The Shalva Band and their director, Shai Ben Shushan.

They’ll come into your town and help you party it down.

They’re the Shalva Band.

Who, you ask?

Shalva is perhaps the only thing that pretty much everyone in the Middle East can agree on.

It’s a 200,000 square foot, nine-story facility serving disabled children from Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, you name it.

Shalva serves everyone from babies with Down syndrome to children and young people with every conceivable form of disability.

And they have a band.

One of the mothers of a Shalva band member said that at first, she resisted the idea of her son performing in the group.

“I didn’t want him to be in a situation where he was just getting pity and sympathy.

“I had no idea how good they are.”

The Shalva Band performs all over the world—at music festivals, schools, synagogues, concert halls, and national events.

Did I mention both lead singers are blind?

If you close your eyes, you would have no idea that the performers were all young people with disabilities.

They are currently on yet another world tour, having performed last month in Toronto and Montreal, with performances in November in the New York area, followed by shows at Shalva dinners in Mexico City and London.

“Shalva’s message is one of inclusion, acceptance, and hope,” says Bluma Sherrow, marketing director for Shalva. “We want the world to see that they’re as good as any young people’s band in the world.”

Prior to their departure for their current world tour, I was able to sit in on a rehearsal of the group at Shalva’s National Center in Jerusalem.

I watched the director, Shai Ben Shushan, take the group through a variety of songs, including a heartfelt and professional “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by one of the two blind girls who front the group.

“The kids aren’t looking for pity,” Sherrow says. “That’s not at all what this is about. They are accomplished and talented.

“Their goal is to entertain, and at some point the audience forgets that they have disabilities. That’s what’s amazing.”

Who are the band members?

Tal Kima, on percussion, has Down syndrome.

Dina Samteh, vocalist, was born in India.

Vocalist and drummer Yosef Ovadia has Williams syndrome.

Yair Pomburg, on rap and percussion, grew up in Shalva’s programs, and now as an adult works in a coffee shop and plays in the band when he is not working as an electrician’s assistant.

Yair Shikri, also on vocals, has cerebral palsy. He writes, produces, and performs his own songs.

Vocalist Anael Khalifa also performs her National Service at Shalva.

Guy Maman doesn’t let his blindness keep him from performing vocals and the keyboard.

Naftali Weiss, on vocals and percussion, has PDD or Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

The band director for the past 12 years, Shai Ben Shushan, was part of an elite army unit when he suffered a life-threatening injury 13 years ago. He’s the one responsible for developing the Shalva group into a professional band.

“It’s so moving to see that they have become talented and professional musicians,” Shushan says. “They stand together with any musician out there. The Shalva Band is a personal rehabilitation for me as well.”

It’s not too late to add a city – your city, perhaps — to the Shalva Band tour.

For further information,

Click here to view Shalva Band promotional video.


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