Heavy Metal Peacemakers

Chen Balbus, V4I, Voice4Israel
Chen Balibus

Chen Balbus of Orphaned Land Speaks with Voice4Israel

Chen Balbus, guitar player of the Israeli band Orphaned Land, answers questions for Voice4Israel about being a successful and respected musician in Israel. 

Haaretz refers to Orphaned Land as “Israel’s most successful metal band [which] has fans throughout the Arab world. For 27 years it manages to combine guitars and distortion with traditional Middle Eastern music.”

Favorite place to visit in Israel and why?

Balbus: Ancient Jaffa. I’m into ancient locations with ruins that you could pretty much get a sense of the history. Jaffa is beautiful (and not too far away from anything).

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Balbus: Jerusalem is amazing but I’d personally go for Tel Aviv, which has a much more relaxed kind of vibe unlike Jerusalem where it’s full of tourists.

"Orphaned Land are unique because they combine Middle Eastern music with metal, text from the Torah, Koran and the New Testament and in the mix of it they call for peace without touching any side of the political map. They have a huge amount of followers in the Arab world, including fans who who have tattooed the bands logo on their body - in countries where you go to jail for doing that."

-Israeli fan

Orphaned Land combines heavy metal with Middle Eastern music and text from the Torah, Koran and the New Testament. What made you decide to use this formula in your art?

Balbus: There are many around the world from any genre that would, lets say, choose a subject from their culture, vikings for example. We just pretty much took what is more related to our culture and history and combined it with our traditional music. It worked out well, I’d say 🙂

From all of your tours and shows, what was the most memorable moment for you as an Israeli and a Jew?

Balbus: Wacken festival 2016, although every show is very unique, but seeing all those country flags together in one place. That’s coexistence in the making right there. beautiful

Has the BDS movement ever tried to prevent you from performing? If yes, what have you done about it?

Balbus: Not that I know of, yet.

What are your thoughts about BDS trying to prevent artists from performing in Israel and Israeli artists performing across the globe?

Balbus: Pure waste of time, wasted on hate spread instead of spreading the good.

Why I love Israel?

Balbus: It’s my home. our home.

Editor’s Note: Readers may also enjoy our I Love Israel series. 

It is a privilege to be a Jew, my son

Daniel Greyber, Israel, Judaism

Rabbi Daniel Greyber wrote the following letter to his son, Alon, before he went off to college. Voice4Israel is honored to share it with our readers. 

"I wish that I could tell you that Jews are safe in a world without Israel, but I cannot."

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

A Letter to My Son

I wish that I could tell you that Jews are safe in a world without Israel, but I cannot. A few weeks ago, we watched Schindler’s List. Your ima and I have given you a Jewish identity without a lot of focusing on the Shoah (the Hebrew word for the Holocaust). We have given you Shabbat and Jewish prayer and holidays and Hebrew and Torah study and mitzvoth as the foundation to your Jewish identity. While we never hid the Holocaust from you, we waited until you turned 16 to show you Schindler’s list. It is not until this summer, after many previous summers at Ramah, when you will travel to Poland that you will learn more deeply about the crimes that were committed against our people just 75 years ago. We did not hide these things from you, but waited to introduce them to you because there is a downside to sharing this history with you: the darkness of the Shoah can be so powerful that it overwhelms light and hope. I hope that as you learn about the Shoah, you never lose hope in God and hope in the capacity of the world to be redeemed. But I also hope that you learn that Israel must exist if the Jewish people are to be safe from genocide. I wish I could tell you that America will always be safe for Jews; I cannot. Germany was a progressive, enlightened society; people thought it could never happen. It did there. It can here.

