|At The Western Wall|
When you have 21 children sitting around in a room for more than an hour and a half, you can expect pandemonium. But the children wearing marine blue t-shirts emblazoned with the white Make a Wish logo who were gathered in the reception hall of the Presidential complex in Jerusalem on Monday were quiet and well behaved. Ranging in age from tiny tots to late teens they were used to waiting. Their lives consist of waiting quietly for doctors, for nurses and for therapists. They all have life threatening illnesses, and some have had transplants of various kinds to get past life threatening to life saving.
They were waiting to meet with President Shimon Peres and his very special guest Barbra Streisand.
Eventually, the two entered the room with arms around each other. She was wearing a broad brimmed black hat and long black dress that exposed bare shoulders. Her feet were shod in very high heeled black sandals. "Shalom" she said as she crossed the floor to greet the children who sat in a semi circle around the two yellow arm-chairs intended for Peres and Streisand. Neither of the two sat down before shaking the hand of every child, embracing and kissing some of them, asking their names and inquiring about their maladies.
Barbra was totally gracious and gentle – almost old world genteel in her attitude. Her wonderfully genial and candid husband James Brolin, who sat alongside the journalists, when asked, said that she almost always wears long dresses, and that they are usually black or white, though she does have a couple of grey items in the closet that she wears around the house. When she's not wearing long dresses, she opts for pants. Asked whether they had endured a tough time with the Israeli paparazzi, Brolin grinned and said that they had been followed on Sunday night when they toured the old city soon after their arrival in Jerusalem. They'd visited the Western Wall and had also done the tunnel tour – at least in part. Brolin, who comes from a construction family was greatly impressed with Jerusalem stone which he thinks is beautiful. This is his first trip to Israel and he is already enamored with the country. Looking out of his hotel window on Monday morning, he was amazed by the greenery and the vista. "You can feel history," he said. Because he has been following his wife and her entourage on this singing tour, he quipped that he feels "like the lackey that follows the elephants with a shovel", but added quickly that he's having a great tine. In addition to the musicians that Streisand has brought to Israel, 40 local musicians will be incorporated into her musical backup on Thursday, said Brolin, and "they will have only two hours to prepare". But he had no doubt that they would do a spectacular job.
Koral Vedder, a 17 year old from Jerusalem's Givat Ze'ev neighborhood, who suffers from a bone disease, but has a glorious voice, reminiscent of a young Streisand, sang one of Streisand's best known songs, "People." Streisand was enraptured, listened intently, hugged herself, then looked at Peres with undisguised admiration that a young girl with so compelling a voice had been brought to sing for them. "That was so beautiful. That was such a lovely treat," she said. Looking around at the youngsters, Peres said: "In Barbara's eyes and mine, you are heroes fighting for life." Referring to Streisand's voice, Peres said: "I don’t know of anybody who was blessed with such a heavenly voice that emits a pure prayer and a moving song." He had asked Streisand whether she would be an ambassador to save sick children and she had agreed, he said. As for Avinu Malkeinu, whenever he hears it, said Peres, "my eyes fill with tears."
The children, Streisand and Peres all sang another Hebrew song "Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem," after which Steisand said that it been such a powerful experience to be with the youngsters. "You touch my heart," she said. She pledged that when she sings "Avinu Malkeinu" for the President's 90th birthday on Tuesday night, "I will sing it to you all, so you can feel the hope that I have for you, for this country, for the world."
In introducing the children to Streisand, Denise Bar-Aharon CEO and co-founder of Make-a-Wish Israel said that they represented the true rainbow of Israel in that they included Jews, Muslims and Christians and were from different countries of origin. In hospital rooms she said, there were no borders and no conflicts. She presented Streisand with the hope, strength and joy necklace that is given to every Make-a-Wish child. Streisand said she would treasure it.