SOLIDARITY THROUGH SONG 2008

Background

I could never have imagined that we would have been privileged to take part in 5 Solidarity through Song missions to Israel. After the success of last year’s mission there was a feeling that we could not better what we had done and therefore we should leave it for this year. However, this being the year of Israel’s 60th birthday how could we not visit Israel this year particularly as the South was being targeted by indiscriminate rocket attacks. So we decided to see if we could do another mission.

As in previous years a tremendous amount of hard work goes into the preparation of the mission. Solidarity through Song 2008 would not have happened without the hard work of all those involved. The committee arranging the mission was chaired by our President Peter Sheldon with Julian, Michael, Syma, Simon Hochhauser, Simon Stone and I. The members of the choir committee also played an important role in arranging the mission. The all round experience of this team (and in particular Peter, Syma and Simon (Dr)) ensured the success of the mission not only before the mission began but once we were there. I also must mention those choristers involved in schlepping the keyboard and equipment and setting it up at each venue.

One of the major factors in deciding whether we were able to commit to the mission was funding. I cannot express sufficient thanks to all those who funded the mission but in particular to the Ziff Family for there generosity and to the UJIA.

As in previous years we were very honoured with the presence of the Chief Rabbi and Elaine. The Chief Rabbi remains a constant source of inspiration to all of us and his enthusiasm for what we are doing knows no bounds.

This year we brought the biggest choir ever to Israel with 23+ choristers. Many wives, parents and friends once again joined us. Their infectious dancing and singings added an additional dimension to what we were doing and helped to create the atmosphere in the places we were visiting. They were vital to the success of the mission.

Once again the choir had the privilege of singing with our inspirational and incredible soloists, Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, Chazan Shimon Craimer and Chazan Jonny Turgel. Their individual talents are an essential feature in everything that we do and I cannot underestimate the role they play. We were also joined once again by the highly talented Eli Baigel. His voice was even more beautiful than last year.

Together we were Solidarity through Song 2008.

The week before the mission

Daniella and I had arrived in Israel a week before the mission. During this time the situation worsened in Israel with rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon. The mission was due to be based in Ashkelon for the first few days. Over the weekend leading up to the mission there was a general feeling of uneasiness within the group about staying in Ashkelon.

In addition to those within the group that were nervous there were those who vehemently said that we should not move and we should not abandon Ashkelon. All arguments had validity. We, therefore, had some very difficult decisions to make. If we could find somewhere else to stay that would not disrupt the program then we should try and move.

The situation got worse with more rocket attacks on Ashkelon and we consulted Gill Lipkin our tour operator as to what we should do. We also spoke to our security advisors Yossi (from last year) and Roni. They said that there was additional risk in staying in Ashkelon and if we could move elsewhere it was wise to do so. Gill suggested that we move to Be’er Sheva. If we did this we could still continue on with the program as originally arranged. We therefore reluctantly decided to move our base to Be’er Sheva. The reservation was made and then I re-jigged the timetable for the program making sure that all the places that we were planning to go to could still be visited. This all took place over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the trip. It placed a lot of pressure on all of us but we managed with the help of Gill to do it.

On Tuesday Daniella and I travelled down to Be’er Sheva in beautiful warm sunshine. This was in contrast to the previous days that had been cold and cloudy particularly in Jerusalem. We arrived at the hotel and met Shimon. Later Lionel arrived and we rehearsed for while. It was great to see them both and it was good to be back! In the evening, Avelyn and Sid, Peter and Judith, Mark, David G, Lionel and Natalie, went to eat. I then waited up for the coach to arrive.

Wednesday 6th March


The coach eventually turned up an hour late at 12.35am. This was because the plane had been delayed. It was lovely to see everyone. Despite the situation in Israel everyone was here and no one has pulled out. Kol Hakavod. Unfortunately, Maurice and Linda Black are unable to come as Maurice’s brother Simon had taken a turn for the worse. Simon unfortunately died the following day.

There was an early start in the morning for shacharit and then breakfast. After this we all gathered together for a security briefing. In all of our missions to Israel this has never been necessary but as Gill spoke it was abundantly clear that on this mission our security guard’s role was going to be of even greater importance than before and there had to be proper procedures in place in case of any alerts. Gill told us exactly what was required of us in the case of an emergency. I found this all very difficult and I felt the responsibility of the group was weighing down hard on me. This coupled with all the additional stress over the days beforehand (and all the other pressures of the mission) made it very difficult for me to speak. I had things to say but after welcoming Syma and Henry and wishing Marc well I was unable to speak to the group. I told the group that we were here for an important purpose “just go safely and do the job”.

