Israel Diary

Jonny Lipczer, a former mazkir of Bnei Akiva and Director of Mizrachi, made aliyah in 2006. He lives in Jerusalem

Singing in solidarity

Wednesday 25th 2009f February 2009

Sderot was alive with the sound of music, instead of sirens, as the Shabbaton Choir arrived in Israel this week to show solidarity with those who have suffered though acts of terror, illness or disability.

On a "Solidarity Through Song" mission led by Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, the choir performed at schools, hospitals, day centres and care homes, bringing a moment of happiness to the people who need it most.

The choir's exceptional ability to bring joy to those who are fortunate to hear them was demonstrated once again during this trip.

As part of the tour, the choristers - together with renowned chazzanim Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, Shimon Craimer and Jonny Turgel - sang for children at an absorption centre in the south of Israel.

The performance took place in the outdoor area which, during Operation Cast Lead, was a barren playground. For weeks, these same children - many of whom had just arrived in Israel - were living on Israel's frontline in Ashkelon. During the war, they had to play indoors and performances and events like this one were unthinkable.

For this sixth solidarity tour, the Shabbaton Choir's musical director, Stephen Levey, composed beautiful new melodies to ancient words. One such song, Hamalach Hago'el, describes the blessing Jacob gave his grandchildren: "May the angel who rescued me from all harm bless these boys."

A year ago, eight young students were murdered in the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. On the eve of their yahrzeits, the choir arrived at the Yeshiva to pay tribute to their lives, and to sing in their memory.

13-year-old Eli Baigel - the youngest member of the choir - sang the new composition of Hamalach Hago'el in the library where the students were murdered. It was one of the most moving performances I have ever heard, and it reduced me, and many others, to tears.

May the memories of these boys always be a blessing, and may the people of Israel be blessed with peace.

Shabbat Shalom.