(JTA) — An Israeli reservist on leave from the war in Gaza sneaks back into his house in the middle of the night to surprise his wife and sons. Another opens the door of his daughter’s preschool classroom and steps inside. Another stands behind his mother’s desk at work, waiting for her to turn and see him.
In each video, and hundreds of others just like them, a Hebrew song with the lyrics “Good days will come…” builds to its crescendo as the soldier’s family falls upon him.
The song seems tailor-made as an anthem for the emotional reunions that are providing Israelis a rare spark of hope at a grim time. “Even in the darkest hours of the night, there will always be a small star that will shine for you, for yourself and the way home,” the singer croons. “It’s always darkest before the sunrise.”
Yet the singer, Yagel Oshri, didn’t write the song for the war that the soldiers have been called to fight, which began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 and taking hundreds of hostages. “Two years ago I wrote the first version — not even from my personal perspective,” says Oshri, 23. His friend was depressed because her boyfriend dumped her, so he was trying to tell her, “Just smile, it’s all OK.”
Few people heard the song since, even as Oshri became one of Israel’s rising stars on TikTok. As the driving force behind the Oshri Family account, Oshri accumulated followers with his made-for-social-media humor, often involving his two younger brothers and mother in videos made in the family home in Moshav Elikhin in central Israel. But behind the scenes, he was struggling in a way that changed the way he thought about his song.
“When I went through a depression, I realized you can’t just smile and get over it,” he said. So six months ago, he went to hit-making musician Offir Cohen’s studio and played him the first four lines of the revised song: “The family, friends, maybe going out/deep profound conversations late at night/dealing with change, old habits/the soul is at war with karma…”
Cohen told him to drop everything and the two went to the studio with a guitar and within “seven minutes” finished the song — lyrics, melody and all. “It flowed like a river,” Oshri recalls. They released the song on Aug. 15.
Galgalatz, the premier pop radio station in Israel, rejected it for their weekly playlist. “Maybe they just didn’t get it, they didn’t understand the heaviness,” Oshri says, with no bitterness. He uploaded the song to Apple Music, Spotify and, of course, TikTok instead.
There, “Getting over Depression” gained a small following. In late August, a clip Oshri posted on TikTok of himself playing on a keyboard with his brother at his side garnered dozens of supportive comments. By the end of September, he posted a duet in tribute to what he said was being tagged 1,000 times on the platform.
But nothing could have prepared him for what happened after Oct. 7. Like so many other Israelis, he was personally affected by the attack when his brother’s partner, 22-year-old Kim Dukarker, was killed along with hundreds of others at the Nova music festival. And like so many others, he sprang into action, giving back however he could — by performing for families evacuated from danger zones and soldiers called up as part of the biggest mobilization in Israel’s history.
Between the live shows and the ability of users on Instagram and TikTok to add favorite songs as soundtracks to their clips, “Getting over Depression” soon became ubiquitous — particularly when soldiers used it as a soundtrack to their surprise visits home.
Now, Israelis can’t get away from the song. It’s looping endlessly on the radio, including on Galgalatz — “I’m happy they get it now,” Oshri said — and in countless social media videos. Entire army units have sung along to the song. There’s even a spoof of a reservist trying to escape it, and TikTok videos of American Jewish musicians, like Orthodox singer Aryeh Kuntzler, performing it.
The song has streamed more than 3.5 million times on Spotify, making Oshri the second-most listened-to Israeli artist, and has been used on 17,000 TikTok videos, mostly of reunions. A prominent TV presenter shared the music set against clips of just-freed hostages, including 9-year-old Ohad Munder running through a hospital corridor to hug his family. That video got over 1 million views.
“I feel like God gave me a mission, to make people happy with this song,” Oshri says. “It’s a happy song. I think that Israel, in its DNA, is a happy nation. We like to say ‘Am Yisrael Chai,’” or the Jewish people live, a traditional phrase that itself has been renewed in a wartime song released Oct. 19, by Eyal Golan. “We like to say, ‘There will be good days to come.’”
Oshri’s song joins in a long tradition of Israeli songs giving hope at tenuous moments, including the classic “Yihiye Tov,” or “Things Will Get Better,” which a 22-year-old David Broza wrote with poet Yonatan Geffen in 1977 on the eve of peace negotiations with Egypt.
With every war, a few songs capture the public’s imagination. In 1967, “We Shall Pass,” by Yehiel Mohar and Moshe Wilensky, was written to raise the morale of the country. Even more iconic was Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold,” written only three weeks before the war — and to which she added a new verse when Israel took control of East Jerusalem.
