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People waiting out the fighting in bomb shelters in the North finally have a small reason to smile.
Omanut La'am, an organization promoting Israeli music, art and culture, has been sending volunteers including hip hop band Hadag Nahash and comedian Rami Vered to perform in bomb shelters.
The performers, who also include a number of magicians, are volunteers who go from shelter to shelter, often performing multiple shows in one day. At some of the bigger shelters they perform for crowds of more than 100 people, but most are smaller shelters with groups of 30 to 40.
"We wanted to do something for them," said Kobi Sitt, manager of programming and production for Omanut La'am. "We wanted to provide entertainment for all these families who stay for hours alone in bomb shelters."
Though he acknowledged that free entertainment is not northern residents' top concern right now, Sitt said his organization's efforts are drawing expressions of genuine appreciation. He said Omanut La'am - Art for the People - has had a great response so far, and that the artists have gotten just as much out of the performances as the viewers.
"One musician went and said he felt 'like a beam of light in a place where there is no window,'" Sitt recalled. "Doing the job is not easy, but seeing them respond to this, you get such a sense of perspective and togetherness that it makes it all worth it."
Harel Papo, a magician, volunteered to visit the north four days ago. He and a friend, also a magician, went to more than 15 bomb shelters.
"It's upsetting to see the children that way," Papo said. "Every little sound they heard, they jumped like it was a Katyusha."
Papo and his partner put on shows for about 30 children at each shelter they visited. He said he hoped other entertainers would volunteer to perform as well.
"It's important," he said. "We make the children happy for a little while, and it takes their mind off the situation. We have to be strong, and to try to help out as best as we can the people in the line of fire."
Sitt said he plans to send entertainers to the bomb shelters as long as the fighting persists and for as long as residents of northern Israel must continue to seek safety underground. He said the activities of Omanut La'am reflect the Israeli character. "That's the Israeli spirit and a big part of the strength of our nation," he said. "I can't imagine Hezbollah sending magicians and comedians to entertain people in bomb shelters."
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