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'No quarrel' between Iranian and Israeli people, says singer with feet in both worlds

December 21st, 2013
10:49 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

There is “no quarrel” between the Iranian and Israeli people, a pop star with a foot in both worlds told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Friday.

Rita Jahanforuz was born in Iran, but has been one of Israel's most popular singers for nearly three decades.

“You know, it's between the government or the leaders or something like that,” she said. “I'm very Iranian; and I'm very Israeli. And with my existence, I can show that everything can intertwine with each other, amazingly.”

She is known to her fans simply as "Rita," and took many of them by surprise when last year she released an album of songs sung entirely in her mother tongue, Farsi.

But far from being shunned by Israelis, it went gold in just three weeks – and in Iran, where western music is officially banned, Rita's album is reportedly quite popular.

She has gotten “a lot of amazing” emails from Iranians, she told Amanpour.

“The cutest one – he wrote me, ‘Rita, you know I want to see your concerts so much that even the punishment will be three years' jail and 70 whiplashes, I would still rather to try to come to your concert.’”

Rita left Iran when she was eight, and says she hopes one day she will be able to perform there.

“They say, ‘Throw your heart forward and go and fetch it.’”

Why, Amanpour asked, did Rita record an album of songs in Persian nearly three decades into her career?

“I felt suddenly that I have to record the soundtracks of my family life and my life,” she said.

“One of my first memories is my mother sitting on the carpet, you know, stretching her legs forward, placing a pillow on her legs and me on the pillow in front of her. She used to rock me, sing lullabies and you know, cleaning the rice – a multitask woman.”

So eventually, she felt, she “had to do it.”
She describes the album as an attempt to talk “people to people.”

“We're talking people to people,” she said. “There is a wall between us. And as much as we will make scratches and holes, little holes, we, the people…will be in charge on our lives and our destiny.”lives and our destiny.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Israel • Latest Episode
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. StanCalif

    Governments are always the culprits! People to people, we are all the same. Governments strive to control, people just want to live and let live. Love one another! Yet this is not a "government" concept! Governments divide people to succeed and retain power.

    December 21, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • daniel

      AMEN to that !!

      December 22, 2013 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • Jim

      Word!

      December 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Reply
    • Ned

      I'd just add organized religion to that. That is the force behind these Governments inability to act sanely.

      December 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • John

      Clearly you have no idea who religion works. religion is not absolute love for everyone, this is what some irrelevant one would say. It's based on love and hatred, love for whom in the path of God, and hatred for those who are not. But this does not essentially means that we are going to kill each other. As long as we are not at war, we can live together but when the hostility breaks out, we are going to fight! So don't make this governments problem. You occupied an Islamic country and this will never be forgotten.

      January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  2. Jahangir

    She is not popular in Iran. Dare I say she is not even 'known' here even remotely to the extent claimed in the above piece.
    And as for going to concerts being a 'crime punishable with three years in jail and up to 70 lashes' in Iran, I just wonder if there is reason why Israelis, just like their PM, are comfortably OK with such ridiculous exaggerations.

    December 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • Shira

      Dear Jahangir, you might not know her but as someone who has a lot of business relationship with Iranians I have been asked not once if I know her ( as they know I'm an Israeli Iranian living in Europe ) I can tell you she is very much known in Tehran. And as for the ridicules exaggeration – well dear you have only your government to blame for it,
      open your country to the world, introduce free media and stop hiding behind religious masks and we might know the truth you are seeing. All the best and google Rita's album ( if you can) you won't regret it.

      December 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      Jahangir, I"m no fan of Bibi, he's as much a kharkosdeh as Khamenei, but with IRI having done so much, on pretty much every single front/issue, and then turn around only to deny it, they (government/doelat NOT people) get what they deserve. You may not be familiar with Rita, I don't know her but I don't live back home anymore, more than like and thanks to the internet they MAY be plenty of other iroonis who know and like her. I halfway agree with Shira's comments..

      December 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Dariush

      I am a Persian and I approve Rita expression. We Persian, do not have any problem with Israel. But you Jahangir, maybe in place where you work; IRG (Islamic Revolutionary Guard), you have different points of view

      December 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Reply
    • Sam

      Dear Jahangir, You are properly the minority in Iran. As a Persian born and live abroad also i am a muslim i know by far more than you about the popular Persian singers including Rita's. You are properly out of touch of real popular Persian songs for the reason all they are not permitted in the market in Iran but hopefully one day things can go back as used to be and have a good relation with other countries as used to be as well.

      January 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  3. Bina

    Thanks for the interview.
    I really love the music and performances of Rita.
    I discovered the beautiful Persian music, having heard Rita sing it.
    Today I have many beautiful poems in Persian. I knew Persian composers and singers.
    Thanks Rita, I connected with family roots from Persia – Shiraz.
    I really believe in and want peace with Iran.

    December 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  4. Tal

    We love you Rita! Best singer in israel.

    December 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  5. Pushkin2

    Rita's performance at the UN assembly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqiy5ApRnhY

    December 22, 2013 at 3:58 am | Reply
  6. suwono

    Yes. Amazing. I am agree.

    December 22, 2013 at 4:40 am | Reply
  7. writerchristophfischer

    Thank you for this article and the inspiring message.
    Also, her performance at Eurovision 1990 remains unforgotten in my heart

    December 22, 2013 at 5:59 am | Reply
  8. Ron

    Make peace, yes, let it be, it could be easier than you think once you give it a serious chance, go for it, Iran and Israel and you will change the Middle East forever. This long – troubled region will boom economically and culturally if only the leaders can see through the fog of their egos. We will have only winners.

    December 22, 2013 at 6:40 am | Reply
    • Jim

      I would LOVE to see the day, well said Ron.

      December 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  9. Jim

    I love the concept, but man, she really ruined some of the songs I grew up on in Iran. Rita joon, bitte, if you're going to do it, man tread lightly on how you sing Delleh Tangam. Now, I have to go back and put in the original or the one done by Monika Jalili to cope...LOVE the concept of peace between Iran and Israel. We're all people of the same region and share many historic paths, why not the the future?

    December 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  10. Raymond in DC

    Back in the mid-1970s I traveled to Iran via Turkey. I didn't care for the Turkish music I heard on that long overland trip to Teheran, but enjoyed the Persian music I did hear. One evening my Jewish hosts took me to a party with a live band -Persian tunes backed by Western instruments, much of it to Afro/Latin rhythms. Quite nice. (This was all only possible in the years before the Islamic Revolution.)

    December 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  11. Jonathan

    rita is our numbet one singer in israel. she is now one of thge host of the american idol in israel

    December 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  12. Christopher okafor

    If leaders in Iran& Israel begin to behave Ritalike and know that all humans are made by one God irespective of colour,language or RElIGION and allow God to judge his creation, there will be devine peace there in the middle east.

    December 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  13. Zohar Freiberg

    I hope one day there is going to be a government in Iran that deosn't call for the destruction of Israel, and we will be able to put the current regime in Iran on trial for conspiring to destroy Israel.
    Before the Islamic revolution, Israel and Iran had diplomatic relations between them.
    Rita is, in deed, one of Israel's greatest singers, since the mid 1980's.

    December 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  14. شیرین

    Iranians don't need such spy. as she said in this video she started her business (being singer) when she was in Israeli army. so we are not stupid and we take care of here. we will never forget the statements of Israeli prime minister during the last month. we are aware of the fact that they want to turn Iran into some small countries and she is one of the people who play a role.

    December 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  15. Biazar

    I loved the piece and Rita's remarks.
    I cannot agree more with her when she says this is between our governments rather than our people.
    Most people here (Iran) feel more resentment toward Palestinians (Unlike what our government tries to advertise) than Israelis. Why? Because the money spent there has not resulted in a peace deal or even a step toward it and the money is just getting piled up and they are just dodging the agreement on a peace deal. (No doubt such an agreement is tough to be reached, But i don't see why there hasn't been a progress after so many years)
    I would stop at that because i am not an spokesman of Palestinians. Just commenting on the relations between Iran and Israel from my point of view.
    Have we ever got any offense (In the sense of a military strike or something in that content) from Israel? No.
    There is no argue that Hezbollah or Hamas are using some of the Iranian made weapons against Israel, But to think of it, does Israel use American made weapons? Who do you blame for those weapons to be used? United States or Iran? In my point of view, neither. The person who uses the firearm is responsible for its use.
    Personally i don't see why Iran and Israel can't be friends when our Supreme Leader passes away. I think this matter with Israel and America has become a political stepping stone for him and backing up from that is unimaginable for him. Naively i think he is backing up with his position on USA and very soon the relations between the two nations gets better (to what extent i don't know), no doubt most of the credit goes to president Obama, who is a very democratic man, and i personally admire him.
    Don't get fooled when you see our media showing a mob at Khamenei's speeches. They are either members of the armed forces who are forced to attend or members of Basij militia who are paid to attend.
    I believe that an Alliance between nations is required to get rid of terrorist groups in middle east, and the only reason they have lasted this long is because of the gap between the governments in Middle East.
    As Rita has said there is no hatred by Iranians toward Israelis. But there are a lot of extremists here that love Palestine more than their mother land (Iran). Are there many of them? No. Are they in power? Sadly, Yes. Do they have the support of our people if they start a war against any nation? HELL NO.

    December 30, 2013 at 3:35 am | Reply
  16. Michael Gough

    This Irainian singer is doing more to create harmony between Iran and Israel than what the elected leaders are doing I wish her. Well.

    December 31, 2013 at 5:32 am | Reply
  17. Wonder

    I really love the way people take on this article on this platform.
    The true sense of human existence is to co-exist. No matter ur region, religion, race, political inclination we are meant to live together harmony. Let us rise, say no to all the forces that had kept us divided over these years.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  18. Andrewwww

    ....the article is not even by Amanpour.....it's by Mick Krever.

    December 31, 2013 at 6:45 am | Reply

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