singers participating in the event. I gladly agreed to participate, but this is an injustice to our wonderful women singers and to the audience above all. Yesterday I wrote the event’s producers and told them we would be happy to appear with the full line of Yaldei Hahutz, which includes Adar Gold.”

Musician Alon Eder also wrote on Facebook yesterday that he was canceling his participation, hours after the barring of women artists from the event was reported on the “Good Evening with Guy Pines” program. “Last night I found out that women will not appear at the fundraising event for Rabbi Elimelech Firer’s Ezra Lemarpeh organization, for which I volunteered to perform,” he wrote. “I appreciate and admire from the bottom of my heart the work of the rabbi and the organization, which has also helped me personally in the past, but this same heart will not let me go on stage if women are not allowed on that stage as well. Therefore I have decided to cancel my participation in the show. I wish everyone success with the show and for the organization in continuing its praiseworthy activity.”

It was also reported that the event is not meant for a religious audience only and that the artists who were lined up to appear, besides Botner and Eder, such as Eyal Kitzis, Eliad, Mosh Ben-Ari, Avi Singolda and others, were not informed that women artists were not being invited to take part.

“I don’t know yet what I’m going to do,” Singolda said. “I was invited to play solo, so I wasn’t invited with my band, which includes two female singers. I didn’t know about any of this and I’m still looking into the situation. I’m not sure what will happen. If they would have asked for my band, Singolda & Friends, I certainly wouldn’t have performed without them.”

Mosh Ben-Ari’s production company said, “Except for the good cause for which the artists, including Mosh Ben-Ari, volunteered to take part, no other information was conveyed regarding the exclusion of women. This is unacceptable and we are considering our moves, keeping in mind the important cause that we wished to support.”

A spokesperson for the President’s Residence said, “The president was invited to speak at an event in honor of Rabbi Firer, a person whose work he has greatly admired for many years. The details of the accompanying show being produced for the event were not known to us and these will be examined very soon.”

Neither Haim Shemesh, the event’s artistic director, nor any representative of Firer have yet commented on the issue.