Israeli musician Tamir Grinberg and Arab Israeli singer Valerie Hamaty paired up to deliver a unique rendition of “Hallelujah” (the sad love song, not the worship song) on Israel’s singing contest, “The Next Star” (which is similar to “The Voice” in the US).
Both Grinberg and Hamaty were solo competitors in the popular singing competition, but they came together to perform “Hallelujah” (composed by Jewish singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and released in 1984). The Israeli duo sang in Arabic and in English. Hamaty started off the song in Arabic, then Grinberg joined in with English, and later, Hamaty also sang parts in English.
To be clear, the song is not a Christian song, as some have believed. Leonard Cohen was a Bob Dylan of sorts. More of a poet than a singer. The song seems to be about the complexity of love, the highs and the lows—how it can be amazing to fall in love, and also incredibly painful at the same time.
But the reason this rendition is unique is that you had an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab, just months after the deadly war in Gaza, singing together. Grinberg and Hamaty received a standing ovation from the audience. The judges said it was the best rendition they had heard of the classic and the top duet performance of the show.
Twenty-six-year-old Grinberg, who is from Tel Aviv, went on to win the competition, becoming Israel’s “Next Star,” and was the recipient of 1 million NIS in prize money. Before the pandemic, Grinberg was set to go to the US and begin a recording career. Hamaty, who is from the greater Tel Aviv area, took second place.