The tribute concert for popular Israeli singer Shlomo Artzi that was supposed to take place on November 20 at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium and was supposed to be a show of unity in support of Ezra Lemarpe, a nonprofit medical organization that has helped save thousands of lives, has been cancelled by its founder, Orthodox Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer.
The even has been underscoring deep divisions in Israeli society, and controversy erupted last week after it was revealed that Firer had requested that no female singers would be included, as Orthodox Jewish law prohibits men from hearing women sing in certain contexts and considers the female voice immodest.
The concert was fiercely debated in Israeli media and social media recently, and many public figures, singers, and legal officials voiced their opinions on the exclusion of women and the Jewish law’s take on women singing.
The news even prompted artists who typically shy away from such issues to “pick a side” because they come at a time when many secular Israelis believe religion is increasingly invading on individual liberties.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra said that it would not perform at an event that “excludes” women, and so did Artzi’s guitarist, Avi Singolda. Orly Vilnai, who was to serve as host, also said that he would not perform, and so did many more singers.There
were people, though, that voiced support for the event and even said that they were willing to volunteer to perform at the event. Artzi wrote on Facebook that he would do “whatever is possible to change Rabbi Firer’s mind”.
Hebrew-language media reported on Monday that Rabbi Firer had written a letter to Efi Hershkowitz, who was in charge of organizing the event, in which he said that he asks for the charity concert not be held. He added in the letter that he has never dealt with organizing charity events, and he added that he draws his energy from Jewish law and he’s proud of his own way of life and he is sticking to his life’s mission, which is saving lives and loving the other.