I hear you call my name

Families of hostages sing Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ for their release

Clip of pop singer’s 1989 song is recorded in Israel, more sections to be made around the world then compiled in musical plea for captives to be freed

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of family members of captives held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip recording a version of the song 'Like a Prayer,' November 6, 2023. (X. used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of family members of captives held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip recording a version of the song 'Like a Prayer,' November 6, 2023. (X. used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Families members of the hundreds of hostages held captive by terror groups in the Gaza Strip joined their voices to sing a version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” as part of an international musical campaign to have their loved ones set free.

The project was organized by the Koolulam group, which uses music to promote social issues. The plan will see multiple accompanying clips of the hit song recorded around the world and then compiled into a single video.

Hundreds of family members gathered at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre on Monday to record the Israel clip.

A new arrangement of the song, which has rock and gospel themes and was released by Madonna in 1989, was put together by Koolulam conductor Ben Yefet.

A short clip of the event was shared on social media.

With a choir on the stage, family members stood in the audience section singing the lyrics that, with their new interpretation, took on haunting meaning.

“I hear you call my name
and it feels like home
I hear your voice
it’s like an angel sighing
I have no choice
I hear your voice
It feels like flying
I close my eyes
Oh God I think I’m falling
out of the sky
I close my eyes
heaven help me”

The chorus of the song then follows:

“When you call my name
its like a little prayer
I’m down on my knees
I wanna take you there
In the midnight hour, I can feel your power
Just like a prayer, you know I’ll take you there”

On October 7, the Hamas terror group attacked Israel with over 3,000 gunmen, who burst through the border with the Gaza Strip, murderously rampaging through southern communities, where they slaughtered over 1,400 people, the vast majority civilians.

The terrorists also abducted some 240 men, women and children — from the elderly to babies — and dragged them back to Gaza as captives.

Koolulam said in a statement, “We connected with the families of the abductees and together with them we want to do what we know best, which is to sing together and create a human harmony that asks the whole world to stand under a clear message: return the innocent citizens, children and elderly to the empty beds in their homes.”

Participating conductors from, among other locations, the United States, Japan, China, England, Ukraine, Chile, Germany, and the Netherlands, “mobilized at record speed to record with us a new arrangement of a song by Madonna, who is known for her love and sympathy for the State of Israel.”

The conductors have been tasked with teaching the new version of the song to their local communities, “whether it’s from synagogues, churches, mosques, orchestras around the world,” Koolalum said.

Uniform filming instructions have been put together for other groups that will record segments for the final video.

Jewish communities and Israel supporters around the world have spontaneously acted to raise awareness of the hostages, putting up posters in their home cities and organizing rallies to demand the captives be released.

One of the hardest hit communities in the Hamas attack was Kibbutz Be’eri. Two years ago, Be’eri marked 75 years since its founding and celebrated the event by doing a song with Koolulam.

Madonna, who unofficially added “Esther” to her name in 2005, marks some Jewish festivals though she isn’t Jewish. The singer, 65, does not perform on Friday nights and Saturdays because of Shabbat and has declared Israel “the energy center of the world.”

Madonna owns a home in Tel Aviv. She has performed three concerts in the country.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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