Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 13:27 UK

Israelis flock to McCartney show

Paul McCartney playing in Yarkon Square, Tel Aviv
Fans were given the chance to sing along to Give Peace a Chance

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney has played his first gig in Israel in front of an estimated 40,000 cheering fans.

The 66-year-old singer kicked off the historic concert with the familiar Beatles' song Hello, Goodbye at Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park.

Some fans turned up wearing "I love Paul" and Beatles T-shirts.

Earlier the star said he was "not nervous, but excited" ahead of the gig, which comes 43 years after The Beatles were banned from performing in Israel.

Back in 1965 The Beatles were scheduled to perform, but were prevented taking the stage because of fears they could "corrupt the nation's youth".

'Message of peace'

Before Thursday's concert Sir Paul said: "You couldn't keep me off that stage." He shrugged off Palestinian pleas to boycott Israel in protest over its military and settlement activity.

"I was aware of the criticism," the ex-Beatle said. "But I thought it was best to go with a message of peace and find out myself what the situation was."

An Israeli fan
Fans of the Beatles have been waiting years for a glimpse of their idols

On stage he addressed fans in English but with a smattering of Hebrew, the Associated Press reported, wishing fans happy new year ahead of the Jewish holiday next week.

During Give Peace a Chance, he stopped and let fans sing the chorus, while fireworks lit the sky during Live and Let Die, AP said.

Since arriving in the region the singer has visited the town Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Sir Paul said he had hoped to visit a music school in the West Bank town of Ramallah but was forced to change his plans over security concerns.

Some 40,000 Israeli fans arrived to watch him perform at the concert, dubbed Friendship First.

Looking back, Sir Paul said the 1965 ban "didn't really faze" the Fab Four, but joked it had hit the mother of Brian Epstein, their Jewish manager, quite hard.

The star was in a more reflective mood, however, when he compared the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank to the Berlin war.

Sir Paul McCartney visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem earlier

"I went through the Berlin Wall in the years when it was still standing and it was so symbolic," he said after passing through the barrier to get between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

"It's sad to think people can be physically divided like that. It's not good for anyone."

Israel says the barrier, the route of which was declared illegal by the international court in the Hague in 2004, is for its security, but the Palestinians say it is a device to grab land.

Palestinian activists had asked Sir Paul to cancel the one-off gig because of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

But the performer - who said he was not "a political animal [but] a humanitarian" - said he "thought it was a good time to come and take a look at the situation".

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Press views: McCartney in Israel
26 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Israelis flock to McCartney show
25 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
McCartney makes Bethlehem visit
25 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Sir Paul defiant on Israel show
12 Sep 08 |  Entertainment

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