JERUSALEM – World-renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin, an enthusiastic Jewish supporter of Israel who is widely regarded as one of this generation's greatest classical pianists, received Israeli citizenship at a ceremony at the Jerusalem Press Club on December 7, 2013. Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky presented Kissin with his te'udat zehut (Israeli identification card) and Israeli passport.
Upon receiving his citizenship, Kissin said, "I would like to use this occasion to appeal to other Jews who live in the Diaspora to join my example. If Israel is so dear to us, no matter where we live, let us be Israelis." Switching to Hebrew, he then added, "I am with you, State of Israel, I am with you, My People. Now I can tell the whole world not only 'I am a Jew,' but also 'I am an Israeli.'"
Speaking at the event, Chairman Sharansky said, "Evgeny Kissin's exceptional desire to be a part of Israel is the most powerful answer to those young Jews who ask why be Jewish or why be connected to Israel."
Kissin, who is 42 years old and was born in Moscow, began playing and improvising on the piano at the age of two. At the age of six, he enrolled in the Gnessin State Musical College, and he had his international debut at the age of twelve when he played Chopin's two piano concerti in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
Kissin has been called "one of the great pianists of our time" and regularly appears with today's leading conductors at major music festivals around the world. He has been presented with two Grammy Awards and Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music, along with a variety of other honors.
Kissin is an enthusiastic supporter of the State of Israel and regularly engages in pro-Israel activities aimed at countering the ongoing assault on Israel's legitimacy. Upon receiving an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University in 2010, he said, "Wherever we Jews live, our thoughts, hopes, and prayers are always with Israel and with our ancient and holy capital, Jerusalem. We Jews have every reason to be proud of the State of Israel. The Jewish State has always remained true to the noble principles proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence. For sixty-five years, Israel's enemies have been trying to destroy this young and tiny country, but the Jewish state continues to seek peace with its neighbors. Ani ge'eh bakh, medinat yisra'el – I am proud of you, Israel, and I am grateful to providence for having been born a son of the people of Israel."
Approximately one year ago, Kissin told Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky that he is interested in acquiring Israeli citizenship in order to enable him to "fight for Israel not only as a Jew, but also as an Israeli." He also wrote a public letter stating that, "I am a Jew, Israel is a Jewish state – and since long ago I have felt that Israel, although I do not live there, is the only state in the world with which I can fully identify myself, whose case, problems, tragedies and very destiny I perceive to be mine… When Israel’s enemies try to disrupt concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come and make troubles at my concerts, too: because Israel's case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies, and I do not want to be spared of the troubles which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish State beyond its borders."
Although Kissin, who travels frequently, is not permanently based in Israel, Chairman Sharansky recommended that the Government of Israel present him with Israeli citizenship due to his significant contribution to Israel in the international arena.