I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally make it to Israel. Although I’m an atheist, I was raised Jewish, and the “land of milk and honey” is therefore my ancestral homeland. Plus, the country is a bonanza for a history buff like me. Some of the earliest civilisations in the world arose in areas that are now encompassed within Israel’s borders.
Jerusalem, the capital city, is renowned as one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world (and when I visited, Jerusalem didn’t disappoint in that regard). It also played significant roles in the formation of three major world religions, and is still regarded as sacred by those religions’ adherents. Anyway, I visited Israel for the first time in my life in December 2016. When I did, and the expectations that I’d formed over several decades were matched to reality, I was impressed by my experience.
Singing in Jerusalem
The historical and cultural aspects of my initial sojourn in Israel will be covered in a future post, as they deserve a fuller discussion. But we all know what’s most important for this blog when I’m reminiscing about a destination. 🙂 When I landed at Ben Gurion International Airport, I looked forward to adding Israel to my World Karaoke Tour. Just about a month earlier, Hungary had become the 43rd country in which I’d karaoked; and now I was eager to increase that country count once again!
During my time in the Holy Land, I was based in Jerusalem, although I made excursions to Tel Aviv; Masada; the Dead Sea; and Bethlehem (which is in the West Bank, and thus part of the Palestinian Territories.) So it was in Jerusalem that I made my Israeli singing debut.
The venue was a bar called Capricorn Karaoke. Raphael, who served as both bartender and KJ, was quite a character. He made sure that I had a good time. He also made sure that I imbibed plenty of alcohol. 🙂
For my opening number, I anticipated doing one of two songs in Hebrew that I’d practiced beforehand: either (1) the Hava Nagila, a very upbeat dance song that you can hear at just about any Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, or Jewish wedding; or (2) Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. However, my hopes were dashed; Raphael’s song list didn’t include Hava Nagila, and while I did find Hatikvah in the song book, he insisted that he only allows patrons to sing it at the very end of the night — around 3:30 a.m. or so — and was unwilling to make an exception for me. Admittedly, “Hatikvah” doesn’t exactly feature the type of up-tempo melody that fires up a crowd. Still, I was deprived of the opportunity to sing in the local tongue; and Hebrew thereby failed to become only the fourth language (after English, Spanish, and Italian) in which I’d ever karaoked.
Since there were no other Hebrew tunes that I felt sufficiently comfortable with or prepared to perform in public, my focus in choosing my singing material at Capricorn had to change. Luckily, I had a Plan B.
Because I keep up with the news when I’m travelling, I knew that the legendary pop singer George Michael had tragically passed away the previous day, on Christmas, at the age of 53. I decided to honour his memory by performing one of my favourite songs of his: “Careless Whisper.” Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily choose this particular song — or anything by Mr. Michael, really — as my vocal range doesn’t approach what his was. “Careless Whisper” does have some high notes that can be difficult for many male singers to reach.
All things considered, though, I feel that my special memorial rendition of “Careless Whisper” went better than it had any right to. You can watch it here. However, you might want to mute the volume between the 4:26 and 4:46 marks of the video; that was the portion of the song that proved just a little too taxing for my voice. 🙂
My second song of my appearance at Capricorn was one of my standards that’s well within my range: “Oh, Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison, who has been dead since 1988. (Mr. Orbison succumbed to a heart attack when he was 52, one year younger than Mr. Michael’s age when a heart attack similarly brought about his demise.) Here I am belting out “Oh, Pretty Woman” in Jerusalem:
(My third song of the evening, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” wasn’t recorded on video.)
And that is how, on Tuesday, December 26, 2016, Israel became the 44th country in which I’d karaoked. When this occurred, it wasn’t just Boxing Day (as the day following Christmas is known in much of the world); it was also in the midst of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. (Chanukah came relatively late in 2016.) Being able to karaoke in Israel was a nice Chanukah present for me. 🙂
Incidentally, speaking of “Hava Nagila,” which I would have liked to perform myself, here’s a version of it that I found on YouTube that I really like:
Meanwhile, I now anticipate that the next new language for me in which I’ll attempt to sing will be German; I’m intending to sing the 1980s classic “99 Luftballons” — the original version with lyrics in Deutsch — when I journey to Berlin this July.
Onward to Jordan
Following my stay in Israel, I headed across the border to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Sadly, I wasn’t fated to sing in Jordan. Whilst in the Jordanian capital of Amman, I had expected to hit up a hotel bar, the Khuttar Cafe, that usually offers karaoke on Tuesday nights, given that the nights that I spent in Amman included a Tuesday. But on that particular Tuesday, the Khuttar Cafe canceled the karaoke show. They never provided an explanation for the cancellation, despite multiple inquiries by me on their Facebook page. Boo, Khuttar Cafe! And neither I, nor the concierges at any of the hotels at which I lodged in Jordan, was able to find any other venue that had karaoke on any night of the week.
Despite the disappointing lack of karaoke, Jordan didn’t suck. Checking off a major item on my bucket list, I toured the fabled arachaeological site of Petra. You can read much more about my exploration of Petra in my next post!