Israeli singers find meaning in coronavirus outbreak

Many Israeli artists have offered free live-streamed concerts since the outbreak began and gatherings were banned

Hanan Ben Ari, October 2019 (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/דולב)
Hanan Ben Ari, October 2019
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/דולב)
While the coronavirus outbreak puts much of daily life on hold, singers in Israel have found inspiration and meaning in the "new normal" that many throughout the world are experiencing.
In his new song Ga’aguim Lebnei Adam (“Longing for People”), Hanan Ben Ari focused on how people thought before the pandemic that “we’d overcome everything” and that “nothing was above us.” Then the virus “came, and infected and drove crazy and closed down and confused and shocked.”
Ben Ari asks the virus “How did you bring back sanity?” discussing the newfound longing for other people, the “burning loneliness,” and how “we almost lost ourselves and almost stopped feeling.”
The song ends with a request that people not return to the way they were before the outbreak the morning after the outbreak ends.
Although Ben Ari thought he would have everything cancelled due to the coronavirus, "it turns out that I'm performing more than I ever have," he explained on 103fm radio.
Concerning the new song, Ben Ari explained that "It's not exactly a song. It's composed thoughts. Usually I like to let things sink in, even for a few years, but I do feel like songs will come out of this period. I'm going through some kind of journey here."
When asked why he didn’t make a longer song out of the new short song, Ben Ari told 103fm that he was worried it would turn into a gimmick, be too temporary. “I really wanted to give people some kind of comfort and hope, I don’t know, it could just be nonsense,” he added.
The music video of the song shows shuttered stores and eerily empty streets and parks throughout Israel. The song has spread rapidly throughout social media over the past few days as it seems to hit a chord with many.
"I debated. I thought that maybe it was a little too early to summarize the insanity that we're going through right now," wrote Ben Ari on his Instagram in a post with the music video. "Usually I like to let things sink in, to write from a distance of years, but the burst of writing isn't something I can control. So I threw away my wits and here is something small on this weird experience that we all are in. I wish us all health and routine."
The Kav Lachayim association, dedicated to helping provide solutions for children with disabilities and rare syndromes, joined with Israeli artists Akiva, Ariel Zilber, Barry Sakharoff, Amir Benayoun, Lior Elmaliah and Hanan Ben Ari to make a heart-rending rendition of the Sephardic liturgical poem "Refa Tziri" ("Heal my Pain"), traditionally sung during the Torah-reading on Shabbat when a person who is ill or has been ill is called up to the Torah.
On Wednesday, Ishay Ribo released the song "Keter Melucha" (“Royal Crown”). Written in just one week in a studio in his home, the song explores how the situation has developed since the end of February when Parshat Terumah was read. The background music was recorded by each musician separately and then compiled due to social distancing guidelines by the Health Ministry.
Keter Melucha splits the past month into the time between each parsha (Torah portion) read each week, going from around Purim when everything was still business-as-usual to the last two weeks when everything shut down. The chorus asks G-d what He wants understood from this and learnt from this, stressing that we want to live and we don’t want to be alone.
"I believe that every one of us, including those who don't know how to ask, have asked themselves recently what exactly is happening here and what are we supposed to learn from this craziness that has entered our lives and kept us inside," wrote Ribo on his Facebook page.
"This song is prayer about the crown, an understanding that the crown and control are G-d's, and that he is asking us to calm down a let him rule," continued Ribo. "G-d disconnected us so that we would connect. He isolated us, so that we would get closer. He left us with the minimum so that we would know to appreciate. and like in Megillat Esther, even now, the reality tells of G-d's Providence over us, we just have to agree to listen and to go out from slavery to freedom."
Keter Melucha is the first song of an album Ribo plans to release later on in the year.
Many Israeli artists have offered free live-streamed concerts since the outbreak began and gatherings were banned. As of Wednesday morning, 5,591 confirmed cases of the coronavirus had been reported in Israel.