At first I closed my eyes and faraway memories appeared in front of me. I saw a black and white T.V., Farid al-Atrash and Oum Kalthoum, both at the same time - those famous Egyptian singers. But then I opened my eyes and realized that the singer I was listening to was one of us, a young Jewish lady named Shelly Bar.
She is a beautiful woman, divorced, with five kids; almost forty years old and lives in Jerusalem. When you listen to her pure voice and behold its quality it will take you a moment to start worshiping her forever. It is not only how she sings, not only what she sings but in which language she sings: both Hebrew and Arabic. When Shelly was very young, at age of nine, she found some cassettes of those two famous Egyptian singers and started listening to them. When her mother discovered that, she tore them but Shelly glued them back, kept listening to them and memorized every word. That is almost unbelievable!
I asked Shelly why she did that and why except for Hebrew she insists on singing in Arabic and she said: "We are not any different from the Arabs; my own parents immigrated to Israel from Morocco, and I always believed that music is the bridge between nations and people."
When she puts forward such a claim how can a person who is a peace seeker not like her?
In the 70’s and the 80’s of the past century we had only one television channel in Israel and it was broadcast in black and white. On Fridays, on a regular basis, we watched an Egyptian movie and that’s how most of the Israeli-Jewish got acquainted with the famous Egyptian actors and singers. The fact that at that time Egypt was considered an enemy didn't bother us and many Israelis dreamed about peace and of visiting Egypt. Shelly was one of them.
Shelly's name comes from an old tale of Morocco - Lala Sulika's tale. Lala Sulika was a beautiful young Jewish woman from Tangier who was captured by the Muslims in order to convert her to Islam and to marry the ruler of that area. Sulika refused and was executed. Shelly's name is another version for Sulika and she told me that her grandmother's name was also Sulika.
"I'm like Sulika, I won't give up my religion, but when it comes to the music and culture I admire the Arabic language. I also believe in God like Sulika did," and she added "you should know that the tale tells that when they took her on a horse to meet the ruler and her dress was waving in the wind she stitched it to her body with a needle to keep her dignity."
Almost six years ago she went to see a doctor and he told her that she had cancer. Three hours later she also discovered that she was pregnant. She didn't give up. She fought the cancer successfully, healed herself for good and delivered a healthy daughter. Few years later she got divorced.
Today, Shelly is like an unpolished diamond which is waiting to shine. Her aim is to perform in front of kings of Morocco and Jordan, to sing in Paris and even in front of the Pope. She is delivering a message with her singing, a message of peace and tolerance, a message of liberation and love and for that reason I became one of her fans, whose number is ever increasing.
I asked her to sing while we were having coffee together and she said that there weren't any instruments to sing along, but I said that I just wanted to hear her voice, only her voice, so she sang for me. She sang and I melted. When I realized that she was also smoking, she calmed me and said that if she quit smoking her voice would be hoarse. Would you believe that?
Shelly told me that she had a lot of performances in Bethlehem and in the old city of Jerusalem in front of many Arab fans who, as per custom, threw money at her and I thought that would be a perfect scene for a movie.
In this moment, while she struggles to survive and to feed her children she is focusing on her way up, trying to receive recognition as a leading singer in Israel and abroad. She is recording her new songs and planning to upload them to YouTube. She makes her own versions of the songs already made famous by other singers. The number of her fans which is growing constantly proves that she is on the right track.
Now I think we should remember that we, Wall Street International Magazine, you my dearest readers and me, were the first ones who discovered her and her talent, and let's hope that peace and music will enfold our life from now on.
You can watch and listen to Shelly sing at this link: