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“Special Needs” Band an verge of winning Israeli Singing Competition

Meanwhile, in the spirit of real inclusion, an Israeli band comprised of musicians with special needs is on track to represent the Jewish state in Eurovision Song Contest 2019. And I know them! Last year we took the Out of Zion team—a TV show we host on GOD TV—to Shalva to interview the founder and director. I met his son who is blind and deaf and was the inspiration for the center many years ago. He communicated completely by someone writing Hebrew letters on his hand. It was amazing! I had a conversation with him that way. In several rounds of performances so far, the Shalva Band has captured the hearts of all of Israel — and is vying for the opportunity to capture the world’s affection as well. The winner of this live talent show will represent Israel in Eurovision, a massive international music competition, set to take place in Tel Aviv in May. Americans are unfamiliar with Eurovision, but in Europe it is HUGE! In its unbelievable run so far! Among other talented Israeli singers, the Shalva Band has reached the quarterfinals of the competition, called The Next Star.

Shalva, the Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, runs programs for children with special needs from birth through young adulthood. Comprised of eight musicians — most with special needs integrated with neuro-typical musicians — the Shalva Band is one of the organization’s many projects and programs offered for children from birth to 21 years old. The band, however, has gotten serious in the last few years, emerging as more than just a “program.”

In addition to their regular jobs, band members are employed by Shalva as musicians and practice several times a week. They have performed regularly with celebrity artists and at events in Israel and other countries. The two lead singers are young women who are blind. The band also has members with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome and autism spectrum challenges.

In a powerful illustration of its talent and diversity, from its first audition the band swept away any notion that their “disabilities” are a gimmick. Several times the band has received the highest marks from audience members and judges alike during the competition. Videos of their performances have gone viral. Eurovision 2019 will be hosted in Israel thanks to the victory of Israeli sensation Netta Barzilai in last year’s competition.


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