Rekindled Beatlemania greets McCartney in Israel

Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:59pm EDT
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By Ari Rabinovitch

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Paul McCartney arrived in Israel on Wednesday for an historic concert, flashing a V-sign for peace and making a surprise West Bank visit to the delight of Palestinian fans.

"It is me," McCartney told photographers at a Tel Aviv hotel hours after touching down for one of the biggest rock concerts in the Jewish state that shunned the Beatles 43 years ago as a "corruptive influence."

"It is the real me, I tell you," McCartney said. "Shalom."

McCartney later traveled to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, where he lit candles at the Church of the Nativity and wished for peace and hope for the Palestinian people.

"All we need is peace in the region and a two-state solution," McCartney told reporters and crowds of tourists outside the 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."

The former Beatles star's concert, planned for Thursday, has been billed "Friendship First," part of a series that has taken McCartney, 66, to cities he has never visited before.

Organizers said he would play more than 30 songs including Beatles hits to a crowd of at least 40,000 from a stage pitched on a lawn in a sprawling Tel Aviv park.   Continued...

<p>Former Beatles star Paul McCartney visits the Nativity Church in Bethlehem September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Ammar Awad</p>