Beatlemania grips Israel, Macca sings for peace

TEL AVIV: Beatlemania gripped Israel on September 25 as Paul McCartney played his first ever concert in the Jewish state, urging some 50,000 rapturous fans to “Give peace a chance.” Four decades after the Fab Four were forced to cancel a gig over official fears they would corrupt the country’s youth, Sir Paul performed an outdoor concert in Tel Aviv, defying death threats from an Islamist cleric and calls from pro-Palestinian groups who wanted him to boycott Israel.

The veteran rocker started the gig with a rousing Shalom Tel Aviv, followed by greetings in Hebrew and Arabic before singing John Lennon’s Give peace a chance. “Make peace, make peace,” he added, slightly distorting a popular hippie-era slogan.

The 66-year-old Peter Pan of rock wowed the audience at Hayarkon Park, some of whom paid as much as 1,000 euros ($1,450) for the privilege, belting out songs interspersed with Hebrew words.

The legendary left-handed bass guitarist’s ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ was a lifetime’s dream for some like 58-year-old Leora Fried.

“He is so handsome, so thin,” she said, struggling to hold back her tears. “I have been dreaming about this concert for such a long time.”

Yanor May, 38, who travelled from the northern city of Haifa for the event, said, “I grew up with the Beatles. It was like seeing a family member.”

McCartney had dismissed security fears amid warnings about the concert. He said he hopes his ‘Friendship First’ concert will spread a message of peace.

The Beatles had planned to play in Israel at the height of Beatlemania in 1965, but they were cancelled after sponsors failed to raise enough money as members of parliament voiced concern they might corrupt young Israeli minds.