By Naama Barak

Rare photos recently revealed by the National Library of Israel show country musician Johnny Cash during his visit to Israel in 1971, giving a black-and-white sneak peek at the glamorous reception he received.

Cash was in Israel with his wife, June Carter Cash, to film their movie “Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus.” The film was narrated by Cash and includes scenes of him singing from the top of Mount Arbel. Other Israeli landmarks in the film include the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, but despite their prominence, the film did not end up becoming a box-office hit.

Cash’s 1971 visit to Israel was the third one of five for the star. A devout Christian, he had previously visited the country in 1966 on a private religious pilgrimage, and then again with his wife in 1968. That trip inspired a Christian-themed concept album called “The Holy Land.”

Johnny Cash receives a gift from an unidentified person at a reception in Jerusalem. (IPPA staff from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem)

On the 1971 trip, the Cashes were treated to a lavish reception in Jerusalem, where the newly discovered photos were taken, revealing a bygone-era replete with fancy dinnerware, waiters in black tie, and floral wallpaper.

The photos were discovered by accident when the National Library’s social media manager sifted through images from the library’s Dan Hadani Archive in search of pictures of Israeli pop star Tzvika Pik.

Pik, it turns out, attended the reception held in Cash’s honor, and the episode was saved from obscurity.

American music star Johnny Cash at a reception in his honor in Jerusalem, 1971. (IPPA staff from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem)

Cash, widely regarded as one of the most respected musical artists, was born into a family of Arkansas sharecroppers in the middle of the Great Depression, according to his official website.

“That hardscrabble life instilled in him a reverence for family, the earth, God and truth that informed his incredible life and vision over a half-century career. After a stint in the United States Air Force, where he distinguished himself as a radio intercept operator, and less-successful efforts as an automobile factory worker and door-to-door home goods salesman, Johnny broke onto the music scene in 1955 on Memphis’ fabled Sun Records. It was here, at the ‘birthplace of rock and roll,’ where the world was introduced to his singular voice and compelling songwriting, through such eternal classics as ‘I Walk the Line, ’Big River’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’”

He is also well known for performing concerts in prisons, including his famous first one at San Quentin Prison in California in 1958.

Cash died in 2003 at age 71.

Produced in association with Israel21C.

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