The Beatles and Israel

The Rhythm Beatles - as they were known in Hebrew - were scheduled to perform in Israel in 1965. However, the event was cancelled, for reasons which have been hotly debated in the intervening years.

In 2008 the Israeli government issued an apology for the 1964 decision, attributing the "historical missed opportunity" to a "lack of budget", and the belief by a number of parliamentarians that the performance "might corrupt the minds of the Israeli youth".

However, an alternative version of events suggests that the concert didn't take place due to a dispute between music promoters Giora Godik and Yaakov Uri. In 1962, the mother of Beatles manager Brian Epstein is said to have sent an offer to Godik, promising that the group would come to Israel. Instead, Godik staged a concert by Cliff Richard, who was more famous at the time.

Two years later, Uri bought the rights to hold a Beatles concert in the country. Godik was angered by this, and went to the Israeli Finance Committee in the Knesset, persuading them to bar the promoters from taking out foreign currency. He is said to have cited the hysteria and moral depravity likely to be inspired by the group.

You tell me it's the institution...

At the time, the use of large amounts of foreign currency to pay for The Beatles' performance would have required government approval. However, it has also been claimed that the organisers lacked the required funds to stage the event anyway, forcing its cancellation even if the access to foreign currency had been approved.

The interdepartmental committee for authorising the importation of foreign artists refused The Beatles entry to Israel. The decision was approved in the committee's resolution 691, which reads: "Resolved: Not to allow the request for fear that the performances by the Beatles are liable to have a negative influence on the youth."

There is no musical or artistic experience here, but a sensual display that arouses feelings of aggression replete with sexual stimuli.
Dr Hanoch Rinot, 1965
Former director general of the Israeli education ministry

The promoters appealed against the decision, so the committee launched a global inquiry into the group and their music. The committee concluded, in resolution 709, that it would refuse entry because "the band has no artistic merit" and its performances "cause hysteria and mass disorder among young people".

Paul McCartney eventually performed in Israel, amid much controversy and high security, on 25 September 2008.

12 responses on “The Beatles and Israel

    1. Edik

      Because had they performed there, then what?
      Is it so hard to concentrate on the music and leave political/national issues aside?

      Thanks God Paul McCartney was smart enough to perform in the land of Israel and not to listen to the horrible de-legitimization of a state and a people that you’ve represented by your comment.

  1. adid

    How come Mark Lewisohn in “The complete Beatles chronicle” book doesn’t mention anything in relation to this story. It looks to me it was just an idea by an Israeli producer to check whether he could get government approval, before actually making any contact with the Beatles.

  2. Fan

    Don’t approve of a death threat but Paul shouldn’t have for the same reason that he and other artists shouldn’t have and didn’t perform in South Africa. Once Israel agrees to stop oppressing the Palestinian people and stealing their land and acquiesce to their demand for a state of their own, it will be admitted to the community of civilized nations and artists can go there and perform. After all, this is the same man who wrote Give Ireland Back to the Irish.

  3. manteau

    Why is this an issue? I mean why not the Beatles and Denmark or Sweden? or Eireland? closer to home, I’d say! I’m happy to read most of the features on this excellent site, but again, Joe, Why Israel? Brian Epstein was an ashkenaze Jew ( That is an european jew ) sot it makes sense that he wanted the beatles to perform there, but it’s only an anecdote to me and therefore doesn,’t deserve its inclusion here. Sorry if my comments hurt anybody, I’m not pro Israel neither pro palestine or any other country for that matter, and I ‘m just intrigued , again asking : why does it seem important enough to become a special feature in this otherwise favorite site of mine!

    1. Joe Post author

      I think I wrote this around the time that Paul McCartney played Israel. I did a bit of research and found out the back story, then decided to turn it into a standalone feature. There wasn’t really much thought beyond that, and certainly no intention to do any other countries.

      Also, info on the cancellation of the 1965 show couldn’t have gone anywhere else (since the event didn’t happen), and I wanted to mention it in case people were interested in the story.

  4. manteau

    Thanks for the answer, I appreciate. I enjoy your site a lot, it certainly serves its purpose, and probably requires most of your time and energy. keep rockin’!

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