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This band of musicians with disabilities refused to compete on the Sabbath, and then performed for millions


The amazing story of a Israeli band with disabilities whose popularity soared after they chose to be faithful to their religious observance

It started with one of Shalva Band’s two lead singers (both blind) reading a quote from John Lennon in Braille, with the TV camera focusing on her fingers as they flew across the raised bumps on the sheet. The song began, and a band member with Down syndrome interpreted the lyrics in sign language for deaf viewers. The audience went wild. Millions of people from around the world were enraptured by the performance, which took place during the second semi-final of the annual international song contest known as Eurovision.

But the Shalva Band wasn’t there as a contestant. Initially, that had been their hope. The band — which is composed almost entirely of people with disabilities — decided to participate in an Israeli reality TV show called “Rising Star,” in which they’d be judged on the merits of their music, not simply treated with compassion because of their disabilities. The prize of the competition? To represent the nation of Israel in the international Eurovision song contest.

They were favored to win, but they found out that if they won, they’d have to participate in a dress rehearsal on the Sabbath. Being observant Jews, that was a problem for them. They tried to negotiate a solution, but the European Broadcasting Union, which runs the Eurovision competition, was unable to come up with a way to accommodate their religious observance. So, they sacrificed their dream, and dropped out of the national competition.

However, that wasn’t the end of the story. They were so popular that Eurovision invited them to perform after the contestants, during the voting period of the 2nd semifinal last week,, for a global audience of millions of people who were watching live at the venue, on TV, and through streaming platforms. The band members were received with great enthusiasm by the audience, as they performed a perfect cover of “A Million Dreams,” from the movie The Greatest Showman. As a result of that performance, they’ve received numerous invitations to perform throughout Europe, according to their artistic director.

That night, at least one of their “million dreams” came true. You can see their performance here:

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