A famous Israeli band made up of musicians with disabilities has led the latest collaboration between Israeli and Emirati artists celebrating the nations’ normalization deal, signed last year.
The 31st anniversary of The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, better known as Shalva, was the focus of the recently-held annual gala event of the American Friends of Shalva.
The Shalva Band, accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, performed a unique virtual duet of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — featuring Hebrew and Arabic lyrics — with singer Tareq Al Menhali from the United Arab Emirates. The celebration was held under the theme “Building Bridges to the Future.”
The guest speaker was Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the United States. “It is an honor to participate in the American Friends of Shalva’s 31st anniversary event,” he said.
“The United Arab Emirates shares Shalva’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In the UAE, those with intellectual disabilities or special needs are referred to as people of determination, in recognition of their achievements across different fields. The collaboration to create the special rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ demonstrates how we must all continue to work together — regardless of nationality, religion or culture — to promote positive social change and foster more inclusive societies,” added Al Otaiba.
The Shalva Band includes eight musicians with disabilities, and gained much of its fame when it was in contention for possibly representing Israel in the Eurovision song contest. The band withdrew from the contest due to worries that its members would have to violate the Sabbath as part of the contest.
According to Shalva, the organization has already begun actively working together with their UAE counterparts with the goal of advancing the field of disability-care across the region.
Shalva said “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was chosen to be the anthem for its uplifting message. The combination of Hebrew, Arabic, and English was intended to send a powerful message of unity, peace and cooperation. The verses in Hebrew were sung by the Shalva Band, and the Arabic verses were sung by Emirati singer Al Menhali.
Shalva’s founder and president, Kalman Samuels, said of the event: “We have chosen ‘Building Bridges to the Future’ as the theme for our 31st Anniversary Celebration to reflect the way in which Shalva is inspiring a more inclusive society, building bridges between individuals with disabilities and their broader community with a particular focus on our newly developing relationships in the Arab world as part of the Abraham Accords.”
Shalva’s Global Chairman Avi Samuels said: “This special cover version has been prepared, we believe for the very first time, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic to represent the coming together of our respective countries and the optimism we share that with love, understanding and co-operation we will make the world a better place.”