Idan Raichal: Part of being an Israeli artist is being boycotted

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Idan Raichal: Part of being an Israeli artist is being boycotted

The musician known for infusing music from Ethiopia and Yemen discussed the BDS campaign and the importance of diversity in music at London fundraiser for Meir Panim

Idan Raichal performs in London at the Meir Panim annual dinner
pic: Giora Hirsh
Idan Raichal performs in London at the Meir Panim annual dinner pic: Giora Hirsh

Israeli artist Idan Raichel spoke about the importance of diversity in music, his time in the IDF and the impact of the anti-Israel boycott, at a charity event in central London on Monday night.

Speaking at the 300-person Manna Meir Panim event, which raised funds to combat food poverty in Israel, the singer-songwriter who has performed for US President Barack Obama and collaborated with international artists including Alicia Keys, insisted that above all else: “I am an Israeli”.

Known for infusing music from Ethiopia and Yemen in his work, he went onto perform some of his best-known hits including ‘Boee’ and ‘Mi’Ma’amakim’.

In conversation with journalist Sandy Rashty, who also writes for the JN, Kfar Saba-born Mr Raichel said: “Before anything else, I am an Israeli. I know that I will be buried in Kfar Saba.” He said that for him, Yom Hazikaron, the memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers, was “the most important day of the year”, adding: “I lost friends, but any Israeli has. That’s what it is to be Israeli.”

Reflecting on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the 44-year-old said: “When we started travelling around the world 18 years ago, the BDS movement was at its peak. Especially at universities in the USA, but also in Europe. Whenever we would perform there was a protest with signs saying: ‘Boycott Idan Raichel’…

“I would go out and take them something – like a tray of tea. I thought they must be bored or they must really care about something that is going on thousands of miles away. I started to talk to them but they didn’t want to hear, they just wanted to boycott.”

He added: “People around the world sometimes would not work with me because I am Israeli. That is part of being Israeli.”

However, Mr Raichel said he had faced discrimination across the political and religious spectrum.

He said he had collaborated with an Arab artist – but that his name was not on the song’s credits because the artist was “under pressure” from his fans. He said he had also started working on a composition of ‘Lecha Dodi’ with an Orthodox Jewish choir in Israel – but that the recording was never released because Mr Raichel’s Austrian wife, Damaris Deubel, “is not Jewish”.

Mr Raichel was welcomed to the event by Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely. Ambassador Hotovely went on to thank Manna’s executive director Gaby Blauer as well as guests for their “amazing support” of the organisation.

The event raised £250,000 for Meir Panim food banks and social outreach programmes across Israel, to help support the estimated 25 per cent of the population who live below the poverty line.

At the event, the audience learnt that Meir Panim’s food centre or Or Akiva had gone from supplying 200 meals a day, to 2,000 as a result of increased demand since the outbreak of the pandemic and the influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

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