Hundreds of Oregonians recently were treated to a performance that most people have to join the Israeli Defense Forces to see.
In honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) four IDF Band members came to Portland to “bring a piece of Israel to communities in the U.S. and give them a stronger connection to Israel,” explains band member Coral Malka.
The event did just that for one Portland family.
“The Yom Ha’atzmaut event allowed me to share the Jewish culture with my wife and son,” said Ben Weinberg. “Seeing the Jewish community come together in celebration of Israel’s 64th birthday was a truly fulfilling experience for me as it reminded me of my time living in Israel some years ago. My wife and I especially enjoyed the authentic dinner menu and the performance by the Israeli soldiers. Our son, who is nearly 3, had great fun playing with the other children and practicing his moves during the dance tutorial in the gym.”
Coral Malka, Noy Ben Shabbat, Maor Torgeman and Sasi Natan, with Commander Dganit Finkelstein and soundman Omer Israeli, were in the states for eight days performing in Oregon, Ohio and Wisconsin. In Portland, the quartet performed at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center on Yom Hazikaron (memorial day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut, as well as performing for and meeting with students at Portland Jewish Academy. About 600 people turned out for the Independence Day celebration.
“We were looking to bring an artist to Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration that not only would sing Israeli songs, but would really engage the audience and create a festive event,” said Amos Meron, Portland’s Israeli shaliach (emissary). “Having this group coming here to Portland for our event, with their uniform, representing Israel, couldn’t be a better fit. They were wonderful, full with glee, simply awesome. We were truly lucky for having them here in Portland.”
Coral and Noy are childhood friends who auditioned for and were accepted into the same IDF band. Maor and Sasi belong to different band, but spent the month before the U.S. tour creating a show with the two women for audiences here.
Quite a change from their usual gigs.
“We perform for the morale of the soldiers,” explains Coral of their more typical performances. “Sometimes we go to places that due to the security situation the soldiers can’t go off base. So morale is down. We go and sing for them.”
Adding they also teach Isreali history, Maor agrees: “We believe morale of soldiers is important and they need to know why they are fighting for their country. We entertain and give culture.”
The band is important, says Sasi: “A friend of the family told me how important this job is. We entertain very important units and perform for soldiers who can’t go out for two to three weeks. It make me happy to give them joy.”
When they visited PJA students, many asked if all Israelis must go into the army. “We have to stay in the Army; it’s our duty,” Noy says she told them. “Many of the kids told us with pride they were born in Israel or had visited Israel.”
While all of the PJA students spoke some Hebrew, Coral says she was very impressed with the eighth-graders, who recently returned from a class trip to Israel: “They speak pretty good Hebrew.”