UPDATE (10/7): Following the publication of this story, a lawyer representing private, anonymous individuals who claim that they paid for the trip, contacted Rolling Stone to claim that the trip was not paid for by the Ministry of Culture.
Demi Lovato has become embroiled in controversy following a trip to Israel. The singer was reportedly paid $150,000 to be baptized in the Jordan and post content from her trip, which was seen as a political statement on her part given Israeli-Palestinian tensions
Over the course of this week, Lovato has posted heavily about her trip to Israel. She cited her Jewish ancestors and Christian upbringing as a reason why the experience was particularly spiritual for her.
“When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes,” she wrote in the caption of a photo-set of her being baptized. “I’ve never felt such a sense of spirituality or connection to God…something I’ve been missing for a few years now. Spirituality is so important to me…to be baptized in the Jordan river — the same place Jesus was baptized — I’ve never felt more renewed in my life.”
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I am an American singer. I was raised Christian and have Jewish ancestors. When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes. There is something absolutely magical about Israel. I’ve never felt such a sense of spirituality or connection to God…something I’ve been missing for a few years now. Spirituality is so important to me…to be baptized in the Jordan river – the same place Jesus was baptized – I’ve never felt more renewed in my life. This trip has been so important for my well-being, my heart, and my soul. I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel 💗
Lovato immediately received backlash from fans and critics. A reporter for Haaretz noted that she had not mentioned in any of her posts who had brought her to the country, and that this is odd for government-sponsored trips. Israeli newspaper Ynet reported that Lovato had been paid $150,000 by the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, with more provided by a private donor.
Follow-up drama on Demi Lovato’s Instagram page. After being castigated as a Zionist tool – she posted this on her story – and then took it down. pic.twitter.com/4bbMlO0P4F
— Allison K. Sommer (@AllisonKSommer) October 3, 2019
In a since-deleted Instagram story, Lovato apologized to her followers while claiming that the trip was free. “No one told me there would be anything wrong with going or that I could possibly be offending anyone,” she wrote. “With that being said, I’m sorry if I hurt or offended anyone, that was not my intention. Sometimes people present you with opportunities and no one tells you the potential backlash you could face in return. This was meant to be a spiritual experience for me NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT and now I realize it hurt people and for that I’m sorry.”
Lovato is not the first celebrity to receive backlash for visiting Israel. Brian Eno and Roger Waters criticized Nick Cave for playing in Israel in 2017, while New Zealand activists encouraged Lorde to cancel her 2018 show in Tel Aviv. Later, the New Zealand activists were ordered to pay $12,000 in damages for the canceled show, which they refused to pay and spoke out against.