We got on the coach in beautiful hazy sunshine off on our first stop and the real beginning of Solidarity though Song 2008. Our 5th mission to Israel.

The first stop was Aleh Negev in Ofakim in the Negev. Aleh Negev is a home for some of the most severely disabled children in Israel partly funded by the JNF in the UK. More about how it was set up in a little later. This visit had been arranged with the help of Simon Winters and Sarah in Israel. The village aims to look after everyone from childhood until 120. There are approximately two members of staff for each child. We arrived and went straight into the hall where the children were. This was a hard start to the tour for the group as these children have major disabilities. Aleh insures that their children are cared for as much as possible. We set up and began to sing. It was as if we had never been away. Bashana started the tour and in the end it was the one and only time that it was sung. We have moved on; learnt new music and now do not rely so heavily on the old music. Within a song or two those who could were dancing and clapping and joining in whatever way they could. How does it happen? How is it that we were told (not for the first time but certainly the first time on this mission) that we had managed to get the children to do things that they do not normally do? To dance; to sing: to smile; and to clap. It was very special and humbling to be told this. It would not be the only time that we would hear this on this mission.

After the concert we were introduced to “the General”. Major General Doron Almog the Chairman and inspiration behind Aleh. Almog, the first Israeli soldier into Entebee, a veteran of Gaza and who is not allowed into the UK for the risk of being arrested as a war criminal!! Almog who’s son Eran was named after his brother who was killed in the Yom Kippur War; a son who was never able to speak to his father because of his disabilities. We were entranced by what this amazing man had to say about his life; about Aleh and about his son. He told us that although he never heard his son speak “not even Aba but Eran was the greatest professor of life that I will ever have. He taught me more about life than I will ever learn elsewhere”. We were all visibly moved by this special man. After this we were taken around Aleh to see the fantastic facilities and then offered lunch. This had been an extremely hard start to our mission but what a start.

From Aleh we travelled to Even Shmuel to visit Neve Landy a home run and funded by British Emunah for children who are very disturbed and have nowhere else to go. Judy Cohen, Judith Sheldon and Daphne Kaufman had been instrumental in putting the concert together.

The aim of Neve Landy is to ensure that the children can eventually lead a normal life if at all possible and be rehabilitated back into society. Most of the children are on medication to keep them calm. We were told that (unlike Aleh) whilst most of the children look normal there are serious underlying factors and without the medication and love shown to them there would be a completely different story to tell.

We davened Minchah and then the concert began. It was very typically Solidarity through Song at its best and soon some of the children were dancing and on people’s shoulder. However there was one 8 year old boy in particular that stole our hearts and the show. After a couple of songs he got up to conduct the choir and he did so very well. He proved to be a brilliant conductor. We later found out that this young lad had no parents and that he had been taken in by his Auntie who had then abandoned him. He had no one in the world other than his friends in Neve Landy. We will always remember the lovely cheeky smile on his face and how he became choir master for a day. As we were leaving we were told once again how we had managed to capture the children’s attention in a way that was relatively unique to Neve Landy.

Oseh Shalom was premiered here. It went down really well. It was a good start to a song that would take on a new dimension as the week went on.

After Neve Landy we were back on the coach to Be’er Sheva and for us to have a little rest and to get changed for the evening.

Our journey to Kibbutz Sa’ad was thank G-d uneventful. Sa’ad is only a few kilometres from the boarder with Gaza and regularly comes under attack from rockets fired from Gaza. We went straight to the dining hall to eat. No sooner were we in there when there was a red alert. We had been told what to do in the event of a red alert but this was for real. However, we were in a reinforced building. We were told to get away from the windows and then the “boom”. We found out later that the rocket landed 5 minutes down the road in Kibbutz Alumim in the chicken area! Apart from a lot of very frightened chickens thank G-d no one was hurt. People would soon be making their way from Alumim to Sa’ad for the concert and they could well have been injured. A touch of the reality of living in the Western Negev.

The concert was due to begin and 8.30 and by then only a few had arrived. But within 15 minutes the hall had filled and we gave a really good concert. It was a bit of a slow start (partly due to my program!) but after that it took off and the concert was a great success. We had a wonderful evening and by the end it was an extremely well received concert. Thanks to David Jackson for arranging the evening.

