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The Shalva Band. .(Photo by: Courtesy)
What truly makes Israel great
By DOV LIPMAN
01/18/2019
I was going to go one by one among the party leaders on how they are putting themselves before their ideals and, in the process, destroying themselves.
I have a confession to make.

This column was supposed to focus exclusively on the elections. I was going to criticize the egos that are preventing parties from running together – both within the Right, Center and Left blocs. I began translating the story related in the Talmud about Yarovam ben Nevat, the wicked king who God implored to repent and promised him the World to Come along with King David. But God took away this opportunity when Yarovam asked Him, “Who will go first? Me or King David?” That demonstration of ego and self-centeredness destroyed him.

I was going to go one by one among the party leaders on how they are putting themselves before their ideals and, in the process, destroying themselves.

And then I left my computer and went to the gym for a workout. The television on my elliptical was tuned to Hakochav Haba (Rising Star) – the competition to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision Song Competition, which will be held in Tel Aviv. And a group called the Shalva Band (from the Shalva National Children’s Center in Jerusalem) performed.

Two blind singers – Annael, an immigrant from France, and Dina, an immigrant from India – sang “The Sound of Silence,” accompanied by Tal and Yair, two percussionists who have Downs syndrome, Yosef, the drummer, who has Williams syndrome, and Guy, the keyboard player who is visually impaired.

The Shalva Band had already advanced through the first two rounds of the competition – as the judges emphasized, based on the merit of their music, and not because they have special needs. But this third performance brought the judges to tears. It was special and even startling to see the raw emotions of seasoned music stars, including guest judge Itai Levy, who was so overwhelmed by emotion that he could not speak.

All the judges said that the Shalva Band should represent Israel in the Eurovision contest, and that Israelis would be so proud if they stood before the world and performed on behalf of Israel.

It was a moment that was not only a welcome distraction from the dirtiness of the elections which have barely begun, but also reminded me of Israel’s true strength and greatness. It has nothing to do with our leaders. It’s all about the people.

I remember my first election campaign in December 2012-January 2013. I spent morning through night walking through shopping malls, senior citizen homes, universities, and even door to door. That was when I left my English-speaking bubble in my hometown, Bet Shemesh, and met Israel. This country is filled with the most remarkable people – wise, creative, kind, thoughtful and resilient citizens who may come across as rough on the outside, but are super soft, loving, and sweet on the inside. There’s a reason they’re likened to the sabra fruit.

As a member of Knesset, I spent every Thursday visiting organizations throughout Israel, established by “ordinary” citizens who decided to solve or provide assistance for a wide range of pressing needs in our country. It always inspired me to see the passion and dedication that they demonstrated towards the causes that were close to their hearts, and I would always end my Thursdays thinking about how these are the people who truly make Israel great.
The performance of the Shalva Band and the manner in which the judges, the audience, and broader Israel has embraced them and celebrate their success reminded me of that beautiful Israel.

As the election campaign heats up, the attacks from one camp to the other, and among parties within the various camps, will get stronger and stronger. Sadly, these tend to pull us apart as a people and work against what should be our most important goal, which is national unity. So let’s not get dragged into that cesspool. Let’s explore the platforms of the parties and make sound decisions about whom to vote for, while saving our emotions for meaningful developments like the success of the Shalva Band. Doing so will enable we the people to not be brought down by the sad state of Israeli politics, and be uplifted and united by the incredible people of Israel.

The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset.
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