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Israeli idol by: Merav Crystal,

Jakko Isenberg
Jakko Isenberg

Jakko Isenberg was only 3-years-old when he started playing the piano by listening to it on television. After his father died, at the tender age of 10, he began writing texts and composing music.

"Five years later my mom bought me a guitar, but I also play the drums, the flute and harmonica, so basically I can record a CD with only me playing in it, I’m just missing a violinist,” he told me when he was in the midst of rehearsals for “Kochav Nolad” (“a Star is Born”) the Israeli version of “American Idol.”

Who is Jakko Isenberg? He is a 26-year-old musician from Netanya and more recently, the winner of the 4th season of the most popular TV show in Israel.

From being an anonymous musician in an unknown psychedelic Hip-Hop band (though he loves rock ballads) he went on to appear on everyone’s TV screen twice a week. A song he had written, “Falling Asleep on the Sand”, became an instant success through the show.

From a guy who had to juggle five jobs (a gardener, a bar tender in two different establishments, a DVD salesman and playing Hassidic music at weddings and bar-mitzvahs), he became a superstar overnight when he won the ‘A Star is born” competition.

As the winner of the show he collected, among other perks, the prize of producing a record at “Helicon,” one of the biggest record companies in Israel. The show gave his somewhat cloudy life a silver lining, but something went terribly wrong very quickly and the media lynching was lurking around the corner.

This season “Kochav Nolad” was at its peak. A large number of talented young singers-songwriters participated - more than ever before. The final three included Maya Rotman, a singer-songwriter from Moshav Mishmeret who captured the viewers’ and judges’ hearts by singing Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.” The other finalist was Refael Mirila of Ashdod, who also writes his own songs.

But Jakko basked in the glory of his success for less than a week; in an interview he gave to Yedioth Ahronoth after his winning he was quoted as saying that he didn’t enlist in the army because he is ‘too sensitive.’ That was at a time when demonstrations of military reserve soldiers took place at major city centers and a whole nation was licking its wounds after the controversial war in Lebanon.

“He makes me wanna vomit…I wanna slap him” Jacko said of Rami Kleinstein, one of Israel’s top pop music creators. Meanwhile, several radio stations revealed that one of the songs he had written with his Hip-Hop band had the line: “A whore country; a blow-job giving country” in it.

This was much too dirty for the people of Israel to stomach. The public responded by sending thousands of e-mails, talkbacks and phone calls to the show’s producers. Almost all the responses were angry and full of rage.

A few days later his mother said to the media she was ashamed of her son. At the same time an article was published in Maariv trashing Jakko and condemning him vigorously. All hell broke loose. The media and TV-viewing public were at frenzy. Everybody wanted to throw yet another punch at the falling star and watch him crash and burn, in the name of the State of Israel and the glory of its army.

The catharsis of this tragedy came when Helicon announced it was backing out of Jakko’s record deal because of the fact that he smeared Kleinstein, who is one of its top talents.
Then came the “People of the Year” awards ceremony. In a moment that later turned out to be the highlight of the evening, Jakko was put on stage to face the music. He was both the modest orphan boy who won “Kochav Nolad” just recently and the wild child who evaded army service and talked dirty at his country and its beloved musician, all embodied at one.

Jakko apologized; the media is resting for now. Perhaps after Yom Kippur we’ll all be able to move on and let this mediocre musician be reduced to his normal size.

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