Yeshiva Students Bands Battle

English-speaking yeshiva students learning in Israel battled in a band competition which drew an audience of 700 at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue.

Avraham Zuroff,

Az Yashir yeshiva band members
Az Yashir yeshiva band members
Courtesy, Az Yashir

People would like to be comfortable, instead of reaching a goal of being ultimately happy.
English-speaking yeshiva students studying in Israel competed against each other in a band contest which drew an audience of 700 at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue this past Saturday night. For a photo essay with great pictures of all the bands, click here.

The concert pitted 13 bands against each other, with Az Yashir taking first place. Nechemia Bochner, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Az Yashir, who penned the lyrics to Indecision when he was 19, told Israel National News that he wrote the song at a crossroads in his life. “The whole idea that people get so wrapped up at not deciding, they stay where they are. If you never take chances, you’re never going to experience a new thing,” Bochner said, explaining his own frame of mind at the time, while in his first year studying Torah in Israel, unsure whether he should take the next step.

Bochner was interested in growth. Although he wasn’t religiously observant at the time, he felt that the intellectual stimulation of learning Torah would allow him to decide a life path.

“Unfortunately, some people substitute one thing for another,” Bochner stated, explaining that he was not interested in superficially embracing religious observance to cover up his own flaws. “I decided to take things step by step. My goals were to become a full person,” Bochner explained.

He therefore decided to learn at the Kesher Program, now in its ninth year, where young men are given the opportunity to grow both emotionally and spiritually, at their own pace.

“I often felt that people don’t like change. People are afraid of change. People would like to be comfortable, instead of reaching a goal of being ultimately happy,” Bochner said, explaining that a part of him was initially unwilling to take a risk. However, Bochner’s initial indecision was eased after beginning his studies at Kesher, located in Jerusalem. “It became much easier, Kesher enabled that step. I’m sure that it would not have been that easy had I been in America,” Bochner reflects.

Bochner’s indecision eventually faded when he embraced religion head-on. His decision strengthened as he continued at Kesher for a second year. It was during Bochner’s second year that he befriended a new Kesher student, Az Yashir’s lead guitarist, David Goldstone, who was experiencing a transition similar to Bochner's.

“David actually wrote the music to Indecision. He, too went through a transitional period,” commented Bochner, 21, and now in his third year at Kesher.

Lone Soldier
One of the winning songs at the band competition was Az Yashir’s Lone Soldier.

Bochner explains that Lone Soldier is actually based on a story of one of his friends who joined the IDF, becoming a platoon commander. In one raid of an Arab village, his friend and comrades got trapped among Arab crossfire.

Two Arab groups, merely 20 feet away, were shooting at the platoon from both sides. Bochner’s friend thought that his end was near. He got his buddies together to say the Shema prayer, which affirms Jewish unity with G-d. At that moment, a Hassidic army sniper from his platoon dropped to the ground, started crying and singing the song, Kah Ribon Olam in a slow, stirring Hasidic chant, as bullets were whizzing over the group’s heads. Despite the mortal fear, the entire platoon started singing together.

Bochner’s friend remembers completing the whole song. “But for some reason when they finished the song, the Arabs stopped shooting, and left the group alone,” Bochner said.

“Last night, before I went on stage, we took a second or two of prayer for the soldiers of Gaza,” Bochner added.

Bochner has ambitious plans for both his Torah learning and music career. He feels that music is a way that the souls of the Jewish People could become closer to the Divine. “I want to learn Torah forever, and I want to continue my music. I was speaking to one of the artists last night who told me that one of the main reasons that he became religious was because of Matisyahu, the religious rapper.”

Prior to the band competition, Kesher’s football team won a yeshiva league championship. The winners shared their triumph by coming to the show. Bochner felt that he couldn’t let his friends down. “They won and we won,” he said, “From this, we’re going to go forward.”

And Am Yisrael won.

For INR podcast featuring Az Yashir live click here.

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