Israel is important though, not only as a refuge. Your abba is a rabbi who loves the Jewish tradition of study and prayer but I accept the Zionist critique which the rabbinic Judaism the developed in the diaspora left us with enormous intellectual gifts but deprived us of wisdom that only comes with the responsibilities of self-governance. Rabbi David Hartman wrote: “Israel expands the possible range of halakhic involvement in human affairs beyond the circumscribed frameworks of the home and synagogue. Jews in Israel are given the opportunity to bring economic, social, and political issues into the center of their religious consciousness.” Only because of Israel do we now have modern music, and television, and film and literature in Hebrew. Only because of Israel are the Jewish people able to send help after an earthquake in Haitii or to advise California on how to solve its water crisis. A sovereign Jewish state is the great religious and moral challenge the Jewish people have embarked upon in thousands of years. In 1762, more than a century before Theodor Herzl launched political Zionism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing in Emile, said, “I shall never believe I have heard the arguments of the Jews until they have a free state, schools and universities, where they can speak and dispute without risk. Only then will we know what they have to say.” He was right. If Israel disappears, much more will be lost than just a refuge. It is a blow from which I do not know the Jewish people can recover again.

"Judaism’s most audacious idea may be that, in God’s eyes, we are not small. We matter."

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Of course, this begs the question, why should the Jewish people matter to you? You are a scientist, my son. I believe God blessed you with a great mind, even if, in your mind, you are not sure you believe in God. You, better than I, sense how big the universe is – that we launched a spacecraft to Jupiter in 1989 and, after traveling at a speed equivalent to flying from Los Angeles to New York in 82 seconds and using “planetary gravity assists,” Galileo finally arrived — six years later! Our solar system is one of 100 billion star systems in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is one of about 30 galaxies in what astronomers call our “local group.” We are small. Judaism’s most audacious idea may be that, in God’s eyes, we are not small. We matter. “The greatest sin of man,” wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “is to forget that he is a prince — that he has royal power.” I cannot prove to you your life’s worth, my son; I can only bequeath to you the knowledge that you matter a great deal, that within you is an entire world of potential and goodness. I cannot prove to you that the Jewish people matter; I can only bequeath to you my faith that the people of Israel matter a great deal, that we have brought knowledge and love and faith and light into the world. It is a privilege to be a Jew, my son. We are no better, no worse, than other peoples. We are a small, fragile fragment in a sea of human life. Our task is eternal – to bring God’s light into the world. We matter. You matter. And because these things are true, Israel matters as a place to keep us safe, as a society within which the Torah can be most fully brought to life, as a culture through which our people can most fully know ourselves and the world. She is not perfect. Nothing is. But she is ours, and she matters more than we can know.

Love, Abba.

Daniel Greyber is rabbi at Beth El Synagogue, a Conservative and Orthodox synagogue in Durham, NC that welcomes many intermarried and gay and lesbian families and is home to a politically involved population with widely divergent opinions on everything. Greyber is the author of Faith Unravels: A Rabbi’s Struggle with Grief and God, was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communications from Northwestern University. Most importantly, he is married to Jennifer, and is the proud father of their three sons, Alon, Benjamin, and Ranon.

Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Series

Thursday, September 27 at 6:00pm at the Levin JCC (Mandatory Introductory Session)

Taught by Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Through the study of Jewish narratives about Israel and the unpacking of the complex meaning of peace in the Jewish tradition, participants are invited to explore the ideas and values that animate different attitudes toward the conflict and how these values shape their own political understanding. This introductory session at the Levin JCC will be followed by 12 course sessions, beginning October 11 at 6:30pm.

Voice4Israel/StandWithUs at Durham Farmer’s Market

Our local Jewish community has been jolted by recent episodes of anti-Semitism, but through our strong presence at the StandWithUs/Voice4Israel farmers market booth, we’re showing that we are an integral and vibrant part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill community.

If you have any questions about the booth, please email: ravitchj@yahoo.com

Israel Under Fire: From Green to Black, Turning Israel to Ash

Israel under fire, Israel, arson, Voice4Israel, V4I
Israel under fire

Amy Rosenthal shares her memories and pictures of a beautiful Israel landscape with our readers. 

"With 678 fires so far, crops burning and animals burned alive, where is the outrage?"

Amy Rosenthal

Israel Burns from Hamas Attacks

As Israel burns from Hamas attacks, day after day for more than 100 days, why is the world silent? With more than 678 fires so far, crops burning and animals burned alive, where is the outrage?


Josh and I visited Israel near the Gaza border and the town of Sderot when we were on our StandWithUs mission trip, right before the fires started in April. We met families who were working hard to grow precious crops. We saw beautiful greenery in the countryside. We visited greenhouses where delicious tomatoes were grown with great care. The members of the moshav we visited near Sderot took a lot of pride in their hard work, and for good reason. It’s hard hard living to make such land produce for the people as they do. I have included a photo from the roadside, one from a home in Sderot and another of the amazing greenhouse.