The journey back was also uneventful. We had some tea and a cake at the hotel and then it was time for bed.

Day 1 of the mission had been extremely successful. Often the first day is slow with the group getting to know each other but I think we know each other well enough now and by the end of the day there was already a lovely feeling within the group.


Thursday 6th March

There was an early start this morning with shacharit and breakfast. We were then off to the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva. This is the biggest hospital in the area and serves the whole of the Western Negev. We were met by Professor Glick who together with Inbar Gutter had helped to arrange this visit. The concert started with the a few people listening and by the end all chairs were taken with patients, doctors nurses and hospital staff. During the performance soldiers arrived from Gaza. One was very seriously injured and had to have his leg amputated. Unfortunately, we found out later in the week that this soldier had lost his life. How terribly sad.

After the concert we split into three groups and went to sing round the wards. This was very moving and the whole visit to Soroka was very successful. The ward visits was followed by a short film and at 10.30 we were back on the coaches heading for Sderot. Before we left some of the group would hear the cries of a Bedouin lady outside the hospital. We were told that her son who had been working as a tracker for the IDF had been killed in Gaza and she had just found out. We were also told that the hospital was expecting patients to arrive from Gaza later that day. The intensive care units in Gaza were unable to cope with the number of desperately ill patients and they were being transferred to Soroka. This is neither the time nor the place for politics but why does the world not want to hear this news?

There had already been a lot of talk about our visit to Sderot and in particular worries about the safety of the group. However, whilst there may have been worries this was all outweighed by the sheer desire of the group to go to Sderot to perform and to bring cheer. This had become a central reason for the mission and the importance of the visit could not underestimated. As we left on the coach Gill brought us back to reality by reminding us of the instructions we were to follow in the event of a red alert.

Our journey to Sderot was thank G-d uneventful and we arrived at the newly built community centre. A wonderful concert hall built with reinforced steel and concrete. The safest place in Sderot! As we entered the town we saw the blocks of reinforced concrete on the side of the road. These act as temporary safe havens in the event of a red alert. They are built in a maze formation so that if there a rocket attack there is less risk of shrapnel entering the shelter.

We were met by Avi Suleimany. The visit had been arranged by Avram Kalman and coordinated by Avi. The concert started with a performance by Pirchei Sderot which was very sweet. We then followed with our concert. This was the first time for a long time that children had been allowed to congregate together. There must have been 200 people in the hall. We started our program with Tsur Mish’lo. We had to win this audience over straight away otherwise all would be lost! During the performance I asked Avi if we could come down from the stage and dance. At first he did not like the idea and then he relented and said that we could come and dance in the front. Well you try stopping the choir from dancing? After a few minutes the choir and the children were dancing round the hall to Shimon’s “Shalom Aleichem”. It was just amazing. The children came in all different shapes and sizes and backgrounds. It was a really special sight to see and when we sang Oseh Shalom incredibly moving. Avi had told me that if we are able to keep the children’s attention for 30 minutes then we would be doing very well. Well the concert lasted for over an hour. Where would we be without Lionel’s incredible rapport with the audience? It is does not matter what age the audience is, Lionel has that ability to win his audience from the moment he is on stage. This was what we had come to Sderot for and like all of these things; I know we gained as much out of that hour as the children did, if not more!

After a quick lunch we were back on the coach heading for the police station. Eli Ovitz acted as our tour guide and he had been responsible for putting this part of the day together. As we were getting off the coach there was a red alert. When this happens you have 15 seconds to get to somewhere safe. We were herded into the police station and no sooner had the last person come in when there was the boom of the rocket landing. People were quite upset by this and it was a scary episode. But this is life in Sderot and at times there have been 40 of these rockets landing daily. A few minutes after the red alert was over we went outside into the courtyard of the police station to be given a briefing by Mickey Rosenfeld (a cousin of Lionel) on the current situation in Sderot. Over 7,000 rockets have landed on Sderot alone. In the courtyard are the last 500 to have been sent over. All marked and dated. Mickey told us about the Qassam rockets and the new Grad rockets capable of reaching up to 25 kilometres. It is the Grads that are now reaching Ashkelon.

