Shira Ben Avraham’s Spiritual ‘Journey’ to Judaism and Motherhood – Israel Culture

Shira Ben Avraham has just released her second album, which chronicles her spiritual journey that led her to Israel, and now to motherhood.

Born in South Africa, her Christian parents instilled in her a love of the Bible and Israel. Little did they know that their daughter would one day convert to Orthodox Judaism and join the burgeoning local scene of young immigrants from English-speaking countries in Jerusalem.

Born Gizelle le Roux into a family descended from the French Huguenots, Ben Avraham grew up near Pretoria. In her late teens and early twenties, she began writing songs and poetry, culminating in her debut album, Begin. In 2010, it was nominated for a SAMA, a South African music award, with the soft, delicate sounds of its native language earning it recognition in the Best Afrikaans Album category..

The nomination led her to perform for several album launch concerts. It was the last time she would perform in front of an audience until she arrived in Israel. She felt something deeper calling her.

Ben Avraham spoke to In Jerusalem about his new album, Journey. “It’s a collection of songs that were written as part of this journey that I’ve been on over, say, 10 years, which really started in South Africa where I grew up,” he said. she declared.

“It’s a collection of songs that were written as part of this journey that I’ve been on for, say, 10 years, which really started in South Africa where I grew up.”

Shira Ben Avraham

SHIRA’S DEBUT album, the ‘Begin’ nominee released under her former name Gizelle. (credit: Eitan Ben Avraham)

“Very soon after the release of my first album, I completely lost inspiration. I didn’t want to continue making music. I didn’t understand it. It was very disorienting for me”, she explained.

This feeling led her to leave South Africa. She was hired by an international company which then transferred her to Melbourne. “There I took a spiritual journey and started to really look at what I believe,” she said.

Ben Avraham’s unusual upbringing had the benefit of being brought up with an awareness of Israel and Torah. “Even though we were Christians, when I was young we moved away from that and towards Orthodox Judaism. But once I was in Australia on my own, I really had to look at that and decide what I believe in. Over the years, her parents drifted away from normative Christianity and today see themselves as something indefinable.

About three years into her five-year stay in Australia, she began a process of Orthodox conversion, which eventually took her to Jerusalem. She benefited from Melbourne’s large Jewish community. “I got closer and closer and finally made the decision to convert to Judaism,” she said. The date of this interview coincided with the anniversary of his conversion to Melbourne’s Beit Din. “So today is my fifth Hebrew birthday, so to speak,” she explained.

Ben Avraham then moved to Jerusalem, where she lived in Nahlaot. It was there that she met her future husband, Eitan Ben Avraham, an American-born social media guru and entrepreneur and founder of Aleph Male Beard Balm and Oil.

Many of the songs on the new album are about those experiences. Two videos were released, including one called “Dance With Me” about her relationship with Eitan. The video incorporates footage from their wedding.

Unlike his previous album, his new songs are much more spiritual, inspired by his move to Jerusalem.

“It’s about my desire to connect with God and serve Him,” she noted. “It contains a positive and uplifting message that I hope will inspire many people, especially Jewish women, to draw closer to God.”

“It contains a positive and uplifting message that I hope will inspire many people, especially Jewish women, to draw closer to God.”

Shira Ben Avraham

Her debut album deals with sad subjects such as unrequited love. “It was actually a tough time in my life at the time,” Ben Avraham explained. “The album was quite dark, but I felt very passionate about it.”

After the self-funded independent album was nominated for a SAMA award, she assembled a top-notch band and performed at album launches in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Seemingly set for success, it was Ben Avraham’s last time performing live in South Africa.

become disillusioned

“I was starting to feel disillusioned and disconnected and really wasn’t inspired to continue on this path,” she explained. “I thought that was what I was going to do with my life. Looking back now, there were a number of things involved, but I recognize that part of the reason was that this album didn’t have not really a meaningful message. There wasn’t anything that I felt like I was giving to the world.

“It was satisfying to do self-expression. But I saw no future for myself doing this for the rest of my life. The life of performing at regular gigs and building an audience wasn’t for her.

“I had no energy or desire to spend the next 10 years going around and performing these songs.”

It was then that the company she worked for moved her to Australia.

WHEN HIS mother was pregnant with her, Ben Avraham’s parents became very religious Christians and from there “they went their own way”, she explained, rejecting certain dogmas of the church and incorporating some aspects of Judaism. “When I was a little kid in primary school, my parents protected me from this because it was very controversial,” Ben Avraham said.

“It was very difficult to explain that we were in a Christian school with other children whose parents had just gone to church and had a normal Christian life,” said Ben Avraham. “But as I grew up, I became more and more aware, and my parents gave me an appreciation for the history of the Jewish people and the return to the Land of Israel. I found that very inspiring and I So started reading novels and I also turned to Judaism, with my parents during their spiritual journey.

A spiritual void

It was after moving to Australia that she felt a sort of spiritual void. With her parents, they would have their own version of Shabbat and holidays, but now in another country, she was alone. “I couldn’t stay in that gray area between Christianity and Judaism anymore,” Ben Avraham said, “and that’s when I started to really orient myself towards Judaism and I involved in the community, and then finally converted.”

While it’s no surprise, his conversion was “a little trying for his parents,” Ben Avraham said. But once they accepted it, “they were very, very supportive and very excited and in a way they were living vicariously through me because they love Israel, they love everything about the Judaism”.

Her parents attended her wedding in Israel and would have visited more often had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Ben Avraham and her husband finally traveled to South Africa where they were able to introduce their child to the grandparents.

STRUMMING A guitar in its new home. (credit: Eitan Ben Avraham)

This reignited her creativity and resulted in the new album, which she hopes will inspire others.

“Everyone who has made aliyah has some kind of crazy story about how God brought them here and the experience of feeling alive and feeling challenged,” she said.

“If you think about it, you’re probably already free to follow your dreams,” Ben Avraham said. “But it’s your own thoughts and self-imposed limitations that can keep you from starting. I have songs waiting to come out of me, I have words just waiting for me to speak,” she said, quoting her own lyrics from the new album, “and I hope these songs will take you on a journey of discovery and help you discover your own path.” ❖

For more information:

Song of Aliyah

By Shira Ben Avraham

“I live in the land of IsraelI build, it builds meI like that I’m part of your planI see it unfoldHow did you bring me here?I don’t control, it’s clearSo teach me to be the best I can beI’m here, I’m listening, I’m hereI’m home, finally

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