Shalva Band – the True Stars of the Eurovision

They received a minutes-long standing ovation. They had the entire audience up on their feet. TV-viewers all over the world were driven to tears, and everyone knows their name now: The Shalva Band.

This group of young musicians has captured the hearts of every Israeli and touched even the toughest of critics. Shalva have become true superstars, uniting all of Israel as their fans.

What lies behind their success, and where did their story begin? Great success is often born out of tragedy. It seems the Shalva band on the Eurovision stage leads more than one tragic story to a happy ending and to amazing new beginnings.

Their full name is The Shalva Center House Band. Jerusalem residents may know the Shalva Center, others may guess. It is a center that provides services for children with disabilities and support for their families.  Ahhhh, some will say, now I understand! But wait, you have not heard the real story just yet.

Going back to the beginning

It all started with a vaccination gone terribly wrong. When the son of Malki and Kalman Samuels received his obligatory shots at infant age, it left him blind, deaf and overly hyperactive. For years after receiving the faulty vaccination, the child was unable to communicate in any way. It was at this time that his mother vowed to God she would dedicate her life to giving back by helping others if her son was helped.

Eventually, after eight years of being locked inside himself and the family growing increasingly exhausted and isolated, there was a ray of light. A special educations teacher, who was deaf herself, managed to teach Yossy a unique technique of fingerspelling inside the palm of his hand. For the first time, his parents could communicate with Yossy.

The power of giving

Malki made good on her vowes and set up an afternoon care center in their private home. The goal was to give families with disabled children a place and provide support. The Shalva Center was founded in 1990, and little did anybody imagine what it would become.

Today the Shalva Center is one of the biggest and most advanced of its kind in the world. In 2017 the doors opened to its new home near the Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. The campus includes an eleven story building with sports facilities, concert halls, educational end therapeutic centers, a community cafe and shop and six acres of parks. The founder Kalman Samuels, who made Aliyah from Canada as a young man, and his wife Malki are very much personally involved.

Uncounted volunteers in the NGO work to make the lives of families with special needs a little more comfortable and a lot more fun. Among them, well-known names, such as Ori Sasson, the judoka and bronze medalist of the 2016 Olympic games. Many of the helping hands have special needs themselves or experience with disabled family members.

Personal dedication and love for music

This brings us to another incredible story accruing to that of the Samuels family. Shay Ben-Shushan was an enthusiastic young fighter in the IDF when he got injured during his service. In the course of his recovery, he vowed to dedicate himself to give back if he would get out of everything whole and healthy. Does that remind you of someone?

Shay found volunteering at Shalva to be a rewarding and appropriate way to do that. In his enthusiasm, he came up with the idea that would lay the grounds for future stars. He established the „a special star is born“ show, much like the popular singer contest „a star is born“ (Cohav Nolad) without the competition.

Turning on the stage lights

He wanted everyone at Shalva to get up on stage and perform because he believed it would boost their confidence. He encouraged each child to take part by doing something they enjoyed and were able to do. Even if it was just a small thing like ringing a bell. He wanted these children to feel that they matter and that they have something to offer.

The impact was fantastic. Each year the show would go up on stage at the Convention Center in Jerusalem (Binyanei Hauma). Shay also formed the house band and functions as their musical manager. And there you have it. No need to tell the rest of the story.

It is a story of hard work, powerful love, devotion, determination, believing, and dreaming. It is the story that reached a climax when The Shalva House Band conquered the stage of the Cohav Nolad show and swept the entire country off its feet. From there they made their way into the living rooms of viewers all over Europe and the rest of the world when they appeared on the stage of the Eurovision Songcontest semifinals.

When it all comes out right

Malki Samuels and Shay Ben-Shushan each acted out of gratefulness for what they had received. All they wanted was to give something back and help others with special needs. Could they imagine that one day it would be the other way round?

The special children Shalva supports are now the ones giving back manifold. The joy and inspiration these young musicians spread wherever they go reach more people than anyone could have ever dreamed of. I am sure these are only two of countless incredible stories happening at Shalva. Dare to dream is not just a slogan for Shalva.

Shalva Website

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