After the briefing we were back on the coach and we were taken to the house that had been hit by the Qassam. Thank G-d no one was home and therefore there were no injuries. The house was 400 meters away from the police station and the Qasaam and gone through the roof of the house and destroyed the side of the house. What was strange for us and really surreal was that only 20 minutes after a red alert we were at the house which had been hit, walking around as if nothing had happened. But that is life in Sderot. How do you live with this hour by hour day by day? One of the saddest statistics we heard from Eli was that around 50% of the adults in Sderot suffer from some sort of trauma. This figure rises to 70% in children.

Back on the coach and we were taken to the house of Moshe Abucassis. Moshe has made a shrine in memory of his daughter Ela who was killed in a rocket attack. She was only 17, a madricha for Bnei Akiva and died saving her little brother from the attack. She lay on top of him to protect him during the attack. Both were injured but Ela died and her brother survived. It was a beautiful memorial to a beautiful young girl. But the sadness in Moshe’s eyes was beyond description and in fact this memorial had a tremendous affect on the group. We davened minchah and I think there was some expectation that we would sing. But we just could not sing. A combination of events that day and now Ela’s memorial made it impossible for us to do justice and we decided (whether for the right or wrong reasons) to return to the coach without singing. I think it was the right thing to do. At this point the group split. The choir went straight to Ashdod and the rest of the group returned to Be’er Sheva.

Our journey to Ashdod did not take too long and we arrived at the Yad Lebanim concert hall. A wonderful concert hall seating 400 people. We were giving the concert in aid of the new Ashdod Medical Centre which is in the process of being built. The concert would start with a performance by the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra followed by our concert. I had spoken to Musical Director of the orchestra previously and I had sent the music to Bilvavi to the orchestra for it to be arranged. The choir Lionel and Shimon rehearsed Bilvavi. This was an extremely strange yet fantastic experience for me, personally. To have my piece performed by an orchestra was something I could never have imagined. Lionel, Shimon and Jonny also practiced Adon Olam with the orchestra. We had something to eat and the choir then had sound checks.

Whilst we were in Sderot there was a camera crew from Los Angeles making a film about music in Sdeort. They also came to the concert in Ashdod and Shimon Lionel and others gave interviews for the film. I also gave an interview for Ironit a local web based TV station.

The hall was packed and Kol hakavod to the organisers Julian Millet, Ayelet Mor and Rachel Grunbaum. The second coach from Be’er Sheva arrived a little late (with the Chief Rabbi) and when it arrived the concert began. Bilvavi was amazing and whilst I played the piano for Lionel’s introduction I was able to sit back and enjoy the performance in its full glory.

The concert went really well but around about half way through there was an announcement that terrorist gunmen had entered Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem and had murdered and maimed people. This was devastating news. What should we do? The concert went on with Jonny and Eli singing an inspired Tal. The words “l’chaim v’lo lamavet” ringing only too true. The concert ended with Oseh Shalom with scarves waiving and people swaying and finally shehecheyanu and a standing ovation. It was an incredible evening if not a very hard concert. One of the pieces which has been a real hit this time has been Shimon’s “When you Believe” and tonight this had more resonance then ever.

After the concert we had a long journey back to Be’er Sheva. Eli did not waste any time in starting the singing on the coach back. This was reminiscent of the journey back from Shlomi to Lavi last year. Except this year we had the news that 8 boys had been killed that evening in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav and that 6 were seriously injured. What a day it has been today! In the words of Shimon’s song at Sderot Boachem L’shalom ul’tsets’chem l’shalom. It is a shame that our neighbours do not think similarly.

Friday 7th March

After yesterday it was hard to get up this morning but once again it is a very hot and sunny day. It is Rosh Chodesh so there was a longer than normal shacharit and then breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and got on the coach for Ashkelon. We were visiting the Chazon Yeshaya thanks to Avi Peso the Director in Ashkelon. Chazon Yeshaya is a soup kitchen in Ashkelon-an amazing facility providing hot meals for those in need and today because it was Friday a meal for over Shabbat. The poor do not fit into one particular category of people so it was a real eclectic mix. The good news was that many of them spoke Yiddish the bad news was that it was the perfect arena for the Yiddish medley! The concert took place outside in temperatures approaching 30 degrees! We were told that unfortunately they could not bring the 50 children from the schools along to the concert for in the event of a rocket attack there was no safe place nearby for them!!! That boosted everyone’s confidence! However, it was a fantastic experience and the audience really took us to heart as we did them and many were dancing and singing and hopefully understanding our own special brand of Yiddish song! It was a real privilege to do this concert and it was yet another highlight of the tour. As it was the Chief Rabbi’s birthday the following day, a cake was presented to him. In a supreme gesture the Chief Rabbi cut up the cake and during the concert took it round to those in the audience. The concert was followed by lunch (the first fleishig in three days!!!) and then on the coach to Ashdod for a photo call at the hospital building site.