Now, these fields are black and dust. All the labor for nothing. It’s time for the world to stand up and say NO to Hamas!

Amy Rosenthal is a Voice4Israel board member and part of our outstanding Farmer Market’s team

Video courtesy of the Israeli Defense Forces 

An American Volunteering In Israel During the Attack

Israel, Gaza, Israel under attack
Photo Credit: Israeli Defense Forces

Mark Werner, an American volunteer on an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) base from Raleigh, North Carolina, reports his experience near Gaza. Writing in The Times of Israel, Werner states:

“Most Americans have never had the experience of being wakened in the middle of the night by a Tzeva Adom (‘Code Red’) siren, rushing to the closest bomb shelter, and hiding in the shelter while listening for the explosion of a Palestinian missile. I recently had this experience and am writing to share it with non-Israelis…At 10:30, the Tzeva Adom sirens jolted us awake. Danielle ran down our corridor, banging on our doors: ‘Code Red Alert! Missile attack! Get to the bomb shelter fast!’”

The IDF Responds By Striking 12 Terror Targets

I Love Israel with Leora Fields

I Love Israel, Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I, Leora Fields, Jerusalem
Leora Fields

This is the fifth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Leora Fields!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

There are so many memorable moments in Israel! I am who I am because of the time I’ve spent in Israel. I can honestly say that I will never forget the first time I saw the Kotel. It literally took my breath away and thirty years later, it still does. I went to a Jewish day school and am the daughter of an Israeli. But seeing the Kotel in person brought to life every lesson and every story, making them a part of me and even more importantly, me a part of them.

Best food you had in Israel?

In eleventh grade I studied in Israel with Alexander Muss High School in Israel. On our little campus in Hod Ha’Sharon, there was a snack bar named Shlomo’s where all the students would hang out and buy food. In my mind, nothing ever tasted better than a Saturday night spent with friends eating Shlomo’s pita stuffed with schnitzel, overflowing with hummus and Israeli salad.

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The most recent time I was in Israel was two years ago for my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. Our entire family, including all of the grandparents and some uncles and cousins, visited the Ayalon Institute. Every single one of us, age 4 through 78, was mesmerized by this secret, underground ammunition factory disguised as a kibbutz and laundry service. It was run by the Haganah right under the close watch of the British. The incredible planning and detail required to succeed in this mission are examples of the ongoing heroism, bravery, selflessness, and brilliance required to ensure Israel’s statehood.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Dead Sea. My grandparents emigrated from Poland to pre-Israel Palestine to try to help create the state of Israel. They were both teachers and they lived in the desert and made it their mission to spread Hebrew as a modern spoken language. I have photos of my grandpa reading a newspaper floating in the Dead Sea. It was incredible to replicate the photo with my dad and brothers fifty years later.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

How can I choose? Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and should never be taken for granted. Without Jerusalem, Israel is unrecognizable. Tel Aviv will always be dear to me because my Jewish and Zionist identities stem from my experiences studying abroad at Tel Aviv University and AMHSI. To me, Jerusalem is Israel’s heart and Tel Aviv is her soul. You can’t separate the two, as the former is a living reminder of our past and the latter a glimpse of our future.

Leora Fields was born and raised in Rockville, MD, and graduated from University of Maryland where she majored in Journalism and minored in Hebrew. Since first visiting Israel as a teen, Leora has dedicated herself to sharing her love of Israel with her community and her family.

I Love Israel with Susan Goldhaber

V4I, Voice4Israel, I Love Israel
Susan Goldhaber

This is the fourth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Susan Goldhaber!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Going to Masada and Ein Gedi Nature Preserve with my family. We had the most amazing time and walking through the preserve to the waterfall at Ein Gedi was truly a high point of my life.

Best food you had in Israel?

Israeli breakfasts at the hotels. I particularly love the fruits, cheeses, chocolate pastries, and the halavah!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

My sister’s kibbutz, Kibbutz Samar, in the Arava valley, in southern Israel. It is so peaceful and beautiful there and the people are so amazing!

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea.

