Last week we told you about the story of the Shalva Band that is made up of mostly young adults with special needs. They won their semifinal and have reached the finals of the Israeli singing competition this week, on its quest to represent the Jewish state in the Eurovision Song Contest this year.
However, the band faces a Daniel-like conundrum: Many of the band members are religiously observant Jews yet the Eurovision schedule requires rehearsals on Shabbat. The band has not publicly commented. Daniel would not eat foods or drink wine that was consecrated to Babylonian Gods. He took a stand and God blessed him. And of course, I can’t help think of Chariots of Fire:
At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favored 100 meters because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 meters held on a weekday, a race that he won. He returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945.
A rabbi once remarked about Sandy Koufax, who refused to pitch in the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, “More Jews know Sandy Koufax than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” An exaggeration for sure, but his point was that history remembers those who take a bold stand.
Four artists, including Shalva, are scheduled to compete in the finals of Kochav Haba, Rising Star, on Saturday night.
The Shalva band singing: “Here Comes the Sun”
“I strongly urge you, true to the spirit we all believe in, to reconsider an exception to your rule and to enable the Shalva Band, if it wins the local contest, to participate according to their freedom of conscience and without violating their most sacred religious practices,” Regev wrote. “The question at stake is not hypothetical but is rather a matter of principle, underlying the very foundations of equal opportunity and true acceptance of the concept of diversity that the Eurovision Song Contest proudly symbolizes.”
She said she is concerned that the rigid rules would forever prevent “observant Jews, in Israel and elsewhere, from ever participating in the Eurovision Song Contest.” Not making an exception is opposite of the “inclusive democratic spirit, which has made the Eurovision Song Contest such a powerful cultural phenomenon worldwide.
“All members of the Shalva Band are extremely talented people with special needs and complex disabilities, who have thrived and excelled in bringing their special and most gifted voices to an ever-larger audiences while exemplifying the great values of equality, human dignity and diversity,” Regev continued.
There is even an online petition in Hebrew, asking Eurovision to accommodate the group.
The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Tel Aviv this year because Israel won the contest last year.
WAIT, BREAKING NEWS!
UPDATE: Just before posting, the Israeli news reported that the Shalva Band has dropped out of the competition, not wanting to spoil the chances of other performers. You can read more here. This is very sad, as the band had won the hearts of all Israel and may have won the hearts of the world through Eurovision.
WAIT, BETTER BREAKING NEWS!
UPDATE #2: Now KAN, the Israeli channel that will televise Eurovision has invited Shalva to perform during Eurovision—before the whole world! A spokesman for KAN said,
– The slogan for Eurovision is “Dare To Dream” and Shalva dared to dream and KAN is happy that we can help fulfil their dream.
Amazingly, had they not taken their stand for Shabbat and lost the lead up competition, that would have been the end of the story. Because they honored the God of the Sabbath, He has honored them and given them a platform to share their story with the world! Praise God!