Harper rocked out for Israel


Canada’s Stephen Harper is heading to Israel later this month to visit, among other things presumably, a bird sanctuary named after him. As JTA’s Ron Csillag reports today, Harper’s support for Israel is so robust it is considered one of, if not the, greatest foreign policy shifts in postwar Canadian history. And it has come at some considerable cost.

What Ron doesn’t report is that Harper’s love for Israel is so great it moves him to song.

At the Jewish National Fund dinner in Toronto last month, Harper announced his intention to visit Israel in a five-minute speech. That was followed by 35 minutes — yes, 35 — of rock music covers performed by Harper and his band, Herringbone.

“I know tonight is more than just about support, that this really is a show of affection and of love and I really appreciate that,” said Harper, who was dressed in a stage-ready all-black ensemble. “And I want to show you a little bit of affection and love in return.”

Thus began a set that one could be forgiven for assuming was Harper exercising his prime ministerial prerogative to force audiences of admirers to endure a half-hour indulgence of his teenage rock star fantasies. (As someone with a few of those myself, I can fully understand the temptation.)

Seated at an electric piano just feet from a bass drum head festooned with JNF’s logo, Harper belted out (there is no other word) tunes by the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly and — in what must have been a nod to his particular audience — Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

Harper looked to be enjoying himself as he introduced each number with some stage patter. The band even came back for an encore — “Wanna hear one more?” — of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

This is truly one of those moments I thank God for YouTube.


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