As Israel celebrated its 70th birthday last week, and continues to mark the landmark occasion of its eighth decade of statehood, there are no shortage of programs, documentaries, and l opportunities to sit back, reflect on our many accomplishments, and engage in soul-searching about what the future holds for this work in progress that is the State of Israel.
While our achievements in the field of high-tech are well known the world over, when celebrating, Israelis live the legacy of the Jewish people—the “people of the book” as we were always known—and return to the world of text. The melodies of these modern Israeli songwriters relive the powerful moments of the past, and express hope or the future.
One of the most beloved minhagim (customs) of marking both Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) are public song sessions, where crowds gather to take part in what would seem to be a modern version of prayer outside of a house of worship. These sessions, often held in public spaces, magnetize Israelis from all walks of life who, through their love for the music and a heightened sense of nostalgia, manage to strip themselves of cynicism, characteristic Israeli gruffness, and prejudice, all in the name of unity with the larger Israeli family.
Enter Koolulam: a social-musical project with the goal in mind of bringing together people from all corners of the diverse, multicultural Israeli society. The idea, as described on their site “is to stop everything for a few hours and just sing—together.” In honor of various occasions such as “Good Deeds Day” or Yom Hashoah, as well as simply in honor of values such as pluralism in the city of Haifa, the project enables participants to enjoy the feeling of togetherness through a deep communal experience—sounds and voices coming together to create a social choir, full of hope and optimism.
There could not have arisen a more appropriate initiative here in Israel that capitalizes on a universal love for song, and allows each individual’s love for a melody to create a synergy in the form of human voices transcending conflict. It is a truly inspiring experience.