It was standing room only for the opening night of Handel’s Messiah in Jerusalem this week, performed for the first time ever in Hebrew.
The Pavilion, which seats 600, was packed, while two performances of Hebrew version – aptly set in the middle of Passover week – as the choruses retell the prophecies, birth, life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Yeshua.
“‘Messiah’ is about the life of Yeshua,” he said, “from the beginning, to His death, to His resurrection, to His reign,” said, Arie Bar David, a classically trained musician who conducted the 40-voice choir and small orchestra.
The Hebrew version of the oratorio was the brainchild of Messianic Jewish believers who were born and raised in Israel.
“Three years ago I saw the Messiah performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra,” recalled Efrat Gerlich, a sixth generation Israeli. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is something we must do in Hebrew.’”
Irene Levy, a tireless 87-year-old Christian resident of Jerusalem, asked Bar David numerous times to conduct the Hebrew version, but he had repeatedly refused. “I thought, ‘Impossible! I will have to ruin the Hebrew, or the music or the Bible!’” he said.
But a veiled “threat” from Levy finally got Bar David moving: “She told me, ‘In three years I will be 90 years old. Before I pass to the Lord, I want to hear it in Hebrew!’”
The original, by George Frideric Handel, is extremely popular in Israel as a classical work despite its references to Yeshua, the Messiah.
For full previews and reviews, see Israel Today’s March and May editions.