All Together Now by Judy Lash Balint Israel Insider
January 18, 2004
It was another one of those uniquely Israeli evenings where overwhelming joy and energy is tinged with sadness and remembrance, with a good measure of resolve and "davka" thrown in.
The normally staid hall of Jerusalem's Great Synagogue became a lively concert hall last night that attracted around 1500 people to a benefit for Israeli victims of terror and their families. Organized by the One Family Fund and co-sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and New York's Yeshiva University, the event raised funds for the myriad of needs of those hit by Arab terror over the past three years.
The stained glass windows, marble pillars and heavy glass chandeliers of the Great Synagogue resounded to the beat of three popular Jewish music acts, as hundreds of disappointed supporters clamored unsuccessfully to get in as the hall quickly filled up a few hours after Shabbat.
Mid-January is high tourist time for observant college students on inter-session as well as parents visiting their kids studying for the year in Israel and organized solidarity groups--and last night's concert brought them together with dozens of terror victims and their families for an evening's entertainment.
But this was not merely a concert--the evening opened with everyone reciting Psalm 121: I will lift up my eyes to the hills...and was interspersed with moving testimony from several terror victims who have sufficiently recovered to be able to stand on stage and give thanks.
Billed as the All Together Now Concert, the first act was the Israeli trio, Oyf Simches. Headed by the versatile thirty-year-old Amiran Dvir, the group sang and danced through a lively, fast-paced forty-minute set that had the students dancing on the sides of the stage. The young women were invisible behind a heavy screen, but the guys with tzitzit flying quickly worked up a sweat as they executed their own brand of Jewish break-dancing. Several rows of ultra-orthodox students, still dressed in their Shabbat clothes, stayed in their seats but swayed to the music, payot (side-curls) waving.
The Oyf Simches lads belted out some well-known numbers, and showed off their well-rehearsed choreography to the delight of the crowd. Down in the front row, I recognized Sharon Maman, 24, a survivor of the Ben Yehuda Mall bombing of December 2001, sitting in a Christopher Reeves-like wheelchair. The last time I'd seen Sharon was in May 2002, when Rabbi Avi Weiss took a group from his Riverdale synagogue to visit terror victims at Hadassah Hospital. Then, six months after the attack, Sharon lay inert in his hospital bed with a poison-soaked nail embedded near his brain. He was paralyzed and had no speech. Last night, Sharon was holding a can of soda, turning to talk to his brother and enjoying his proximity to the action on stage.
It's more than two years since a homicide bomber irrevocably changed Sharon's life, and the lives of all those around him, but the simple act of clapping still evades him. Apparently Sharon doesn't remember his life before the attack, but he clearly remembers that he's 24 years old--he frequently looks over at the carefree young men around his age dancing a few feet away.
Before Yehuda Glantz appears, One Family Fund founder Marc Belzberg addresses the crowd. Marc, a Canadian born, forty-something successful businessman and philanthropist gives over just one idea--that the concept of 'family' means standing together in good times and bad.
Belzberg introduces a short film about the work of One Family Fund. Profiles of several Israelis permanently disabled by terror are powerful testaments to the human spirit. Whether it's the family who lost half of their ten members at Sbarros, the young Ethiopian paralyzed from the waist down, the sixty year old woman whose body is still riddled with shrapnel or the young man who lost his sight and hearing, the sentiments expressed are the same. No hatred, just a steely resolve to go on and overcome their unfathomable disabilities. The blind and deaf young man relates how three days after the terror attack, his doctors had told his parents to prepare for his death. "But today I'm walking and running. I told them, just wait another year and I'll be seeing them."
Next up is Yehuda Glantz. Yehuda had been wandering through the crowd unrecognized while Oyf Simches was playing. Now, up on stage clad in a black beret, black shirt and pants with tzitzit (ritual fringes) dangling, he shows off his considerable musical talent. An immigrant from Argentina, the bearded Glantz's music has that Latin rhythm and beat. He's an enormously versatile musician, who changes instruments with almost every number. Jumping easily from keyboard to guitar to accordion to banjo to a tiny guitar with a Spanish name, he invites the dancers on stage to keep him company during his set. The climax is his signature version of the classic La Bamba, with the original Spanish lyrics transformed into Hebrew.
While the next band is setting up, Sari Singer, the daughter of a NJ State Senator, gets up to speak. Singer was lightly injured in last summer's Bus #14 bomb. She relates how she returned to the US for the summer but came back to Israel in September to pick up her life here. I met Sari's father and brother at a news conference here a few days after the attack. The two, secular Jews with very limited Israel experience, were clearly bewildered at the change in their daughter and sister. On stage Sari is wearing a long skirt and speaks passionately about the need for Israelis not be cowed by Arab terror. "We're not afraid," she declares.
Idan Lory, gravely injured when British born terrorists blew up Mike's Place bar on the Tel Aviv seashore is invited up. A slight young man with dark brown beard and a white silk kippa balanced on his bushy dark brown hair, Lory quietly describes how he spent more than a month in a coma and awoke to discover that he had been burned over sixty percent of his body. The full bodysuit he has to wear for the next three years is visible on the thin arms that extend from his T-shirt.
Lory traded places on the stage with four American Jews his age. The members of Blue Fringe, the latest up-and-coming Jewish band, could have just as easily have been at Mike's Place last summer. In fact, bass player Hayyim Danzig hasn't been back to Israel since the August 2001 Sbarro attack, when his brother narrowly escaped injury. In a Jerusalem Post interview, Danzig admitted something very unusual for a rock star: his parents wouldn't allow him to return until now.
All four members of the slightly bookish looking group spent time studying in Israel, but returned to the US to finish college. Today, they're a sought-after band who combine funk, jazz, ska and soul with a Jewish message. Their most popular number is "Flippin' Out," written by lead singer Dov Rosenblatt, son of NY Jewish Week editor, Gary Rosenblatt. The song takes a satirical look at the experience of thousands of graduates of Modern orthodox high schools who come to Israel and "frum out." Still, they received a huge welcome last night at their international debut from hundreds of their peers who could easily fall into that category.
As the crowd started to thin and dribbled out into the cool, damp Jerusalem night air, a girl who looked to be about bat mitzvah age standing in front of me turned to her mother to remark: "What a great concert—too bad so many people had to suffer to make it happen."