Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren said Wednesday she was a “believer” in Israel and rejected efforts to boycott it.
Mirren showered Israeli artists with praise and said she opposed both the efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott them and the decision of some international artists to shun Israel.
“I think that art is an incredibly important way of communication,” she said at a press event in Jerusalem. “The artists of the country are the people you need to communicate with and make a relationship with and learn from and build upon. So I absolutely don’t believe in the boycott, and here I am.”
Mirren is in Israel to host the Genesis Prize, an award known as “the Jewish Nobel.” The $1 million prize is being awarded to Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman for his accomplishments as a musician, teacher and advocate for the disabled.
Mirren, who is not Jewish, has visited Israel several times, and has been a vocal critic of pro-Palestinian activists who have called for a cultural boycott of Israel. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, has enlisted the support of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters and has persuaded Elvis Costello, Lauren Hill and other performers to call off concerts in Israel.
She said her strong connection to Israel dates back to 1967, when she volunteered on a kibbutz, or collective farm, with her Jewish boyfriend at the time. She fondly recalled picking grapes and doing kitchen duty.
“I am a believer in Israel … I think this is an extraordinary country filled with very, very extraordinary people,” she said. “It’s just a lucky, for me, accident in my life that I have had this privilege.”
Helen spent some time today visiting the City of David, and added these touching words.
Update: More here, thanks to our own RealJStreets.
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