Convert rap star makes Aliyah to Jerusalem

3 years after conversion Nissim Black touches down in Holy Land; 'God, Jewish people and land of Israel go together, no one without other.'

Ari Yashar ,

Gad Elbaz and Nissim Black
Gad Elbaz and Nissim Black

Around three years ago Seattle rap star Damian Black - now Nissim Black - found Judaism and converted, and now he has completed the process by making Aliyah with the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization to Israel.

Black, who recently collaborated with Israeli singer Gad Elbaz, arrived in the Holy Land last Thursday with his wife Adina and five children to establish their new home in Jerusalem.

He spoke with Yedioth Aharonoth at the airport for his first interview, published on Tuesday, in which he said, "it feels amazing because of all the prayers to be here, to make it happen."

"I feel that being in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel - ed.) gives a person an opportunity to really immerse yourself in the people and in the land. When I first started coming to Judaism, God, the Jewish people and Israel, it's all the same thing to me, so to have one without the other - the puzzle wasn't complete," Black explained.

Black's wife Adina said she was very happy about the move, although she recalled how initially she was skeptical, noting "this is my first time here." However, she added, "I love it already."

Black was raised by his Muslim grandfather until his grandfather was jailed, and then was introduced to Christianity by his friends. But after a friend was killed in a shootout between rival rap groups at a night club he regularly performed at in 2008, he was lead on a search for faith and meaning that eventually brought him to Judaism.

Speaking about his exposure to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, he said, "the difference between these three (is that) with Judaism you have to go after it, you have to search for it and look inside."

By contrast he noted Islam and Christianity have an emphasis on proselytizing, saying, "with the other two it's easy, it's free money, you know."

He recalled how during his conversion he was trying to choose a name, and someone recommended Nissim which means "miracles," but he had another name in mind as well. As he was praying for guidance he went and looked for a siddur, and found the name Nissim written in the back of it, sealing his choice in a "miraculous" manner.

Black said that this week he is going up to Tzfat (Safed) and Tiberias to shoot a video for a new song about Zman Herutenu, meaning "the time of our freedom" in reference to Passover, and will also be touring in the US in the coming months.