I’ve been enchanted by The Shalva Band’s magical performances on Israel’s Kochav Haba, “Rising Star,” starting with a mind-blowing rendition of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.” Two blind girls, the primary singers, continued to perform while blithely unaware that they had just won the night’s highest score, unable to see the flashing fireworks that erupt as a sign of victory.
It really did feel like the sun was shining in a new way, the dawn of a new day when people with disabilities who have reached for the stars will be stars.
The final song I saw was “I see The Good In You,” an original composed and set to music by The Shalva Band. This song is unforgettable. Anael writes and sings about her journey and traveling the path of disability. Her message: seeing good in people —not just in others, but in yourself as well.
The entire country was rooting for The Shalva Band to win the competition and represent Israel at the Eurovision. When is the next Shalva video coming out, I wondered.
Then the news hit. Shalva was pulling out of the “Rising Star” competition — so close to winning — due to the news that whoever represents Israel at the Eurovision will need to perform on Shabbat.
I couldn’t believe it.
Here was Shalva, an organization for people with disabilities, about to break a record, to set an international precedent and bring Israel incredible, inspiring glory, but they pulled out.
Because of Shabbos. Wow.
Aside from the upsetting aspect of the story — one would think that Eurovision would take Shabbat into account, for, after all, Israel is the Jewish State (and apparently Israel tried to work with the European Broadcasting Union to change the scheduling, but to no avail) — Shalva has just modeled another lesson for us all.
I am reminded of the movie “Chariots of Fire” and the message of Shabbat uber alles, of Olympic runner Eric Liddell who refused to breach his Sabbath.
Shalva has now not only brought musical glory to Israel, not only inclusion awareness to the world in the name of Israel, but it has tripled its powerful message, leadership and influence: Shalva has brought Shabbat to the world.
For many of us, who honor Shabbat with relative ease, who only hear of the challenges of Shabbat observance from days of yore, it doesn’t really take much sacrifice to keep Shabbat. Those stories about Jews who gave up opportunities in order to guard the Jewish Sabbath are from a bygone era.
Yet here comes The Shalva Band, removing itself from the Eurovision opportunity. It has taught us all that some things are worth more than any glory in the world.
Some things are priceless. Shabbat is one of them.
As Asher Ginsburg, known as Ahad Ha’am, famously said: “More than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
Shabbat. Inclusion. And extraordinary musical talent. Shalva is already an Israeli legend.
Eurovision 2019 just lost the best thing it had going for it.
Copyright Intermountain Jewish News