Besides a few fans in the clergy office, I don’t know how many of you have heard of Shlomo Artzi. He is one of Israel’s most popular and enduring musicians. In his youth he sang songs of being a soldier, in his middle years he sang about love lost and found, and in later years he has sung about peace. Because Israel is smaller and the number of people who can rock out to Hebrew songs more limited, Israelis across the generations have a shared taste for those like Shlomo Artzi, Chava Alberstein and David Broza, even as newer acts like Static & Ben El come and go.
Shlomo Artzi’s parents are both Holocaust survivors. His father was part of the Zionist underground in Romania and his mother survived Auschwitz.
Depending on what a famous musician shares about their origin story we know a little or a lot about their life before they were famous. I have been a huge fan of Shlomo Artzi for decades but only found out in 2013 his parents were survivors of the Holocaust. The story of his parents was all over Israeli press before he was traveling to Berlin. It would be the first time he would perform in Germany. And the first time he would perform on a synagogue bema.
Tonight on our bema we also made a choice to sing Israeli songs. Originally a rock and roll Shabbat, the war in Israel led us to pivot to focus on Israel.
When Artzi was asked the meaning of returning to Europe where his parents had escaped from to perform in a synagogue, he said the following:
“It’s a matter of the connection between the souls and the people,” he said in the interview. “Is there a better place than a synagogue to make that happen? That’s how I look at it.”
That’s how we look at it too. I think the souls Artzi was referring to were the souls that didn’t survive, unlike his parents. On our bema tonight we strive for a connection between souls and people as well. The innocent souls taken on October 7, the hostages whose souls we pray are sustaining them through captivity and the soul of a Jewish nation at war. One of my favorite Shlomo Artzi songs is “Ahavtiha” which you can listen to here.
It means “I love her”. While it’s probably written about a woman, the “her” I think of today is Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel and how much I love her too..