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?I am speechless,? said an elderly man who saw the performance in Tel Aviv?s noted Eretz Israel Museum on Monday night. ?This explicitly expresses the heart of the Jewish people, of the nation of Israel and of the Holocaust survivors. It crosses all political and religious boundaries.?

That was high praise coming from a man who lost his whole family in the Holocaust and considers himself a staunch atheist as a result. A life toughened by Nazi concentration camps, British intern camps and Israel?s wars for survival was melted by a musical recalling God?s faithfulness to the Jewish people.

In gauging other reactions, he was not the only self-professed atheist in the audience whose faith was sparked by this extraordinary musical.

The Covenant is a colorful biblical drama that recounts the miraculous story of the People of Israel ? from the calling of Abraham to the founding of the modern state. Now translated into Hebrew by Israel?s premier songwriter Ehud Manor and re-titled ?Ha Brit,? the show is being staged throughout Israel in March by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

The first performance last week thrilled an audience of over 400 in the Kfar Saba Community Center, where the largely Russian immigrant crowd signaled its appreciation by breaking into a rhythmic clap reminiscent of the Soviet Politburo days.

At the Tel Aviv showing on Monday evening, a more cosmopolitan audience cheered and whistled their approval as the musical climaxed.

The differing spontaneous reactions at each venue attested to both the genuineness of their responses, as well as to the diverse cultural backgrounds of Israeli society. And that is the reason the Christian Embassy had the musical translated into Hebrew ? so it could reach all Israel.

Even the dozens of young kids in attendance were swept away by the colorful biblical characters on stage.

?It was killer, man,? said a teenage boy. ?Especially the Egyptian slave drivers.?

Perhaps the most common reaction was amazement that Christians ? who make up the 60-member cast ? would take up this venture in such uncertain times in order to reach out to an increasingly ostracized nation.

?Wow, these Christians really do love us!? one woman was overheard telling another as they left the Kfar Saba hall.

Others apparently shared the sentiment, stopping to hug Embassy staff as they exited. ?We could feel that you love us!? gushed one.

Again at Tel Aviv, a lawyer remarked how it was ?so touching to know somebody loves us. It was very impressive. And the songs were very strong and moving.?

With every other show in town cancelled due to the outbreak of war in Iraq, the upscale Tel Aviv audience was even more inspired by the play?s message to trust in God, as well as the cast?s extra effort to put it on now? and to re-learn it in Hebrew.

?It was not necessarily the performance that touched me so deeply,? said one man, ?but the fact that they did it during these difficult times.?

In introducing ?Ha Brit? at the Tel Aviv theater, Manor shared how he at first balked at the idea of working on a musical that attempted to tell the whole message of the Bible in a mere 75 minutes. Then he remembered seeing a production of about the same length based on all the works of Shakespeare. He now feels extremely proud of his contribution to this musical, originally written by Robert and Elizabeth Muren, and the way it is impacting his fellow Israelis.

??The Covenant? is both compelling and uplifting, as it presents our entire history,? Manor recently told a reviewer for The Jerusalem Post. ?It really grabbed me.?

A visiting tour group from Florida also watched the Hebrew version on Monday, and though they did not understand the words, they said it was still easy to discern the thread of God?s redemptive plan running all through the familiar and fast-moving biblical and historical scenes.

The current tour continues this Thursday evening with a special performance in a Lod auditorium for over 400 Israeli soldiers. On Saturday, it concludes in the Galilee at the community hall in Upper Nazareth. A follow-up tour in Israel is being planned for later this year.


NOTE TO READERS: To help the ICEJ put on this debut Hebrew tour of ?The Covenant? at this critical time, we are inviting Christians worldwide to sponsor seats for Israeli guests. Please consider sponsoring tickets at a cost of US $10 each. For each donation of $100 or more you will receive a copy of The Covenant on CD [in English]. To donate online, go to:
Check "The Covenant" box.