Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi / Flash 90
Jews from the Tribe of Levi perform the Benediction of the Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. September 22, 2021.

Grammy-winning American Christian stars have joined some of the biggest names in Israeli music to record “The Blessing”, a song based on well-known biblical verses, sung in Hebrew and English, as a show of solidarity and to raise awareness about the increase of antisemitism around the world.

The song was released by Passages, a nonprofit organization that brings Christian students on life-changing trips to Israel in a manner similar to that of the Jewish ‘Birthright’ trips, in collaboration with StandWithUs, a non-partisan Israel education and advocacy organization.

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Israeli media has compared it to ‘We Are the World’, a song released in the 80s featuring some of the biggest stars around the world, singing together for a good cause.

Multiple Grammy-winning and Country Music Hall of Fame vocalist and musician Ricky Skaggs, whose Bluegrass music roots eventually expanded into country as well, joined Grammy award winning gospel singer Jacky Clark-Chisholm and some of the biggest names in Israeli pop music, including Avraham Tal, Dudu Aharon, Narkis, Eden Meiri, and Gali Atari, along with African singers Rahel Getu, TY Bello, and Mynah Rams to record this historic collaboration.

The song also has backing vocals featuring students from Passages.

“I’ve watched the video twice and I love it. It’s beautiful in every way,” said Skaggs. “Just to see the smiles on the faces of the artists pouring their hearts out in song is so wonderful.”

“Israel can put out many videos about antisemitism, but I believe that music can bring together and unite,” said Dudu Aharon, who described how shocked he is to see intense security at synagogues in the US and Europe, and his fear about wearing a kippa openly when he is there.

“There are differences in the world, but at the end of the day, the key is to get along together,” Avraham Tal said, describing how he first encountered antisemitism when he visited his grandparents in Marseille and was called a “dirty Jew”.

“I am delighted to take part in this exciting project. For me, it is the beginning of unity, love and fraternity between us all,” said Israeli singer Narkis.

The central theme of the song is woven around the biblical verses recited by Kohanim (priests) in the synagogue and parents to their children on the Sabbath: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

“I believe that music has the power to transcend the boundaries of our cultures and speak to the hearts of each and every person who hears it,” said Scott Phillips, Executive Director of Passages. “Our prayer at Passages is that this project can raise awareness of the threat of antisemitism and strengthen the ties between Christians and Jews, and promote a deeper understanding of both Biblical and modern Israel.”

“This is such a vital project, a project of love, unity and solidarity, especially at this time of division and difficulty for so many,” said Rivka Kidron, co-founder of Passages and a member of its Board of Directors. “As Jews face so many threats from antisemitism around the world, it is extremely comforting to witness our Christian brothers and sisters raising the issue and demonstrating that they stand by the side of the Jewish people and Israel.”

The song “The Blessing”, was originally released in 2020 by popular Christian singer/songwriter Kari Jobe in partnership with Elevation Worship. It won a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

“The Blessing” has since been recorded into dozens of cover versions by various artists worldwide and produced in many languages. This is the first collaboration that involves Hebrew and English.

The project was the brainchild of Daniel Berkove, an Israeli businessman originally from the U.S.

“In its essence, the video, which for me has been a very personal project, is about unity, celebrating the values we share rather than focusing on what keeps us apart,” Berkove said. “I’m an observant Jew from a family of Kohanim who recite the Priestly Blessing daily.

“Having grown up and attended public school and university in suburban Detroit, I now live in Israel and work across Africa. The themes in the video very much reflect my own experiences and beliefs, and I’m grateful to Passages for supporting this project and enabling me to realize it.”

The video was directed and produced by Erez Dan, a preeminent Israeli videographer who has worked with Israel’s biggest stars on songs like “Shevet Achim v’Achayot” which has been viewed 40 million times on YouTube, and co-produced by Michael HarPaz, an Israeli pop star also originally from the US.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.