Blowing Off Bieber


Bieber Fever has spread to Israel — and a group of Bieber-obsessed teens who live in Southern Israel are thanking their lucky stars that they’ve been given free tickets to a sold-out Justin Bieber concert on Thursday at Yarkon Park, in Tel Aviv. (A meeting between Bieber and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the concert was discussed by representatives, but didn’t come about, with Netanyahu insisting that children from communities affected by Gaza rocket fire attend the meeting. Bieber’s camp said logistics prevented the meeting.)

Until now, the teens would be hard-pressed to say that growing up in Sderot and other Gaza-bordering communities has been anything resembling “lucky.”
“For a few hours, they can breathe fresh air and escape fear and danger,” Nir Kouris, an Israeli entrepreneur who organized for the teens to get free tickets to the pop sensation’s concert, told The Jewish Week.

Kouris, who runs a social media and online marketing firm, delivers speeches across the country motivating young Israelis to stop blaming others, including the government, for their troubles. A few years ago, two girls chased him after the lecture, begging him to help them bring Justin Bieber to Israel.
Bieber will come, he told them, because he has fans here. “The question is, ‘What are you going to do when he comes … don’t just think about yourself; think about your country,” Kouris said.

In the weeks before Bieber’s scheduled concert, dozens of rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into southern cities including Sderot.

Kouris, a member of the ROI Community funded by Lynn Schusterman, recalled what he had told the teen girls. He therefore appealed to the Schusterman Foundation to bring an entertaining reprieve to the children living in these communities. In about a week, Kouris raised some $30,000 from the Schusterman Foundation and the Morningstar Foundation to cover the cost of discounted tickets and transportation for 700 children living in Sderot and eight other communities.

“We have visited Sderot, so we have seen firsthand the effects on Israeli civilians of being under attack for the past several years,” said Susie and Michael Gelman, directors of the Morningstar Foundation, which is based in Maryland. “This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to provide these young people with some much-needed respite.”

This isn’t the first time Kouris has helped the children of Sderot. In 2008, he helped found an American-style high-tech summer camp known as eCamp. Two weeks before camp started, he asked the children living in Sderot to apply for a spot at the sleep-away camp. “I got more than 300 letters from kids who said, ‘We just want to escape here,’” he said. Kouris showed the letters to funders, including the Schusterman Foundation, and managed to secure funding for nearly 100 children from Sderot.

“This project is particularly meaningful these days as the rocket attacks from Gaza have intensified and the nightmares have returned,” Justin Korda, executive director of the ROI Community, told The Jewish Week. “We are honored to connect the right people in an effort to create a few moments of needed joy for those kids.”