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WJUS Participant: Brian Harmatz

Name: Brian Harmatz
Age: 30
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Email: brian.harmatz@gmail.com

Brian Harmatz, 30, from Long Beach, California, decided it was time for a career change and left corporate sales to follow his passion for music. Brian began his new career as an artist, but he was looking for something more, a new source of inspiration for his hip-hop, and Israel was where he turned.

He'd traveled to Israel before but Brian said he decided "to return for an extended period of time would help him truly absorb Israel's culture, learn more about its tradition and better understand the conflict." After searching for a program Brian decided the Hadassah-WUJS Jerusalem Arts program was the perfect platform for him to be able to work on his music and experience life in Israel.

While living in Jerusalem Brian has been working on his music and writing new songs of which almost half have been influenced by his Israeli and Jewish experiences. "The WUJS program was able to shed light on a new side of Israel for me, I have found a new dimension for my musical inspiration" said Harmatz.

One of the songs he wrote while in Israel creates a dialogue about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first verse takes on the perspective of an Israeli father sharing with his young son about what to expect as he grows up in Israel. The second verse comes from the viewpoint of a Palestinian child that has lost his mother who was an innocent civilian caught in the crossfire, thus causing him to seek revenge. The third verse connects the previous two and encourages both sides to see the bigger picture:

"We still think the other suffers from insanity Look back though, we're all from the same family We hit a fork in the road once, and then twice If women were in charge, their men wouldn't fight Live and let live, a place to build and employ Forget the focus of kill and destroy And stop using children as a decoy What else is there that we still can avoid

If the truth would be revealed, would things change? If the truth would be revealed, we could end this pain."

In Brian's lyrics we can see how the WUJS arts program has given him the opportunity to explore the country, the people and the conflict all while inspiring his music. The program has helped strengthen his Jewish and Zionistic identity; this opportunity has allowed him to “dig into the depth that is Israel." The more he learns, the more he realizes the strength of Zionism and the Jewish people.

While in Israel Brian has improved his leadership skills and strengthened his connection with the Jewish community. “I am confident my experiences in Israel have revitalized my desire to lead a Jewish life,” Harmatz stated. Brian is just at the beginning of his Jewish journey and plans to continue to build upon his Jewish identity and to return to the U.S. as an active member of his Jewish community.

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