Aryeh and Gil Gat
Aryeh and Gil GatFlash90

The hareidi musical duo Aryeh and Gil Gat, who wowed audiences in The Next Star, the Israeli equivalent of American Idol, are set to perform in Toronto next Thursday in a concert funded by the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Proceeds from the event will help fund a new botanical exhibit and walking path at the Ayalon Park - Canada, which is not far from Latrun. The trail, which is being built in honor of fallen IDF soldiers, will stretch for eight kilometers (about 5 miles) and be optimized for cyclers, according to Shalom Toronto.

The Gat brothers made waves in Israel in 2013 for their unique backgrounds, easygoing manner, and superb musical skills - captivating religious and secular audiences alike.  Aryeh and Gil, who grew up in the largely secular resort city of Eilat, began their journey after Aryeh became observant 17 years ago; Gil and a third brother joined him shortly thereafter. 

All three brothers always had a love for music, a love that did not leave them even after they joined the Breslov hassidic sect. Shalom Toronto interviewed the brothers to get their perspectives on music and life walking the line between two distinct worlds. 

Found on the Streets of Eilat

Aryeh told the daily that he and his brother, prior to becoming observant, spent their days dancing and singing on the streets of Eilat. Impressed passersby took video footage of them and uploaded in onto YouTube. 

The staff of The Next Star found the videos and were impressed, and the rest is history. The brothers came on stage with guitars in hand and shocked the judges with a rendition of Paul Simon's "Sound of Silence." Instead of becoming a gimmick - an act on a music competition television show by brothers who do not own a television themselves - audiences were hooked to the brothers' heartfelt connection to their music and easygoing manner.  

Aryeh stressed during the interview that participation in the program was approved by the brothers' rabbis, and there was no mission to deliver a message to the public. Rather, the two performed on the show from a desire to express themselves artistically and use their talents to make a livelihood.

Judaism and music

During the entire process, Aryeh reported that their requests to be able to observe the tenets of observant life were respected; he and his brother chose their own songs and did not listen to women singing, as dictated by halakha (Jewish law).  

As for the music itself, Aryeh noted that the two grew up on the hits of the '60s and '70s, and found an innocence in the spirit and melodies of the tunes which connect everyone to their spiritual path. He cites Rabbi Nahman, the founder of Breslov Hasidism, who said that niggunim (melodies) bring out the essential good in people. 

The brothers, while garnering many votes, won second place in the competition. Aryeh stated that the loss only stung for ten minutes. After that, he said, the brothers returned to focusing on what they loved: making music. 

Not changed by the fame

As for their experience on the show? That has not changed who they are, Aryeh stated.

"Not long ago we played in Miami, and the first thing we looked for was a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) and place to pray," Aryeh said. "We have no interest in bars or hangouts of any kind." 

The response of the hareidi sector has largely been positive, Aryeh said, despite some critical voices. He hoped that the performance would lead others in the community to not shy away from their inner talents. 

At the end of the interview, Avraham, the father of the Gat brothers, asked to note that music connects people, and that his sons' performance managed to apply that Judaic principle beautifully - based on the positive response from Jews across Israel's often deeply-divided sectors.  

"They made [crossing religious lines] a big thing, and I'm proud of them," he said.