A mosh pit might be the last thing you'd expect to see on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly Hall, with its carefully combed green rug and immaculately polished marble daises. But on Tuesday night that's exactly what happened there, including dancing Israelis, gyrating Iranians and ecstatic U.N. statesmen, all allowing themselves to be moved by the infectious Middle Eastern beats of popular Iranian-born Israeli singer Rita.
It was meant to be a concert to “bring individuals – and nations – closer together,” as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in his pre-show speech. Other pat lines about “weaving tapestries of music” and “music being an essential part of society” were heard from President of the Assembly Vuk Jeremić and Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor, who also provided the startling revelation that he used to sing in an all-U.N. diplomat a cappella group. He unfortunately did not name who the other members were, or offer a sample of his talents.
After the diplomats finished their incantations and odes to the power of music to bring people together, Rita finally took to the stage, and there was much rejoicing. The 50-year-old singer looks 30, and was wearing a neutral-tone fringe dress whose tassels twirled, spun and nicely complimented her dance moves.
These songs are all about love, Rita said, taking a rare break between songs to speak in her high, pleasant voice. She recounted bits of her childhood in Tehran, when her mother’s singing “filled the house with music.
“Persian is a dramatic language,” Rita told the audience. “There is a word for every little feeling you can have. They say in Israel that I am dramatic. I say they haven’t met my mother!”
All in all, the event was about as apolitical as an Israeli-sponsored event at the U.N. could possibly get. Israel’s Mission to the U.N. tweeted it was “the liveliest Jewish event in the UNGA since November 29, 1947!,” referring to the day when the general assembly voted in favor of adopting a plan for the future government of what was then called Palestine, and recognized the right of Jews to have a state there.
The Palestinian and Iranian missions were not present at the concert, not that anyone in the largely Hebrew-speaking, fur-wearing, diamond-sporting crowd minded. But individual Iranians were.
Watch Rita's full performance at the U.N. WebTV site.