As we arrived in Ashdod we saw something that we had not seen the day before and that was two huge billboards welcoming the Shabbaton Choir to Ashdod. We had a photo taken under one of the bill boards and then we were taken to the building site. Had this been England we would have all been issued with hard hats and there would have been safety advice given. But this is Israel where neither was offered nor given and having climbed over the rubble and along what seemed a very precarious bridge we arrived in the shell of the building for a little reception. The Chief Rabbi was given the freedom of the city and we were presented with gifts. Unfortunately, the Mayor and the Chief Rabbi had to leave early as they had to attend the levaya of one of the boys from Ashdod who had been murdered in the Merkaz Harav shooting. Wherever you go in Israel you are never far from reality!

It was then quite an arduous journey onto Herzlyia. The annual question “with or without” (ties and jackets/ties or jackets!!) reared its ugly head during this journey. As a democratic organisation President Sheldon suggested that it is put to the ballot. The jackets had it (but without ties)!! We eventually arrived and many of John Corre’s group were already there. Daniella’s Mum and Dad had arrived from Jerusalem earlier in the week. John and Tabi Corre have once again arranged the Shabbat program and have invited guests to join us over Shabbat. This is by far the largest number that we have had to cater for over shababt with around 300 joining us for dinner.

We got ready for Shabbat and then at 4.30 the choir went (with jackets!) to the shul to “warm up”. This is the one rehearsal that I dread as it is always difficult. This mission was no exception. However, the real thing was brilliant. Kabalat Shabbat and Maariv were lead by Lionel and he and the choir were on top form. The JFS Lavi Tesha students were in shul as were the Tribe gap year students. I went over to the Lavi Tesha students and immediately realised that this was no ordinary group. They were really lively and very excited to be with us. They had been taught Oseh Shalom and were looking forward to their first live performance. I was not wrong about Lavi Tesha and they together with the Tribe Tilt students proved to be absolutely brilliant over the weekend.

The dinner went really well and I thought I should see if Lavi Tesha could sing Oseh Shalom without rehearsing. So we gathered everyone together and despite the noise in the room (300 were having dinner) the combined voices of Jonny, Shimon, Shabbaton and Lavi Tesha gave the premier of Oseh Shalom. It was phenomenal. I had, had the idea of Oseh Shalom towards the end of last year. I could hear what it sounded like in my mind. However, it was only when I eventually heard it for real did I know that it did actually work. It was a very special moment. Later we danced and sang more. Despite what had taken place in Jerusalem less than 24 hours before we were able to bring Shabbat in, in a big way. It was a real oneg Shabbat and an amazing atmosphere.

The brains trust followed with Simon Hochhauser as Chairman. The panel were the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Cardozo, Yehuda Avner, Michael Fox and Mark Mays. It was good although we were all very tired. Last year at this time we had our own oneg. This year it did not materialise. I think we felt subconsciously that given our experiences of the previous few days and the tragic events in Jerusalem that it was not wholly appropriate. We therefore left this to another time and place.

Shabbat 8th March

If Erev Shabbat is the hardest rehearsal then Shabbat morning is the hardest time for the choir to begin to sing and this year was no exception. Shimon davened Shacharit and a very beautiful Hallel. The choir sang the new arrangement of Ein K’erk’cha with Eli taking the solo. In Hallel after a very moving “Lo Amut” from Shimon we sang Pitchu Li. Lionel leined wonderfully and after breakfast Jonny davened Musaf and sang a lovely k’dusha with Eli. At lunch we sang and danced again and the combined voices of Shabbaton and Lavi Tesha together with Jonny, Shimon and Lionel gave another rendition of Oseh Shalom.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon. There were talks provided for those who wanted to go but many took the opportunity to get a few hours sleep or go for a walk on the beach. Minchah followed and then a lovely seuda sh’lishit led by the Chief Rabbi. Once again it was not long enough but while it lasted it was great. Maariv was followed by havdalah from Shimon.

