So…I hesitated down to the last moment about Paul Simon, 6 p.m. on Thursday evening in Jerusalem, and in the end took the advice of Jill, one of our bright young interns at the Palestine-Israel Journal, “to fly on the seat of my pants”, which I gather means, “go by instinct.”
My torn instinct led exhausted me to stay in Jerusalem to hear Dr. Hans-Gert Pottering, former president of the European Parliament talk about “The Arab Spring and the New Middle East”, together with three other German colleagues, at the nearby Konrad Adenauer Conference Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim.
The event itself was quite fascinating, as was the networking at the post-event reception, though it was a little unnerving to hear four Germans speaking in Jerusalem in German (of course with simultaneous translation into Hebrew and English). I was told that the fact that Chancellor Merkel was allowed to address the Knesset in German broke the ice about Germans speaking German in Israel.
But of course, I simultaneously wondered what I had missed at the Paul Simon concert, and carefully read all the reviews. From the playlist of 22 songs, I see that he avoided singing his masterpiece, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” maybe because Garfunkle wasn’t there with his golden voice. He also chose not to sing “Homeward Bound,” “I am a Rock,” “El Condor Pasa” (“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail”), and many other Simon & Garfunkle classics.
Gideon Levy on the front page of Haaretz wrote about how it reminded him of his youth, and the soundtrack of his youth. How did he put it?: Pink Floyd was for before, Leonard Cohen was for after, and Simon and Garfunkel were for the next morning. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” also resonated strongly with him – even quoting a number of lines in the review. But Levy’s bottom line was that “it was a pleasant summer evening, no less, but sadly no more.”
Both Levy and my friend Uri Misgav at Yediot said that the performance was somehow detached from all the storms — housing and doctors strikes, boycott bills, Israelis and Palestinians, Arab Spring, September, etc., all around us.
I imagine that it was a very gratifying concert, but still, not to sing at least “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”? From the singer who performed the powerful activist anti-Vietnam War song “7 O’clock News/Silent Night”? And who created the powerful 1968 anti-war TV special “Song for America”? Was Garfunkel the political one? I see he also didn’t do the song he wrote that resonated with me the most — “Red Rubber Ball” (“The Cyrkle,” a number one hit in Israel in 1970.)
Uri Misgav, who was mesmorized by the Dylan performance, wrote about Simon: “It was a very polite performance. One of the encores was ‘Still Crazy after all these Years’, but he was never really crazy. Talented, conquering, loving, worthy — definitely…The result was always professional expertise, mostly satisfying, sometimes extremely impressive, here and there boring, at the end electrifying, but to my taste never really moving…”
Still, I wish I could have been in two places at the same time, and have been at the concert as well. My instinct says that the average age for the Simon concert was probably much higher than the average age for Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan.
As for my son Adi: “What’s all the fuss about Paul Simon,” he said, “when Ziggy Marley is appearing at the same time in Jerusalem?!” And the truth is, when the bus left Mishkanot Sha’ananim and headed back for Tel Aviv, passing the Kraft Stadium, I saw a lot of excitement and a blur of Marley on the stage. I got back in time to Tel Aviv to hear him do an encore on the live broadcast on 88 FM: “Love Is my Religion.”
Make sure to put some Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme in your soup.