Israeli fans swoon as Queen plays ‘Hava Nagila,’ Adam Lambert tries Hebrew
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Israeli fans swoon as Queen plays ‘Hava Nagila,’ Adam Lambert tries Hebrew

American singer Adam Lambert performing with the British band Queen at a concert in Park Hayarkon, Tel Aviv, Sept. 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

American singer Adam Lambert performing with the British band Queen at a concert in Park Hayarkon, Tel Aviv, Sept. 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The greatest Jewish moment of the Queen+Adam Lambert concert came from the most unexpected of places.

During a solo, lead guitarist and original band member Brian May turned a riff that sounded suspiciously like a Queen song into that ubiquitous of Jewish melodies, “Hava Nagila.”

You’d think more than 50,000 Israelis toughened by living in the world’s hottest and most violent neighborhood would not be moved by something as kitschy as that, but the shouts and applause showed otherwise.

In May’s hands, “Hava Nagila” didn’t just sound like a little folk tune that Jews dance in circles to at a wedding. It sounded, well, epic. Think Jimi Henrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock … only Jewish.

You kind of wish that the Jewish highlight would have been Adam Lambert, he being Jewish and all.

Sure, the “American Idol” runner-up — asked to fill the shoes of Queen’s legendary late singer Freddie Mercury —  did try out a few Hebrew words during the show, the ones you learn in the first five minutes of the first day of Ulpan: Shalom, todah, erev tov and, while raising an oversize chalice, l’chaim. And he mumbled the usual Yiddish phrases – Oy vey, Oy vey iz mir, Oy gevalt.  But though he was raised Jewish, he never mentioned anything personal – a bar mitzvah, his feelings on what appeared to be his first visit to the Jewish state. He did call it a “happy day,” which I hope is because he was in Israel. He also kept complaining about the heat. Yeah, it’s hot.

“Hey Tel Aviv!” he said more than once to a crowd that seemed to know every word of every Queen song.

Of course, Israeli audiences always want more from their visitors — more recognition, more support, more Yiddishkeit. And yet with all the haters who would be only too happy to organize a boycott of anyone who dares to play in Israel, we learn to be grateful for those who buck the pressure.

The bottom line is that Queen, and Adam Lambert, came to perform for their Israeli fans – which these days is not the obvious choice for many artists. And Israel heard them!