Wherever I go, I am constantly listening to music. I listen to my music on the bus ride to work, when I’m walking from place to place, when I’m hanging out in my apartment, as I’m writing this blog—all the time. This summer, I have made a playlist for my time in Israel, and it’s interesting that some of these songs seem to have much more meaning when I listen to them in Israel. I have a very eclectic taste in music, from what’s popular on the radio to Broadway musicals to Disney songs and so on, so my playlist has a lot of variety. So without further ado, here are some of the songs (and their significance) on my summer playlist:
“Deliver Us” – The Prince of Egypt
“There’s a land you promised us. Deliver us out of bondage. And deliver us to the Promised Land.”
Let’s start with some context: The Prince of Egypt is a classic movie about the story of Passover and the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. The movie opens with this song as the Hebrews are being tortured and their children are being killed by the Egyptians. The song is sung by the Hebrews as they pray to go to the Promised Land. A few weeks ago, I was walking to work and listening to my music on shuffle, when this song came on, and I had a sudden realization and appreciation for the ground I was walking on. I had no problems getting to Israel and staying here for two months. Living in or even visiting Israel is a luxury that we often forget.
“Strangers Like Me” – Phil Collins
“Tell me more, please show me. Something’s familiar about these strangers like me.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory. In Israel, I’m constantly surrounded by “strangers like me.” I’m living in a country where I probably have something in common with any one of these people on the bus or walking through the city. I feel like these strangers and I have some kind of common ground, and that’s a pretty cool feeling to have when you’re half way across the world.
“Take Me to Church” – Hozier
“The only heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you.”
This song compares being in love to religion. This isn’t the time for me to get all profound or anything, but it is a pretty spiritual song, and hearing it in such a spiritual city feels more meaningful somehow. The song has a beautifully haunting and soulful sound, so listening to it in the streets of Jerusalem can be pretty powerful. Religion can mean something different to everyone, and that’s definitely something to think about while living in the Holy Land.
“God Help the Outcasts” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
“Please help my people, the poor and down trod. I thought we all were the children of God.”
Since I am working with Hut HaMeshulash, I am working to help at-risk youth who are the outcasts of Jerusalem. This song stresses the main reason why I want to help the less fortunate: Everyone is created equal. It’s a humbling song about caring for the outcasts of society, and the organization I’m working with does just that.
“Getting to Know You” – The King and I
“If you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.”
One of the projects I’ve been working on with Hut HaMeshulash is teaching English to a few residents in the Residential Home for Young Men. I have never taught English before, and I’m still not completely sure if I’m doing it right, but right after my first lesson, this was the song I wanted to listen to. (Anna, the character who sings this song, teaches English to children in Bangkok.) One of my favorite parts about teaching in general is getting to know my students. I may not have much in common with these “at-risk youth” in the Men’s Home, but when we both get lost in translation, we’re on the same playing field and can try to figure it out together. They can learn a little English; I can learn a little Hebrew. Teaching is a two-way street. Even though I am not an actual licensed English teacher, I do enjoy getting to know these young men and learning from them as well.
“When You Believe” – The Prince of Egypt
“Who knows what miracles you can achieve when you believe. Somehow you will when you believe.”
Another Prince of Egypt song because this movie is always relevant in Israel… This song is sung right before Moses leads the Hebrews across the Red Sea. Miriam and Tzipora sing of how long it has taken and how grateful they are to get to this moment. During the song, the children sing the Mi Chamocha and thank God for redeeming their people. The people sing about the miracle of being freed from Egypt and finally going to the Promised Land. This song, like “Deliver Us,” reminds me to appreciate where I am and appreciate that this land exists for our people.
Other soundtracks I like to listen to while in the Israel: Fiddler On The Roof, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (for those Negev trips), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mamma Mia (for a day at the beach), anything Matisyahu
It’s amazing how music can have such an effect on how you perceive your surroundings and how your surroundings can have such an effect on how you perceive your music. This blog post has taken me a while to write because finding the right words to describe each song’s significance was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Many descriptions may seem short or open-ended, but music can be interpreted differently each time you listen to it. Sometimes the music has to speak for itself and can’t be explained in a few short sentences. I definitely recommend any and all of these songs.
“Thank you for the music, for giving it to me” – Mamma Mia