How the Gaza War Gave Psalm 23 a New Tune

February 20, 2024 | Meir Soloveichik
About the author: Meir Soloveichik is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. His website, containing all of his media appearances, podcasts, and writing, can be found at

During the first month of the current conflict, a soldier named Yossi Hershkovitz composed a melody and taught it to a comrade one night in Gaza. From there, it has spread. Meir Soloveichik tells this song’s story:

That the two would be so interested in music, even in the midst of battle, was not a surprise. Yossi Hershkovitz, a celebrated educator and principal of the Pelech High School for boys in Jerusalem, was a gifted violinist who often played on behalf of the sick in Israel’s hospitals. Golan Vach was from a musically famous family in Israel that had released a number of albums. Vach later described how he asked his comrade to teach him the tune: “This was a very special moment when we were sitting there. It was total darkness, and he was sitting next to me and singing me a song.” The tune Hershkovitz sang was newly composed, but the age-old Hebrew words were first written by a man who was himself a singer and soldier: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Thus did Hershkovitz teach Golan Vach a new way to sing the 23rd Psalm, a psalm that truly describes Vach’s life. Vach leads Israel’s National Rescue Unit, which is activated in case of disaster; he has overseen responses to catastrophes not only in Israel, but in humanitarian missions around the world. His entire career has been spent in the valley of the shadow of death, and yet faith has sustained him throughout, especially when he entered the greatest scene of suffering he had ever experienced.

Vach has seen death and destruction all over the world, but nothing compared with what he suddenly saw in the kibbutzim and communities near Gaza that were attacked on October 7. . . . But God, he believed, was there in that hell, and made Himself manifest.

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