The Red Sea. I love Eilat and at our last visit we had the most beautiful view of the Red Sea from our hotel room. I also love the Underwater Observatory at the Red Sea in Eilat and could visit there every time I am in Israel.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

They are both amazing, but Jerusalem is so unique that no other city equals it. I love the fact that each time you go to Jerusalem there are new archeological treasures to explore, at our last visit we toured the City of David with an archeologist and learned so much biblical history in one afternoon.

Susan Goldhaber grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended the University of Michigan where she has a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science and a Masters Degree in Environmental Health. She then moved to Washington DC where she worked for the US EPA and moved with her family to North Carolina in 1988. Susan has spent over 30 years working on environmental issues for the government, both at the state and federal levels, and for environmental consulting firms. As a volunteer, she is active in a variety of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including delivering Mitzvah Meals for the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary.

I Love Israel with Orna Drawas

Orna Drawas

This is the third post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Orna Drawas for participating!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

In Jerusalem one evening after dark, we happened to arrive at the Kotel as the IDF was holding their swearing-in ceremony. Hundreds of young men and women marched in with their battalion, and the plaza was packed with thousands of spectators – family, friends and visitors – to see the newest graduating soldiers of the IDF. The Israeli flag blew in the night and the eternal flames burned brightly as thousands sang a most beautiful and meaningful rendition of Hatikvah. Many of us were brought to tears by the emotions and significance of the moment.

Best food you had in Israel?

Believe it or not, when I think of mouthwatering foods in Israel, I crave the classic Israeli salad. Let’s face it, you can’t get real Israeli salad anywhere else in the world, because no place has tomatoes and cucumbers as fresh, juicy, sweet and delicious as they are locally grown in Israel. I savor every bite!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

A hidden Gem known mostly by locals, hiking in the Negev is a great adventure with hidden canyons, cool springs and breathtaking scenery. The weather is great all year long and the night skies are absolutely mind-blowing. I like to hike the Negev, stay in an amazing bed and breakfast and try to capture a glimpse of the Bedouin life.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Mediterranean Sea represents Israel to me. When I grew up in Tel Aviv in the 1960’s, my family went to the (Mediterranean) beach nearly every Shabbat. We walked from our apartment, just a few blocks away, and spent countless hours with local family and friends eating, kibitzing, playing Matkot and swimming. That was our life.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Jerusalem. There is nothing like the Machane Yehuda Market (shuk) on a Friday afternoon. The amazing smells of fresh baked Challah, sweet cakes and a great variety of spices is nearly overwhelming. The hustle and bustle of orthodox men and women, combined with locals and tourists, adds to the intensity and excitement of the upcoming Shabbat celebration.

Orna Drawas was born in Israel to parents who emigrated to Palestine in the 1920’s and were part of the early Zionist movement. Growing up in the US, her home was Israeli in culture, food and spirit. Author of the book: PERFORM LIKE A ROCK STAR AND STILL HAVE TIME FOR LUNCH, Orna is currently an expert in the field of corporate leadership.

I Love Israel with Jill Madsen

V4I, Voice4Israel, I Love Israel
Jill Madsen

This is the second post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel.

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Hands down this would be my first Shabbat in Jerusalem. Truly having a day of rest and then watching the city come alive after Havdallah was amazing. Walking down the street as the sun was setting and slowly watching lights of the local restaurants turn on and people coming out into the street.

Best food you had in Israel?

Breakfast and for someone that doesn’t care for breakfast food that says a lot! All the fresh fruit and cheese and breads, just make it a great start the day!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon. The most beautiful place in the world. I went segwaying there and I felt like the world could just go on forever.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

Dead Sea! I love playing in mud, so being at a place where as an adult it is encouraged to cover yourself in it, is up my alley.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Both! Jerusalem provide a snapshot into history and a pathway to explore and experience Judaism in a way you can’t do anywhere else. Tel Aviv provides a space where you can experience food, nightlife, technology, like no other.

Jill Madsen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and lived there until she moved to North Carolina three years ago to serve as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham Chapel Hill. She has her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees in Education. She spent over twenty years working in education – both as a classroom teacher and in leadership roles. Prior to moving to NC, she served as the Director of Education and then the Chief Operating Officer at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis.