Paul McCartney gave his first concert in Israel on Thursday before tens of thousands of cheering fans, 43 years after the Beatles were barred from singing there because of fears they could corrupt youngsters. McCartney opened the Tel Aviv gig with Beatles song “Hello Goodbye,” and addressed the 40,000 fans in Hebrew and Arabic as well as English throughout the evening. “Shalom Tel Aviv!” he said, using the Hebrew word for “peace” and “hello.” The ex-Beatle also wished the crowd a happy new year in Hebrew ahead of Jewish celebrations next week and wished Muslims a good Ramadan, the month of fasting, in Arabic.
McCartney, who wore a dark suit over a pink shirt, dedicated Wings track “My Love” to Linda, his wife who died of cancer in 1998, and also paid tribute to late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison. Teenaged girls were reduced to tears and the crowd waved its arms in the air as the star performed some of his biggest hits during two hours of almost non-stop music. Among the favorites were “Give Peace a Chance” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the closing number. McCartney’s visit to Israel prompted a fresh wave of Beatlemania, with radio stations playing the band’s tunes almost non-stop in the past few days. “All we need is peace in the region and a two-state solution,” McCartney told reporters and tourists outside the Bethlehem shrine revered as the site of Jesus’s birth. “I am bringing a message of peace and I think that’s what the region needs. It’s my own small way I can bring my message.”