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Shalva Band at Hartman: ‘We have Limitations, but We Are Also Like Everyone Else’

Twelve years ago, Shalva came to the Hartman Institute when they were a fledgling band. Their latest performance was a star turn after fulfilling a long-held dream. Watch a video.

Shalva Band at Hartman: ‘We Have Limitations, but We Are Also Like Everyone Else’

Watch a brief video of Shalva performing at Hartman Institute

Shalva Band, which a month ago was on the Eurovision stage in Tel Aviv, performed at the end of year program of the Hartman boys and girls high schools last week, closing a circle they began with us more than a decade ago.

Twelve years ago, Shalva was invited to the Hartman Institute for the first time. Then, they were a fledgling and unknown young band. Their latest performance was a star turn on stage after daring and fulfilling a long-held dream.

The band members, who had various disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome or visual impairments, participated in a fund-raising event for food baskets for the needy. They proved to us that they were made of special material then.

Still, it is doubtful whether any of them dared dream that a little more than a decade later, they would become one of the most well-known and popular bands in Israel, would appear on the Eurovision stage and would inspire millions of viewers in Israel and around the world.

Read an interview with Shalva band members by students from the Midrashiya Girls High School below the video

Video and Hebrew narration by Yoav Friedman. Translation and subtitling by Alan Abbey

Two students from the Midrashiya High School for Girls, Shira Benbaji and Keren Nidam-Orbito, spoke with band members and heard from them about their journey.

How was it to perform on the biggest stage in the world?

Yosef Ovadia (drums): "From my point of view, it was amazing and exciting, a very significant moment in my life. I think we showed something, that we made a great social change."

Guy Maman (keyboards): "Because I do not see very well, I did not understand how big this thing was, but when I clapped my hands, I felt the power and it was amazing."

Did your personal life change after this performance?

An’al Kalifa (Singer): "Already, since we were on the program, “The Next Star of the Eurovision,” people started to identify us on the street, and of course now it is only getting more intense. Before that we were a band that worked and performed abroad, but we were not that famous (in Israel)."

Dina Smata (Singer): "Our daily life has changed, and we are still trying to understand what it looks like …. We can say that we now live in our bus. We get up, get organized, go for a concert and come back at night.

How hard was it for you to decide to leave the competition for Eurovision, because of the potential for desecrating Shabbat (by competing in the finals on Saturday)?

Maman: Our band is composed of people who are at different levels of religious faith. We have ultra-Orthodox, religious men and women, and there is also an atheist like me, and I cannot say that the decision was easy. (But) the band is more important than any Eurovision song.

Kalifa: For me, it was the best decision we have ever made. It was such a difficult decision, but ultimately, we benefited from it. Look at where we are now. Who knows what would have happened if we decided to perform on Shabbat.

Shai Ben-Shushan (musical director): I learned a lot from this decision. In the past, I would make decisions on my own, and in this context, I thought about what could be done. But when I listened to my friends, and especially to An’al, I remembered the importance of Shabbat observance, and I thank her for that.

The prevailing view is that your presence and publicity will cause a change in the attitude toward people with disabilities. Do you think this is true?

Smata: I think it’s true. I think, from what I hear, that we are inspirational and support people with special needs. We have limitations, but we, like everyone else, dream, want, and do. When you see someone with difficulties standing on stage with a smile on his face, fulfilling a dream, I hope and believe that it will spur others.

Maman: I think that parents with disabilities also believe in their children more now.

Kalifa: I also think that it does not end with people with disabilities. When a child tells me that once she was not accepted, and following our message that everyone has to be accepted, they start to love her, that means a lot to me.

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