This morning during Hallel, I chanted one of the psalms to the tune of Shir LaShalom, the hauntingly beautiful melody that simultaneously captures the tragedy of loss and the stubborn optimism that are both central to the Israeli psyche. The lyrics cry out: “Let the sun rise, light up the morning, though the purest prayers will not bring us back…” to the moment before we lost so many lives fighting for Israel’s independence and continued existence… “so, just sing a song for peace; don’t whisper a prayer. Just sing a song for peace with a loud shout… sing a song for love and not for war.”

Of course, our relationship with this song only deepened after it became Yitzchak Rabin’s rallying cry for peace in the last moments before his assassination. With each loss of life, its words become more and more poignant; with each moment of darkness, its call to love and light become more fervent.

Music has often been the medium that Israelis (and those who love Israel but live in the Diaspora) use to communicate sorrow and joy, desperation and relief. I have always been moved by Israeli composers’ and lyricists’ ability to produce a musical experience that makes me feel so broken and so whole.

This year, to mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, I came across yet another musical offering that makes my soul both weep and exalt: Koolulam’s rendition of Al Kol Eileh. The name “Koolulam” combines two words: kol (voice) and kulam (everyone). When you CLICK to watch the video, you’ll hear a choir of 12,000 voices, you’ll gaze upon a sea of 12,000 faces, each telling their own story of connection with our eternal Promised Land. You’ll see hope and faith, persistence and catharsis. And you’ll see what makes our beloved Israel just so beautiful: after so many centuries, it continues to be the gathering place for our people, as we stand up for our most precious values. Israel provides a vision that pushes us to be our best selves and exemplars to the world. As Israel turns 70, let us find a renewed dedication to these ideals so that we can truly be or lagoyim, a light unto the nations.

I hope to see you over the weekend as we welcome Scholar-in-Residence Natan Sachs, the Director of the Brooking’s Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, D.C., as he leads us in a reflection on how Israelis think about their present and their future. Our celebration will begin tomorrow night with an Israeli-themed musical service and dinner with a lecture on the Four Tribes of the State of Israel. On Shabbat morning, Dr. Sachs will speak on a Strategic View of the Middle East from US and Israeli Perspectives. We will also honor Lillian Pinkus, who just completed her two-year term as President of AIPAC. Following Shabbat lunch, Dr. Sachs will present on Israelis’ Relationship with Solutions to the Peace Process. Click HERE for more information. I look forward to celebrating with you!

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Shira Wallach