My magical mystery tour: Sir Paul McCartney's return to Israel

Last week Sir Paul McCartney returned to Israel, four decades after The Beatles were banned. Here, with comments by Sir Paul, is the pick of his portfolio. And, left, Donald Macintyre reflects on a diplomatic triumph

It started with an act of contrition in January when Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, apologised for Israel's "missed opportunity" when it banned The Beatles from the country in 1965. It ended in Hayarkon Park on Thursday night with an excited Tel Aviv audience feeling self-evidently better about themselves, thanks to a Paul McCartney trip 43 years late.

Sir Paul had prepared for the visit with an attention to detail few other superstars would have matched. It was not just the Hebrew patter he painstakingly learnt; it was also a canny ability to steer his way through the hypersensitivities of a visit that might have gone badly wrong.

He had the nous – faced with Maccamania in the Israeli press as well as official boasts of a PR coup, and denunciations by Palestinians in favour of a cultural boycott – to visit the West Bank. And he was flexible enough to take last-minute advice from the British consulate to avoid a potential demonstration clouding his planned visit to Ramallah by travelling instead to Bethlehem to visit children at a music academy named after the late, great Palestinian nationalist and intellectual Edward Said.

According to the British official who was with him when he met the children, he couldn't have handled it better. Happening on a little girl clutching a violin and close to tears from the shock of a VIP invasion, he took the instrument from her, made a horrible noise with it and told her she could obviously play it much better than he could; emboldened she began to play her piece. Unaffectedly he refused an offer of tea and cakes out of respect for the Muslim Ramadan fast.

It turns out too that the lapel badge he sported at Thursday night's concert was that of One Voice, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organisation committed to a two-state solution, and whose Israeli representatives he took the trouble to meet on Thursday afternoon.

So when on Thursday night he led a vast crowd – for Israel – in John Lennon's song "Give Peace A Chance", he had actually thought about the meaning of a message to which an audience in the most liberal city in Israel was well attuned.

When, having used the old Hebrew greeting Shana Tova to wish his Israeli audience well for the Jewish New Year next week, he added in Arabic the also venerable "Ramadan Karim", the cheers were almost as loud. Sir Paul will know well enough by now that it is not this Israel, the one on display in Hayarkon Park, that needs to be convinced by his message of peace. But it seemed mighty glad to hear it all the same.



Paul McCartney in Bethlehem, West Bank

"When I was told there was a concert in Tel Aviv I was looking forward to it. I've never been to Israel and the Beatles were banned originally, but I was conscious of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. So I said I would like to try to come to Palestine while I had a few days ... Rather than staying in England and saying 'oh yeah, too bad about that lot'. I've been here now and I'm getting a better understanding."

Inside the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

"I enjoyed going into Palestine. Israel's a beautiful country, driving down to Jerusalem was a great drive. Being in Jerusalem was very special just because of the history. Then going through the wall was kind of quite special, but in an edgy way. You don't like to see things like that exist in the world – it reminded me of the Berlin Wall."

Speaking to the press in Tel Aviv ahead of the concert

"My little bit is to try to bring people together through music ... It seems to me that most of the people are quite moderate and would like a solution. They would like peace like most people in the world ... They want the governments to decide quite quickly on two states, on two nations rather than this conflict. They want it to work so they can both be separate and peaceful."

With pupils at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, a school in Bethlehem

"We were due to go to a music school in Ramallah but a lot of people found out and there was a demonstration so the security people banned me from going there. We were very lucky to come here to Bethlehem to visit this music school ... It's great to see the effort here. The whole policy is to bring people together through music. That's what I hoped to see when I came here. I'm really glad we didn't just turn back and stay in Israel. We came through the checkpoint and got a little idea of what's going on."

Entertaining pupils at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

"Kids are the same the world over so it was great to be with them and have a little bit of fun with them, just basically tell them I'm in the same boat, I was in music and we all want to live together peacefully."

At the Church of the Nativity, at Bethlehem in the West Bank

"I went to the church at the site of Jesus Christ's birth. That was great. It was very special to light a candle and just be there. It's a very special place."

Performing on stage during the "Friendship First" concert at Ganey Yehoshua Park in Tel Aviv

"I am always looking forward to gigs, particularly here, because it's been such a long time coming ... music is great for people. It's good for your soul. It is a great international voice for getting people together. I can go to Russia, I can go to Israel, I can go to Palestine – everyone understands music. We all love music, so it is important to me."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015