It was then a quick change and onto the coach for our visit to Bet Protea a Bet Avot in Herzlyia arranged for us by Lyn Bach. This was once again a lovely concert and very well received by the audience. We combined the concert with the normal dancing and clapping. We then left for Netanya and a meal at Mini Golf. Whilst I thought the meal started quite subdued (except for one table that shall remain nameless…) the evening livened up when Simon and Russell and then (Dr) Simon, Russell and Peter did some sketches. Then Avelyn had written two songs one to Tsur Mish’lo and the other to Yigal and we then sang these songs. The evening ended with the now customary thanks. We arrived back at the hotel for 12.45 and we then had to pack ready for the early check – in, in the morning.

Sunday 9th March

So the last day of Solidarity through Song 2008. The early check in of cases at the hotel worked very well. We davened and had breakfast and we were soon on our way to Jerusalem despite quite heavy traffic. We arrived in good time where there was general pandemonium at the Mulhahar restaurant with everyone getting ready for the launch of “60 days for 60 years” a book which offers an essay each day leading up to Yom Ha’atsmaut. The 60 days project is a fantastic achievement of Tribe and all those involved. Kol Hakavod to Charlotte Klein, Dina Brawer, David Kaplan and Rabbi Shaw for all their hard work and for allowing us to be part of the launch.

The tekes started with a few words from Rabbi Andrew Shaw and Marjorie Ziff. The Chief Rabbi spoke wonderfully about the project. Frank in a somewhat “hoarse” voice spoke very movingly about Solidarity through Song. For our part we sang Bilvavi (Yoni Jesners’s dad was in the audience. I spoke with him afterwards and explained how we continue to sing the song and tell the story. He was much moved and told me how much the song means to him and how he has sent the CD to people all over the world). We also sang When you Believe, Shimon sang Od Yavo Shalom Aleynu and we all sang Oseh Shalom. This was sung by the choir, Lavi Tesha, Jonny and Shimon and by the end of it everyone in the room on their feet singing the song. For me this was a crowning moment. This meant more to me in musical terms than almost anything. It was a very special moment.

We then had a very quick lunch and we were back on the coach for the short journey to Yeshivat Hakotel. When we originally arranged this it was on the back of last year’s visit by Rabbi Roni to Lavi. Rabbi Roni who had helped Lionel with his S’micha had asked us to come to the yeshiva. (Rabbi Roni and his family were to have been with us for Shabbat but instead had to attend the levayot of the boys murdered on Thursday evening). We had therefore arranged that the final moments of the tour would be spent at Yeshivay Hakotel. No one could have anticipated that the visit would have even more poignancy following the killing of the son of the Mashgiach of the yeshiva on Thursday evening.

We therefore, decided that instead of a celebratory minchah we would keep it to Shomeir Yisrael and B’rogez. We went up onto the roof of the yeshiva overlooking the Old City. It was very hot with hazy sunshine. The Chief Rabbi spoke to the boys and then offered some words of encouragement to the choir. He left to visit the mashgiach sitting shiva. We were about to begin minchah when we were asked by some of the boys if we were going to sing the “Chief Rabbi’s Ashrei”. We said that we did not think it appropriate given the circumstances. How wrong we were. The boys said that everyone knows it from the Chief Rabbi’s CD and we had to sing it. So we did. We also sang Shomeir Yisrael with tears running down our faces. When it came to Brogez Eli felt it better that he did not sing. It is worth mentioning how amazing Eli had been during the mission. Some of what we had seen and been through is hard enough for adults to cope with let alone a 12 year old boy. Eli is the life and soul of the party. It is lovely to have him a round and he has a beautiful voice and a very special talent. But at this time Eli’s thoughts were elsewhere hardly surprising given what he had been through over the last few days.

We left the roof and made our way down to the coach which was waiting at Sha’ar Ha’ashpot. We unfortunately did not have time to go down to the Kotel but we stopped on the way down and sang two tehilim. The first was Esa Einiy and the second Mizmor L’avid Pslam 23. We then said goodbye to those people not going to the airport and it was back onto the coach for the final time bringing Solidarity through Song 2008 to an end.

Finally

I remain in awe of the power of Solidarity through Song. We are all incredibly lucky people to be a part of it. I firmly believe, like the General, that we can learn so much from so many people and that by benefiting them we can benefit ourselves. What we will never know is the extent by which people do actually benefit!

There are two questions that I have been asked. The first is whether this mission was the best ever? This is now an unfair question because each mission has been the best in some way. This was certainly the most emotional of all the missions.

The second question is will there be another mission? The honest answer is I don’t know but I do hope so.

Stephen Levey
25th March 2008