A different hail to the chief

Obama gets Israeli kudos, set to song

Israeli musician Gilad Hesseg puts music to the words of abolitionist poet Frances Harper in a tribute to the US president as he starts his second term

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Songwriter and composer Gilad Hesseg has a musical message for US President Barack Obama, and he’s hoping to get it to him in time for his January 21 inauguration.

Hesseg composed a tribute song for Obama set to the lyrics of a poem, “Songs for the People,” by African-American poet and abolitionist Frances E. W. Harper, whose words, he said, express the yearning of both countries for peace and harmony.

“We live here in our little country, and when we talk about politics in our living rooms, I see that friendship with the US is something that’s always there, that people here really appreciate it,” Hesseg said. “I wanted to personally say thank you, because it occurred to me that we never do that.”

Hesseg was already familiar with the Frances Harper poem, having composed music to it for a previous album, but it hadn’t made it in to the final album list. He and his brother, Tommer Hesseg, also a musician, began gathering a group of Israeli musicians, including Adi Cohen, Maya Shavit and the members of the Efroni Choir — an ensemble of girls between the ages of 12 and 18 — to sing the piece.

“It’s hard to believe these words were written so long ago,” he said. “It’s as if it was written yesterday, because it’s so appropriate to where we are now.”

Within a week and a half, the piece was ready, and Hesseg began contacting the Foreign Ministry in the hopes of performing the piece at the US Embassy, and getting the link sent to President Obama in time for his inauguration.

“It’s a symbolic way of saying thank you,” said Hesseg, “to the president and to the whole nation, that supports us.”

Hesseg, the other singers and the Efroni Choir will be performing the song at the US Embassy on Wednesday morning, and the embassy will also be passing on the clip to the White House, in honor of Obama’s swearing-in.

“We’d like to get it to him, so that the American public knows we appreciate what they do for us,” he said.

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