The Shalva Band, accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, performed a unique virtual “duet” of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with notable musicians from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The performance was held in honor of Shalva’s 31st anniversary celebration, which was aptly themed “Building Bridges to the Future.”

The guest speaker was H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States and one of the key architects of the Abraham Accords, which have expanded opportunities and collaboration between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

“It is an honor to participate in the American Friends of Shalva’s 31st anniversary event,” said Ambassador Al Otaiba. “The United Arab Emirates shares Shalva’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In the UAE, those with intellectual disabilities or special needs are referred to as people of determination, in recognition of their achievements across different fields.”

“The collaboration to create the special rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ demonstrates how we must all continue to work together – regardless of nationality, religion or culture – to promote positive social change and foster more inclusive societies.”

Shalva, Israel’s leading center for people with disabilities, organized the moving musical collaboration, led by the Shalva Band, which comprises eight talented musicians with disabilities and signifies the start of a lasting and strong partnership between Israel and the UAE working together for the greater good of humanity.

Shalva has already begun actively working together with their UAE counterparts, with the goal of advancing the field of disability-care across the region.

The popular generational hit was chosen to be the anthem for this budding partnership, thanks to its uplifting message and the combination of Hebrew, Arabic and English, which sends a powerful message of unity, peace, and cooperation in a way only music can. The Israeli and Emirati musicians performed the song in its original English, with verses sung in Hebrew by the Shalva Band and in Arabic by Emirati singer, Tareq Al Menhali.

Shalva’s Founder and President, Kalman Samuels shared, “We have chosen ‘Building Bridges to the Future’ as the theme for our 31st anniversary celebration to reflect the way in which Shalva is inspiring a more inclusive society, building bridges between individuals with disabilities and their broader community with a particular focus on our newly-developing relationships in the Arab world as part of the Abraham Accords.”

Shalva’s Global Chairman, Avi Samuels said, “This special cover version has been prepared, we believe for the very first time, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic to represent the coming together of our respective countries and the optimism we share that with love, understanding and co-operation we will make the world a better place.”