Sunday, June 22, 2008

Celebrating Israel's 60th in Minsk

I have celebrated many a Yom Haatzmaut in the diaspora before, but this year's was different. Perhaps because of the hardships the Jews of Minsk have endured in their recent history, and because of the relatively limited Jewish outlets here (compared to other diaspora locations where I have lived like Los Angeles and New York), I expected to feel particularly far away from Eretz Yisrael Sheli on Israel's sixtieth. But several events were held by the Minsk Jewish community, which actually brought me very close to Israel in unexpected ways.

First, a benefit concert was organized by several Jewish organizations here, at "Bronx" nightclub, one of Minsk's most popular. The concert featured a Belarusian Rock Band called J:MORS. The band usually sings in Russian in Belarusian, but in honor of Yom Haatzmaut, they added a new language to their repertoire, Hebrew! The band, whose members are not Jewish, but have some friends in Israel, sang the famous Israeli song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," Jerusalem of Gold, by Naomi Shemer.
Take a look at the video below. Vladamir of J:MORS sang from his transliterated song sheet so well that you might forget that you're watching a Belarusian band.

Second, The Israeli Embassy and Israel Cultural Center in Minsk sponsored an Israeli film festival, which began with the showing of one of my favorite Israeli films, "Ha Kochavim Shel Shlomi," or "Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi." This film has the power to emotionally transport you right into Israel, even from Minsk!