Sometimes singers become synonymous with wars. Yehoram Gaon, who sang “The Last War” in 1973 for the troops during the Yom Kippur War (“I promise you little girl, this will be the last war…”) is now back with a new version of his 1984 patriotic battle cry, “You Won’t Beat Us,” whose video features flag-waving soldiers and rumbling tanks.
“Music can produce shared allegiances and feelings of unity. In times of extreme crisis, people turn to the music that they most need as an attempt to stabilize their emotions [so they can] continue and persist,” says Murray Forman, professor of Media & Screen Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. After 9/11 he wrote the analysis “Soundtrack to a Crisis: Music Context, Discourse,” in the journal Television and New Media.
“Music has acquired new significance in relation to the atrocities of the terrorist actions,” he wrote then. But what he didn’t consider 20 years ago was that “along with the music of peace and healing and mourning and patriotically infused anger and nationalistic chauvinism (which each proliferated in the U.S. after 9-11 and probably does in other such circumstances), there might also be music of fear and dread and even celebration, depending on what communities we’re talking about,” he said.
“Maybe one thing is for all sides to try to listen closely to the music each other is creating and listening to.”
A number of English-language songs have also been adopted to epitomize the war. Skylar Grey’s “I’m Coming Home,” which has been used as a soundtrack for many American soldiers’ homecomings, was recently adapted in honor of the hostages still held in Gaza. Shiri Maimon sings it in a video featuring a display in Jerusalem of 240 beams of light, each representing a hostage. On Nov. 6, hundreds of the hostages’ family members gathered at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre to record a version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” in an event produced by Ben Yefet, who conducts Israel’s popular Koolulam singalongs.
Yet for many American Jews, Israeli anthems are a way for them to connect to the country. Yael Weinman, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., started creating shareable Spotify playlists that she called “Do Not Despair” when the war started. It included pop songs like “Out of the Depths” by Idan Reichl, “Chai” by Ofra Haza and “Hurts but Less” by Yehuda Poliker.
“For me, being in America and being so far away physically from Israel right now, it’s a way to feel closer to Israel at a time when being so disconnected is so painful,” said Weinman. She said it’s hard for many people like her not to be there. “Listening to the music is a way to feel more connected,” she says. “It’s comforting for me to listen to songs in Hebrew — it’s a way to feel comforted and not to despair.”
Oshri has been busy since the war pushed his song into the spotlight. In addition to working on new music that he hopes will bring comfort to his nation at war, he has played over 90 performances since the war started — at army bases, for wounded soldiers, for evacuated families, at funerals.
“I just sang for a kidnapped woman that was released,” Oshri says in the car from Israel, referring to Raz Ben Ami, who was released by Hamas on Nov. 29. Her husband Ohad remains captive in Gaza.
On Sunday, Oshri announced that he would begin selling jewelry with lines from his now-iconic song etched in his handwriting, with the proceeds to benefit the Israeli army.
Oshroi told JTA that every time he sings the song, in his heart he dedicates it to Dukarker. But he says he knows “Getting Over Depression” doesn’t belong to him any more. “It’s Israel’s song,” he said. “It’s the song our nation has chosen to listen to.”
The post How an Israeli TikToker’s little-known song became the soundtrack to emotional wartime reunions appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout
i24 News – Senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command was caught off guard by the speed with which the allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the October 7 atrocities became public knowledge, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
When, on January 18, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini sat down with senior Israeli diplomat Amir Weissbrod in Tel Aviv for a routine meeting, the UN official was supplied with intelligence about the agency employees’ involvement in the massacre.
While the intelligence was provided by the IDF, the military establishment didn’t expect the explosive information to leak into the public domain. It emerged that Lazzarini relayed the allegations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and began firing employees, eventually reporting the developments to U.S. officials.
Unnamed IDF officials cited in the NYT report were concerned that the allegations had been disseminated without Israel having devised a proper strategy for the fallout.
European countries, from the UK to Germany, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia all froze funding to UNRWA amid reviews in the aid agency and its employees.
While some have pushed for a complete shutdown of the agency, including U.S. lawmakers and Israeli ministers, others — including unnamed senior IDF officials — have said that it was inadvisable to do so during the war when UNRWA was providing needed humanitarian aid.
Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists
i24 News – Hamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.
There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.
The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.
Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”
“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.
The post Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again
JNS.org – Former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.
Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.
Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”
That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.
Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?
Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.
The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.
That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.
In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.
But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.
This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.
In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.
Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.
The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.