Stayin' alive

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors gather to sing ode to life

Joined by their descendants, participants perform Ofra Haza’s ‘Chai’ in Jerusalem ahead of remembrance day

Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, held this year on April 12, 600 Holocaust survivors and their families gathered in Jerusalem to sing a song together called “Chai,” the Hebrew word for “life.”

The participants, including survivors and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, learned the words in about an hour before performing together under the direction of Koolulam, a social initiative that organizes mass singing events.

The song was written by Ehud Manor and Avi Toledano and popularized by Ofra Haza as Israel’s entry in the Eurovision contest in 1983. The song includes the lyrics “I’m still alive, and both my eyes still look toward the light, I’ve suffered thorns, and yet borne flowers, ahead are years too numerous to count.”

The event was organized by Koolulam, Jerusalem cultural center Beit Avi Chai and Zikaron Basalon, or “living room memories,” a group that provides a forum for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories to small groups in a personal setting.

The clip has racked up over 650,000 views on Facebook since it was posted on Sunday.

Koolulam is a social initiative that aims to foster unity among Israelis from diverse backgrounds by organizing mass singing events. Its popularity has soared since it kicked off in Tel Aviv in April 2017, with Israelis jumping at the opportunity to come together with dozens, hundreds or thousands of strangers to sing. In under an hour, participants learn a three-part arrangement of a Hebrew or English song, and then perform it for a video to be shared on social media. Views of the videos reach into the hundreds of thousands, and millions in some cases.

The name is a multiple play on the English word “cool,” the Hebrew word kulam (everyone), the Hebrew word kol (voice), and “kululu,” the joyful ululation sound made by some Israelis of North African and Middle Eastern descent at happy occasions like bar mitzvahs and weddings.

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