Each year when my kids go to camp I follow their activities through various communications platforms. Their camp, Camp Ramah in New England, posts pictures each day, has a blog with short updates on various activities and keeps everyone up to date on multiple social media channels. Unlike my parents who had to wait for a letter to know what was happening, I have a pretty full picture of what my kids are doing.
One of the things I love about these updates is that I often am introduced to something new about Judaism or Israel. This summer, as I was reading about my daughter’s tefillot (prayers) one morning, I read that her age group was taught a song by the Israeli pop musician Idan Raichel. Its not part of the traditional liturgy, but fits in with the themes of our prayers.
Helpfully, the camp posted a link to the video of the song on YouTube so I was able to listen to it myself. I discovered that the piece, “Shevet Achim veAchayot”, “A Tribe of Brothers and Sisters” is the Israeli answer to “We are the World”, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985 and performed by some of the biggest names in pop music to support famine relief in Africa.
“A Tribe of Brothers and Sisters”, with words by Doron Medalie and music by Raichel, was created by Israel’s Army Radio as a show of unity for Independence Day and is performed by over 30 of the country’s most popular musicians from many different backgrounds. It even includes the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, reciting, rather than singing, the chorus:
This is my home, this is my heart
And I will not leave
Our ancestors, our roots
We are the flowers, the melodies
A tribe of brothers and sisters
The beautiful message of the song, that we are all one people, with one land, is reinforced by the diversity of the singers performing it. In the video, each artist holds their own camera in front of themselves like a selfie, with different Israeli locations in the background.
The name of the song may be familiar, since their is already a beloved folk song called “Hinei Mah Tov” which includes the phrase shevet achim, “a tribe of brothers”, taken from the first line of Psalm 133: “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.” Medalie and Raichel update the verse for the 21st century, to include both brothers and sisters.
Given all of the division in Israel and among Jews, between left and right, secular and religious, liberal and Orthodox, Ashkenazi and Sefardi, Israeli and Diaspora, I am glad that Camp Ramah is teaching the important value of unity. We don’t have to agree on ideology or religion, but we can come together to sing a beautiful song.