Hevron-based singer Sinai Tor is well known for his passionate songs such as Darashti Kirvatcha and other acoustic folk rock hits. He has recently released a new album called Rising from the Sea. But that's not why he has been in the news recently. His home, a hand-built wooden house, was bulldozed on Oct. 26th by Israeli police along with that of well known political activist Noam Federman.
The two homes located on a farm in Kiryat Arba adjacent to Hevron, were said to have been illegal. Federman has been arrested and acquitted numerous times by Israeli authorities for his protest activities. But Tor and his family have led a life of concert gigs and music festivals, and there has been almost no mention of his role in the incident.
Although his English is not the best, Tor agreed to be interviewed on The Beat, IsraelNationalRadio.com's music show, about his new album and thoughts on his loss.
Click below to listen to the audio interview
Question: What are you going to do now?
Sinai Tor: Tonight my brother is going to get married and we're playing at his wedding. We're doing OK. A lot of very good people came to help us. We believe that what happened came from the heavens, from Hashem [G-d], and that Hashem is doing the best for us.
Question: We filmed a news story about the incident for IsraelNationalTV.com and you are singing and playing guitar in front of your destroyed home. Not everyone would react like that. You're a very positive person.
Sinai Tor: When you put tefillin on your head and on your arm, you don't think after you take it off, wow, now I don't have my tefillin. Because the mitzvah is written in Hashem's place. You already got it. Exactly like that is my house. I did a great mitzvah by building a house in the Holy Land, the Land of Israel. The house disappeared, but there is going to be a bigger and nicer house. I will do the building. We believe in what we are doing. So it's written to us in the heavens. This is the reason that we are happy. We believe in what we are doing. And we can carry on.
Question: Why did they destroy your house? Did they say it doesn't have building permits?
Sinai Tor: I don't know. They said it's not legal. But I think every one of their laws are not legal. Because we have the law of Hashem. He said to us that this is our land, that He gave it to us because of our fathers and mothers. This is what we believe. And all the laws and things they do to keep us far away from the land, those are the things we do not believe. They are nothing to us. They are like smoke.
Question: Now you were born in Hevron and have lived there pretty much your entire life. You're like a native. What is that like? How has it changed?
Sinai Tor: When I was little? I don't remember. I was so small, you know? But I remember it was smaller and the people seemed closer and knew each other better. But today, I can see after what happened to us last week, that people still are very connected. Very good people help us all the time. When I was a child, we saw around us all the time that people care about Eretz Yisrael and the fathers and mothers and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron. I think it's something that we take with us all the time in our hearts.
Question: You have a new album called Oleh Mi HaYam, Rising from the Sea. What is it about?
Sinai Tor: This exact song and the name of the album comes from when we sat on the sea of Gush Katif in Kfar HaYam, me and my wife and my children. We were there for a week and a half. I was listening to the sea and the waves all the time. And I tried to speak with Hashem. But I didn't have words because He was the one that was speaking all the time. So I needed to be quiet and listen. After a week and a half, I came back here to Hevron and then I started to hear what Hashem was saying to me the whole week. That was the song that I heard from the waves. The whole album is called Rising from the Sea because of the things that I heard in that beautiful place.
Question: Do you see yourself as an activist like Noam Federman? He goes to protests all the time.
Any time some Jew is standing and trying to open his heart, this is automatically a prayer.
Sinai Tor: I take a little different way. I really like Noam. He is a really good man. A kind man. Not like the people think on the TV. But I think that we give power to the people that are coming to do bad. My way is to think that they do not exist. The way to not give them any power is to just not see them at all. This is my way. I just think "ein od milvado." I just think there is just The One. Just Hashem. We look to Him all the time and not to them. Then they cannot have the power all the time. This is the way to make them disappear. This is my work.
Question: How do you think your music has changed from your first album to your new album?
Sinai Tor: I grew. I learn and I listen to music. Every album is a very different world. It's the place that I am in at the time. The next album will be the place that I am now.
Question: The first album is pretty much just you and a guitar.
Sinai Tor: Yes. It was just people sitting near the fire and we recorded it. And they brought some more friends and they just played what they had. The second one was a little more. We had Gabriel Hasson. He's a very big musician. He did great producing. The second album took us only two months. And it's very good. But now the third album we worked on for two years. And in two years we got inside the music very much. Gabriel produced this album too. From the beginning he got a picture of the music. And in this time we made the picture complete.
Question: How did you get into music?
Sinai Tor: I started when I was in high school. I spent a lot of time in the desert because I learned in Mitzpe Ramon. I sat there all the time and my heart started to ask, what happened to me? What is this crazy world? Why am I here? What the reason? It brought the music and the prayers. I got a guitar. From friends and from a lot of traveling in the holy land, I got more and more melodies. And now here I am.
Question: Where is your next concert?
Sinai Tor: My next concert is my brother's wedding. Then Saturday night we have a benefit show to raise money to build the farm again. I and Udi Davidi. It's in Kiryat Arba.
Sinai Tor's first album cover
Question: Where do you actually live now?
Sinai Tor: This week I was in my parents' place. We tried to arrange some apartment very near the farm. But now we need parking and then we can try to start to build the farm again, with Hashem's help.
Question: This next question I try and ask all the musicians I interview. In your opinion, what is Jewish music?
Sinai Tor: Jewish music is a prayer. I think that any time some Jew is standing and trying to open his heart, this is automatically a prayer. If it is a prayer, then he is doing something more then just what the other music in the world is doing. He's getting up. He's giving a new light to the world.
Question: Maybe you could tell us story from a show or a cool thing that happened at a concert.
Sinai Tor: I can just tell you that I do hitbodedut [a form of meditation]. I speak with Hashem before the show and sometimes I say I don't feel good about the show. But if I say to Him that I just want it take off the cover of Hashem and try to start to bring the faith and the redemption to the world -- and that this is what He can do for us -- then the light starts shining and the things that I do start to be very strong. If I don't do that, then the show is not so good. So that's not exactly a story. Just come and see. Welcome home all the people in the world. Come home.
Question: Any final word you want to say?
Sinai Tor: I want to tell one more thing. It's really amazing how Hashem created and invented all the kinds of people in the world. Especially the Jewish people. We are very, very nice and beautiful with a big heart. And I want to thank Hashem for everything he is doing. And I call on all the people of Israel to come back home. There's going to be a very, very great redemption now. So pack up your things and come home. Hurry, hurry.
Sinai Tor can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Ben Bresky is a music critic and the host of The Beat on Israel National Radio.