Taylor Swift’s Israel era is in the books

Taylor Swift’s Israel era is in the books

The Hebrew version of “Who Is Taylor Swift?” hit Israeli bookstores earlier this month, making it the book’s first international edition.

Kirsten Anderson’s children’s book came out in America just two months ago. It’s part of Penguin Workshop’s bestselling “Who Was?” and “Who Is?” series, a range of illustrated biographies chronicling public figures from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Confucius.

Michal Paz-Klapp, the young adult editor at Israel’s prominent Modan publishing house, jumped at the opportunity to publish a local edition. She explained that while Swift’s popularity knows no borders, one non-musical choice has recently added to her appeal in Israel — her abstention from speaking about the Israel-Hamas war. Her Israeli listeners are well aware of their growing isolation on the world stage as public opinion turns against Israel’s eight-month war. Simply saying nothing about it has won Swift points with Israeli fans, many of whom view her music as an escape from the trauma of October 7.

“Part of the love that Taylor is receiving is that she’s — I don’t know if she supports Israel, actively — but she is not against Israel, and this is really important for the Israeli crowd, I think,” Paz-Klapp said.

The pop star’s silence has come even as thousands flooded X, the social media site known as Twitter before its purchase by a billionaire open to antisemitic conspiracy theories, demanding she take a stand. Some fans have attended her worldwide Eras Tour with Palestinian flags and signs reading “Speak Now,” a reference to her 2010 hit album.

Swift’s avoidance of the subject has allowed Israelis to assign their own meanings to her music. “Bigger Than the Whole Sky,” a song from Swift’s 2022 “Midnights” album about saying goodbye to someone, has become an anthem for friends of Roni Eshel, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier and Swiftie who Hamas killed on Oct. 7. Eshel’s friends petitioned Swift to intervene on her behalf last fall, before Eshel’s death was confirmed.

“When Swifties go to shows, they make bracelets and give them to other fans from all over the world,” Paz-Klapp said. “So in Israel, they prepared Roni Eshel bracelets and they have given them to other fans.”

Swift has not performed in Israel — its small size and geographic isolation mean relatively few top acts make it a stop on their tours. But Israeli fans have been flying to Europe for her shows there, with a Facebook group just for ticket resales and travel coordination drawing nearly 4,000 participants.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency