Photo: Rafi Deloya
Yaniv d’Or. 'It could have ended differently'
Photo: Rafi Deloya

Israeli singer attacked with stink bomb

Pro-Palestinian protestors storm Johannesburg theater during Yaniv d'Or performance; one of them sets off stench bomb on stage. Singer pulls woman backstage, hands her over to security. 'I saw the hatred in her eyes,' he says

Israeli opera singer Yaniv d'Or was forced to stop a special performance in the South African city of Johannesburg in honor of Israel's Independence Day, after pro-Palestinian protestors stormed the auditorium, chanting anti-Israel slogans. One of them even threw a stink bomb on the stage.


The concert continued only after d'Or himself pulled the violent protestor backstage and handed her over to security.


It was meant to be a particularly festive event. Hundreds of people arrived at the Lyric Theater on Monday to celebrate the State of Israel's 65th anniversary as part of an annual celebration organized by the umbrella organization of the Jewish communities in South Africa.


A symphonic orchestra was led by conductor David Sebba, and countertenor Yaniv d'Or was standing at the front of the stage. As always, the event was heavily secured.


Security was tightened following threatening phone calls to the Israeli Embassy in Johannesburg in the days before the event, which said pro-Palestinian organizations were planning to storm the show.


Such threats, which are usually only partially carried out, have become a matter of routine in Israeli embassies around the world in recent years. Yet those standing in the front line, the Israeli artists, are less accustomed to them and find themselves in impossible situations as their principle is that the show must go won.


On Monday it was d'Or and Maestro Sebba's turn. "It started in the first part of the show," d'Or describes the chain of events. "Despite the insane security outside the auditorium, at some point protestors walked in from the doors and began chanting slogans against the occupation and in favor of the liberation of Palestine.


"It was stressful, but when the security guards forcibly removed them from the auditorium, I thought it was over. Then, when the second part of the show began, a woman sitting in the front row suddenly ran onto the stage and started screaming. Before I realized what was going on, she detonated a stink bomb on the stage.


"Without even thinking, I hugged her, lifted her up in the air and took her backstage, where I handed her over to the security guards."


Weren't you afraid?


"The instinct was much faster than the thought. I understood that something was wrong and I acted. It was enough for me to see the hatred in her eyes to come to my senses.


"In retrospect, I thought it could have ended differently, that – God forbid – she could have stabbed me or, worse, hurt all the people on stage. With the conductor, the musicians, the choir singers and dancers, we were more than 100 people up there."


'There are more effective ways to protest'

Despite the drama, d'Or didn't stop singing. The orchestra and choir went on playing as well. At the end of the event, the audience was on its feet.


"It's clear to me that this is a symbolic act. For us it's Independence Day. For them it's the Nakba. Every person has the right to express their opinion, to resist and protest, but there must be a separation between politics and art. There are other, more effective ways to protest," says d'Or.


"Without getting into political definitions, I am an artist who performs all over the world. I support a Palestinian state and believe we should live together, and what happened yesterday raised many difficult questions ranging between anger and guilt. At the end of the day, I am left with a bitter feeling and a strange mixture of emotions.


"Yesterday I was an Israeli artist. When it happened I was singing 'Eli, Eli,' a song about the Holocaust which was written by Hannah Szenes, and the attempt to sabotage this moment in such a violent manner is crossing the line. Hurting artists and art misses the point.


"I identify with their pain, I understand it, but what happened yesterday has nothing to do with patriotism but with hatred."


Maestro Sebba recounts, "I was busy with the band and choir, so it took me a few second to realize the extent of the drama taking place at the front of the stage. It was scary because I didn't know if she was armed or not, and go figure how it would end. Yaniv acted like James Bond, it was amazing."


The evening's context intensified the experience, he says. "During the evening I felt, in the deepest sense of the word, what it means to be a Jew. It was expressed in the music, in the texts read out and in the clips presented on a wide screen. I conducted and saw before my eyes pictures of children, Holocaust survivors, a picture of Gilad Shalit.


"I had tears in my eyes, and then suddenly you are exposed to expressions of racism like the one we experienced. It's something that is hard to digest," he says. "We are not soldiers or a military base. We are artists, and attacking us is the easiest thing, but it's not something to be proud of.


Sebba and d'Or are not just talking about the context which intensified the unpleasant experience, but also about the location of the event in South Africa and the common comparison in the world between the apartheid regime and the Israeli government.


"The human fabric in South Africa is so fragile and the attempt to heal the rifts between black and white people are a daily matter, and so when you are present in this place of all places, facing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments, you ask yourself difficult questions about your identity and remain with no answers," says Sebba.



פרסום ראשון: 04.17.13, 13:48
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