Black and White, Blue and White
by Sharon Udasin
Moving between the soulful sounds of “Amazing Grace” and a rendition of the traditional Hebrew melody “Avinu Malkeinu,” three local gospel choirs joined renowned Israeli singer David D’Or and the Israel Defense Force Orchestra Tuesday evening as they united to celebrate Israel’s 61st birthday at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater.
After a standing-room-only pilot event on Israel’s birthday last year, the Israeli Consulate here decided it would again celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut — Israeli Independence Day — with the local African-American community in “A Night of Harmony.” The three African-American ensembles included Harlem’s own Bethel Gospel Choir, a teenage group from The Allen Cathedral of Jamaica, Queens, and Christian soul rocker Hezekiah Walker & LFC.
This year’s concert is part of a recent effort by the consulate to engage with the African-American community and improve a relationship that grew increasingly tense in the decades following the civil rights era. Part of the effort, Media Consul David Saranga said, is taking place in Israel as well, as that government looks to improve the lives of its immigrants from Africa.
“We believe in diplomacy — it’s not only relations between governments, it’s also bridges between cultures,” said Saranga, who has been using various social media outlets — like Twitter and Facebook — in an attempt to revamp Israel’s public image. “We want to get grass-roots support,” he added, noting that Israel needs to garner the support of niche populations around the world in order to bring about a mutual sense of respect for each culture. Continue reading…Share