Behind one man's effort to bring Madonna to Israel
In a one-on-one interview with Sylvan Adams, the philanthropist reveals why he's in talks to bring the pop star to his new hometown.
by Benyamin Cohen | Monday, March 25, 2019
Madonna, the iconic pop star, would seem to have little in common with Sylvan Adams, a Canadian-Israeli philanthropist. She's outspoken; he's mild-mannered. But they have a closer connection than you might first imagine. They're both the same age and grew up just across the border from each other – Madonna in Michigan, and Adams in Canada.
Adams, who moved to Tel Aviv a few years ago, is currently spearheading an effort to bring the rock legend to his new adopted hometown to perform in May. After discussing it briefly while on stage at Keshet's Innovative TV conference last week in Jerusalem, we caught up with Adams backstage to probe a little further.
In recent months, Adams helped bring a prestigious European cycling race known as the Giro to Israel and was also part of the team that launched a tiny spacecraft on a historic mission to the moon. So how does Madonna compare? He laughed. "It may not be as lofty, but it's within the same theme." Sylvan Adams (left) being interviewed by From The Grapevine's Benyamin Cohen (right) in Jerusalem. (Photo: Aaron Leibowitz)
As the winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, Israel became the host nation for the 2019 outing, which is May 14-18 in Tel Aviv. The international singing competition enjoys a massive audience, with up to 600 million people watching the telecast worldwide. It launched the careers of ABBA and Celine Dion. But in the United States, which does not compete in the contest, it hasn't taken on the same resonance.
"The Eurovision is a massive thing, but it’s not very well known in North America," Adams said. "We’ve reached out to Madonna to try to add some glitz to the event and create more interest. It’s looking very good that she’s going to participate."
And Madonna will do more than watch from the sidelines. "I decided to join forces with the Eurovision people here in Israel and to invite Madonna to come and sing during the competition and to coach some of the contestants and to make it more of a worldwide event, to make it more exciting and more impressive for an event that was already exciting and impressive."
For Madonna, the trip to Israel this spring won't be much of a stretch. She already has strong connections to the Mediterranean country. Since 2005, her manager has been Israeli producer Guy Oseary. He's not only overseen her most recent albums and several very successful tours, he also released two books of his concert photography from those tours: Madonna Confessions and Madonna: Sticky & Sweet. The 46-year-old Jerusalem native also works with U2, Alicia Keys, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer and baseball great A-Rod.
Some of Israel's biggest stars are also Madonna fans. In an interview while promoting "Wonder Woman," actress Gal Gadot revealed that she was part of a Madonna tribute show while growing up in Israel. She even had the opportunity to perform "Vogue" and don a fake cone bra like the rock star.
Madonna last performed in Israel in 2012, when she kicked off her world tour at a concert in Tel Aviv.
As for Adams, he has dubbed himself "the self-appointed ambassador to Israel," even printing business cards with that moniker on them. "I want to exhibit Israel to the world at large and show off our wonderful qualities," he explained. "I feel like I'm doing something to show off the true nature of Israel. It's really outreach to the world community and saying we are a modern Western democracy that has the rule of law, that has freedom, excitement, diversity." He pauses before adding, "And really good food."
Asked what he has planned next after the Giro, the moon mission and Madonna, he replies coyly. "My answer is very simple. There will be other things," he told us. "I'm just getting started."