When Sara Merson came from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to live and volunteer as an English teacher in Ashdod a year ago, she had no idea she would end up on the televised singing competition show “The Voice.” She also had not expected to be terrorized by Hamas rockets.
To deal with her Operation Protective Edge-induced anxiety and inform about what is happening in Israel, Merson put together a video of herself in a bomb shelter singing Matisyahu’s international hit song “One Day.” The video includes footage of her boyfriend Sagi Hassin’s family taking cover as the air raid siren sounds, as well as clips from news broadcasts showing the damage caused by rockets that landed in her city.
“This video has nothing to do with my being on ‘The Voice,’ Merson, 22, told The Times of Israel. “I was seeing so many anti-Israel comments and so much misinformation on social media, and it made me want to do something. I was mad, so I made the video,” she explained.
“This is the reality of what’s going on here… Over 1,000 rockets have been sent to Israel from Hamas in Gaza. Even after the ‘cease fire,’ Hamas continued to send rockets our way. We are fortunate here to have the Iron Dome anti-missile system to intercept some of them, but without it, these rockets would land in heavily populated civilian areas and many would be killed,” she wrote in the video’s description on YouTube.
“The Israeli government and the IDF are doing all they can to protect its citizens from the barrage of rockets coming from Gaza. I have faith in this country, its military, and its people.”
Merson chose “One Day” because she thought its lyrics about hoping for peace were fitting and reflected her own thoughts and emotions.
“Sagi played guitar and we recorded the song in one take in our apartment. Then we went down to the bomb shelter beneath the house and filmed the video,” she said.
Since the beginning of the operation Merson runs to the shelter several times daily. She had what she characterized as a “mini-panic attack” when the first sirens sounded, but she has managed to stay relatively calm since.
Staying in touch with her family back in the US has helped.
“I have asked my dad to call me once a day, and my brother checks in with me on Facebook,” she said. “My mom passed away a couple of years ago. I know that if she were still alive, she’d be freaking out.”
The new season of “The Voice” has been slow to get underway due to the current security situation.
“There have been some delays,” Merson said. However, she is certain that she will be part of the televised competition, because she passed the audition round. Judge Sarit Hadad chose her for her team after hearing her sing “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb. Hadad liked Merson’s voice, but advised her that she needed to add a little “Israeli spice” to it.
Merson first visited Israel a few years ago on a Birthright Israel trip. She followed that trip up with two more visits before arriving in Ashdod last fall to teach in an elementary school.
She has a trip to Asia planned for September and expects she’ll return to Israel after that. “I don’t see myself leaving,” she said.