Israeli fans swoon as Queen plays ‘Hava Nagila’

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The greatest Jewish moment of the Sept. 12 Queen+Adam Lambert concert in Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon came from the most unexpected of places.

During a solo, lead guitarist and original band member Brian May turned a riff that sounded suspiciously like a Queen song into that most ubiquitous of Jewish melodies, “Hava Nagila.” And more than 50,000 Israelis erupted with shouts and applause.

In May’s hands, “Hava Nagila” didn’t just sound like the familiar folk tune played  at weddings. It sounded … well, think Jimi Henrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, only Jewish.

The Jewish highlight should have been rock star Adam Lambert, the band’s vocalist since 2011. Sure, the “American Idol” runner-up — filling the shoes of Queen’s legendary late singer, Freddie Mercury — did try out a few Hebrew words during the show: shalom, todah, erev tov and, while raising an oversize chalice, l’chaim. But he never mentioned anything personal, like how it felt to visit the Jewish state. He did call it a “happy day” but kept complaining about the heat. “Oy vey,” he said.

Israeli audiences always want more from their visitors — more recognition, more support, more Yiddishkeit. But they are also grateful when any artist bucks the pressure from boycotters. Bottom line is that Queen and Lambert came to perform for their Israeli fans, which these days is not an easy choice.


Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.