“Most everything I do these days I consider to be for the last time,” Pat Boone, 83, said by phone from his parklike home oasis in the heart of Beverly Hills. “But there’s still a lot to do.”
One of those “lasts” involves leading more than 200 tourists on his 21st trip to the Holy Land, where on Sunday night, he will host Israel’s 70th anniversary gala in Jerusalem’s Henry Crown Symphony Hall.
The sold-out celebration will feature a mix of music and video tributes, including a previously taped greeting from Barbra Streisand. Boone, a pop crooner and movie star who sent teens swooning in the 1950s and ’60s, will perform. He’ll share the spotlight with pianist Dino Kartsonakis and a group of noted Israeli musicians, including R&B singer Shiri Maimon, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and singer/songwriter David Broza, accompanied by the Moran Choir showcasing singers ages 12 to 18.
Videos will document seven decades of Israel’s history, as well as achievements in science, medicine, technology and humanitarian relief.
The event will be broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on a date to be determined.
Boone is a staunch supporter of Israel, which established its modern statehood on May 14, 1948. He also is a personal friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Boone’s hoping the tourists can meet him during their 10-day visit.
“He was a big fan of mine when he was in college at MIT,” Boone said. “He loved (Boone’s hit) ‘Speedy Gonzales,’ so every time we’re together, he says: ‘Hello, Speedy, come on in.’ I guarantee he’ll make time to meet with our tour group. He knows how devoted I am to Israel, and always have been, and that we Christians, evangelical Christians, as he says, are Israel’s greatest allies in the world.
“Evangelical, Bible-believing Christians know Israel’s place in God’s scheme of things, his plans for Israel. ... Christians are still startled when they hear me say this, but I’ve known it since I was a kid — that every word of the Bible, from Genesis and the beginning word ... to end of the Book of Revelation ... every word was written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews, all concerning the little nation of Israel focused on God’s chosen people.”
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Despite the ongoing strife, Boone was looking forward to the high-level access to sites, facilitated by tour co-sponsor Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
“Going to Israel is walking into the pages of the Bible,” Boone said. “You just walk in. When you come back home, everything you read then is in Technicolor. You say, ‘Oh wow, I’ve been there.’
“When David fought Goliath, I’ve been on the very piece of ground where he slew Goliath. I’ve been in the cave in En Gedi where (David) hid from Saul. I’ve looked up at the hill called Golgotha, the place of the skull (where Jesus was crucified). It still looks like a skull. It’s behind a bus station outside of Jerusalem. ... It’s very somber looking, but on top of it, the reason it’s never been torn down or developed, is because there’s an ancient Muslim cemetery on top of it, and that’s where the three crosses were.
“You go straight down from that hill into the Garden of Gethsemane and you see the open tomb in the rock, and you see the tunnel where this big wheel of a rock had been rolled away. You can actually go into this hole in the rock where they put Jesus’ body, from which he rose and came out, back into the garden.
“These are real places, and you just visit them and you come home saying, ‘Wow.’ You read about it and you cry. ‘I’ve been there. I know it’s real.’
“This is historic stuff,” Boone said. “This will be, I guess, my last tour. ... I’ve hosted and co-hosted other tours, and I’ve been there at the request of the Israeli government to go visit the troops below Mount Hermon after the Yom Kippur War (in 1973), and then stood in a bunker with a helmet and flak jacket on ... with occasional shells still coming from Damascus, still trying to throw bombs into Israel and not quite getting there.
“Standing in that bunker, at the request of Israeli soldiers, I sang this song I had written: ‘This land is mine, God gave this land to me’ — the lyrics to the song ‘Exodus’ — with no accompaniment except the occasional shell. It was very moving to all of us. About a year later, I was in Prime Minister (Yitzhak) Rabin’s office, and I told him that story.”
Rabin pointed to that northernmost outpost on the map on the wall, and said: “You sang a prophecy. Where you were standing, and you sang that song, ‘This Land is Mine,’ is part of the new map of Israel.”
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“That kind of goosebumpy experience we’ll share with all of our folks” on the current tour, Boone said.
He’s also looking forward to having baptisms in the Jordan River, with more goosebump experiences like he’s had presiding over 300 baptisms in his Beverly Hills pool.
“I may sound like a religious fanatic — I’m not,” he said. “This is all just practical stuff to me.”
• Details: For more information on Pat Boone and the gala concert, go to PatBooneIsraelTour.com and PatBoone.com.
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