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Israeli-South African musical connection across the sea



When Israeli musician Omer Goshen met Capetonian videographer Bella Russell while travelling in South Africa, the two women instantly formed a connection. Now, they have collaborated on a music video for Goshen’s song What the Sea Gives (The Sea Takes). The result is an evocative, whimsical creation that brings Israeli lyrics and music to the South African landscape. Filmed in the tiny village of Greyton, near Cape Town, the video is also aimed at supporting a family living in poverty.

“We’re trying to help Nam-Zenebe [known as Nam] Truter, the girl featured in the video, to fund her school fees,” says Goshen. In the video, Nam explores the landscape as if in a fairytale. Goshen never imagined filming a music video in a small South African town, and yet that is where her journey took her, especially after meeting Russell.

“I was born in a city close to Tel Aviv and when I was seven years old my family moved to a kibbutz in the north called Ramat HaShofet. So, I’ve spent most of my life close to nature. I started making music from a very young age and performing at festivals and venues in Israel. In the army I served as a guitar player in the air force band, and when I finished my army time, I went on a long trip in Africa. I now live in Tel Aviv and work as a musician full-time.”

Her 14-month trip in Africa began in Ethiopia, then Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. “I spent months driving on the coastline and fell deeply in love with the views, the people, and the ocean. I felt a strong magic in South Africa.”

From her very first day in the country, Goshen encountered the warmth of South Africans and the Jewish community. “On my first night in Cape Town, two Jewish girls named Romy and Maya hosted me. We met for a few minutes, and they just decided to invite me to their place. We’re still in touch. I got a lot of help from South Africans when I was travelling, and made a lot of friends.”

She and Russell met at a festival on the Garden Route and quickly became friends. After Goshen returned to Israel, she started working on her album. “When I finished this song What the Sea Gives (The Sea Takes) it reminded me of South Africa. I remembered that Bella is a videographer, so I sent her a link to the song asking, ‘What do you think about creating a music video for it? You can do whatever you like! Create art.’” And luckily, she agreed. Without knowing Hebrew, she just made the perfect film for it with her crew of friends, Hough Maritz, Christiaan Jonck, and Nina Kay.

The song was released in mid-July and is now out on all platforms. “The song is a ballad of self-searching, introspection, and endless wandering. The song describes deep moments of understanding,” says Goshen.

Russell is also a traveller. Speaking to the SA Jewish Report from India, she says she grew up in Cape Town and studied English and film, and then did a cinematography course. Her parents live in Nature’s Valley and that’s where she met Goshen. “From that moment on, we just connected. I thought she was a beautiful soul.”

Russell says she’s always known Israelis and Jewish people, but Goshen taught her more about Israeli life and culture. Now, Russell says she has met “thousands of Israelis, because I’m travelling in Asia and spent a lot of time in India and Nepal and it’s full of Israelis! So, I actually have a lot of Israeli friends now. I’m staying with one at the moment. Sometimes I feel like I’m an Israeli!” she laughs. “I find that Israelis are very similar to South Africans and we get along very easily. Israelis have a lot of joy and lightness.”

When Goshen asked her to make the music video, “I felt grateful, because I knew that it meant that she trusted me and that she believed in me to create something special”, says Russell. “I really love her music and am always inspired by her passion to achieve her dreams. I had two friends who helped me a lot because I’m still learning.”

They took a weekend to make the video. Russell is friends with Nam’s mother, Roze, and this is how they came to film in Greyton and feature the little girl as the main character. “They’re a beautiful family, but they also struggle quite a lot. But it’s amazing how much peace, joy, and connection come from their home. I’ve always been really inspired by them and their natural way of life. So we asked if we could come stay on their little plot of land.”

They shot the music video “very freely, while exploring, walking the dogs, playing in the waterfall, getting in the mud, swinging on the swing, and laughing. It was a very natural process. It was amazing to watch it all come together. I wanted the world to see the beauty of this little girl. In South Africa things aren’t always easy, and I really wanted her light to shine and for anyone to help her.”

Russell would love to visit Israel, especially to attend their version of the Burning Man festival. “I dream of going to Israel. Hopefully one day. I think there’s a lot of beauty there that I would love to discover.”

Goshen wants to make more albums, “to make every album better than the last one and perform as much as possible. I want to stay excited about everything I do. My worst fear is to get bored. I am definitely coming back to South Africa, no question. As soon as possible!”

A BackaBuddy account was set up by Nam’s teacher, Beulah Tertiens-Reeler, to raise funds for her schooling. “Nam is eight years old and lives with her mom and older sister in a small make-shift house in Genadendal, six kilometres outside of Greyton. Last year, Nam’s aunt paid her school fees, but this year she can’t,” she wrote.

“Nam is the sweetest child and so deserving of this education. It’s hard to see her family struggling to make ends meet. Most days, they are only able to have one meal. The school fees of R1 800 a month is a lot for them. Nam struggles with some aspects of learning, and extra learning support would also be good. An organisational school account will be set up to hold all the funds, which will be used as needed.”

“Every donation helps” says Goshen. “Let’s use the power of music to make the world a better place.”

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