A conversation – and concert – with Noa

November 23, 2017 by Geoff Sirmai
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Achinoam Nini (“Noa”) thrilled a sell-out crowd at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre, after a similar full-house enjoyed her appearance in Melbourne last Sunday.

Nia, Liam Getreu and Gil Dor

Presented by New Israel Fund, and on her first trip to Australia, Noa both spoke and sang from the heart, interviewed by NIF executive director Liam Getreu (with questions from the audience) and accompanied in song by her long time collaborator, guitarist Gil Dor.

She spoke of her Yemini background, her childhood in New York and her current social activism and efforts to effect positive change in Israel, including her work as an NIF international board member.

Noa was moved by the traditional acknowledgement of traditional owners of the land that opened the function.

“Just as it’s important to give recognition to the traditional owners of Australia,” she said, “it’s time Israel recognised the trauma and tragedy that the Palestinians have been through. Banning the concept and use of the term “Nakba” is a denial of their genuine feelings of loss. Accepting it is an important first step to meaningful co-existence.”

Responding to questions about hurtful criticisms levelled at her, she described herself as a proud Zionist, anti-BDS – but ready to help Israel move forward for peace.

She spoke of her early career when international journalists demanded she comment on the Israeli political situation. It was years before she felt confident to enter political life but since doing so, had been vindicated by the response and the positive messages she has been able to share.

Noa recalled a dinner invitation from the late Israeli president Shimon Peres when he encouraged her to enter politics formally. She resisted, saying she preferred reaching people through music. “But I wouldn’t say no to being Minister of Culture in the right government!”, she laughed.

Noa said she didn’t believe a one-state solution would be feasible although she personally dreamed of an ideal “world with no borders”.

Responding to a question about contemporary Zionism she gave the metaphor of Israel as a child and Zionism as its mother. “As a parent you have to adapt and change your relationship as the child grows. Sometimes it’s support that is needed, sometimes discipline… sometimes to move into their own apartment!”  What Israel needed at its birth is not the same as what it needs today, she added.

She surprised and delighted the crowd with both her humour and her sparkling intellect. And even more impressive was her willingness to consider opposing views; she and Gil regularly meet with settlers in order to talk with them and try and understand their point of view – to find common ground.

The conversation was interspersed with beautiful music.

She sang “UNI”, “Life is Beautiful That Way”, her Eurovision hit “There Must Be Another Way” and some clever and spectacular songs from her latest project, inspired by the music of JS Bach, including one hilarious one inspired by her teenage daughter.

A photo exhibition prepared by two of NIF’s Naomi Chazan Fellows was also displayed in the foyer. It highlighted the work of the NIF in Israel and areas of work such as refugee support, advocacy, religious pluralism and more.

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