Shlomo Lipman, son of former MK Dov Lipman, has become somewhat of a celebrity over the past couple of weeks, albeit unintentionally.
A former commander in the IDF’s elite Golani combat unit, he was called up to the North on October 7 after Hamas terrorists crossed the border from Gaza and murdered more than 1,400 Israelis, kidnapped 240, and wounded many more.
Now serving in the reserves, Lipman, a 26-year-old native of Beit Shemesh, married, and father of a two-year-old son, is using his musical talent to raise the morale of other soldiers on the front lines, much of which was captured on video and posted on social media.
It all started when he returned from training and saw a wedding taking place at the base for a soldier who was unable to obtain leave to have his wedding as was originally planned. Lipman spontaneously grabbed a microphone and began singing “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim” (“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem”), traditionally sung at Jewish weddings when the groom breaks the glass in memory of the destruction of the Holy Temple.
The video of his moving performance was shared on over 50 platforms; one platform alone garnered over a million views. Messages of appreciation have been pouring in from around the world. Some social media users have been moved to volunteer in the war effort as a result.
One viewer commented: “I had to reach out to you and thank you. I’m from New York, and after seeing you sing ‘Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim,’ it inspired me so much that I’m flying to Israel to volunteer in the army. I’m a critical care paramedic in NY, and you made this fire inside me burn. I want to go and use my skills as a paramedic to save Israeli soldiers, so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.”
Shlomo, what inspired you to serve in combat?
Just growing up in Israel and being exposed to older guys in my community drafted to combat units, along with the values I got from home, are the foundation for my wanting to serve in combat. In my high school years, it was constantly a topic of conversation, and I was surrounded by guys like me who were very idealistic and wanted to do their part for Am Yisrael [the nation of Israel] and the State of Israel. I think that having a background in athletics, playing for the Israel National Baseball Team, definitely added to my desire to serve in combat, to use the skill sets that I had – and my competitive nature drove me to try to be the best soldier I could be. I think the biggest thing for me was How could I not be a combat soldier while others before me and after me will be putting their lives on the line for our nation? How could I stand aside and say I’m not going to do so?
How have you been entertaining the soldiers?
I have a lot of energy, and I’m very into the craft of infantry. The guys get a big kick out of how serious I am when it comes to training, especially since I’m such a goofball while off the field. I’ve been singing and playing music on Shabbat. I led zemirot [Shabbat hymns] out in the field. I just try to make people happy and have a good time, even during this tough period.
Do you perform on your own or with other soldiers with musical talent?
During the first week of this war, we didn’t have a guitar here. Yair Ben Tov, the guitar player in my band, drove all the way up North just to bring me a guitar, and it transformed our atmosphere. I’ve been playing music in between guard duty shifts, so I haven’t really gotten the chance to play with other guys. Every once in a while, we get to jam out together, and while I’m on guard duty the guitar is used by other musical soldiers.
I understand you’re getting positive feedback from all over the world. How did that happen?
The first few days of the war, I really didn’t feel like sharing anything. I didn’t really feel like I had anything to share, so I wasn’t posting anything, especially not musical content. After a few days, while on guard duty, guys in my unit said, ‘Shlomo, why don’t you sing something?’ So I started to sing. I felt a little bit more like myself. It was then that I made a video to send to my band, just to feel part of them again and to let them see how I was doing. Well, that video got sent out and somehow made it to a few major accounts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
You performed at a wedding on base. Was the bride also serving in the IDF? How did they manage to get together for the event? Was anyone from the family there? How was the atmosphere at the wedding?
The very next day [after making the video for the band], we were coming back from a training exercise and noticed people setting up for some sort of event. We asked what was happening, and they said, ‘There’s a wedding.’ I was helping to set up, and I understood how last-second and small this wedding would be. I assumed, and ended up being right, that there was no singer for the ceremony. I told one of the party planners that I am a wedding singer and that it would be more than an honor to sing at the chuppah [wedding canopy] if the bride and groom would like it. They said yes right away. It was a wedding for a soldier from a nearby reserve unit. They were scheduled to get married that day and decided not to put it off. The bride was not a soldier. A lot of the guys in my unit are former hesder [program combining IDF service with Torah studies] guys, and the energy was off the charts. We danced and danced, even before the couple arrived; we danced them to the chuppah and after the ceremony as well. It was so special to be a part of it.
The video of me singing in the trenches and the many videos from the wedding went viral, and Jews from around the world started contacting me, saying, ‘We needed this. All we’ve been seeing lately are the horrors that happened down South. We needed just a little light. Thank you!’
It’s been a very humbling experience. I am so thankful that God chose to put me in the position to bring some much-needed light to the world during really dark times.
What’s your musical background? Do you have plans for a musical career? What are you planning to do after the army?
Ever since I knew myself, I fell in love with music and especially singing and performing. I knew already at the age of three that all I wanted to do was be a performer when I grew up. I sang in Jewish music choirs both in the US and in Israel and got the opportunity to perform alongside some of the greatest artists in Jewish music, such as Yaakov Shwekey, in Israel and abroad.
A little over a year ago, I decided to take the bold step and start a career as an independent recording artist, releasing my first song, “Kan Itcha” [Here with You]. Thank God, I now have a number of songs out and have slowly built the foundation of a music career. I am a wedding singer, have a wedding band, and have had the chance to sing at a few major concerts this past year, such as opening for Mordechai Shapiro and Akiva Turgeman, and for Ishay Rebo.
As for what the future holds when I get home from the war? Well, it looks very different than it did beforehand, that’s for sure. I will treat myself the same way and continue to grind and work as hard as I can to better my craft and to bring to the world more music and happiness, to create everlasting memories for brides and grooms, but now it’s on a broader platform.
I’ve gained exposure to Jewish communities around the world, and I plan on acting on it. I was lucky enough to be able to go after my dream; not many people get that opportunity, and not that many people manage to continue to push and not back down. God has given me the chance, and I hope I use it properly to make a kiddush Hashem [sanctification of God’s name].
My plan originally was to have my first independent concert on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the seventh night of Hanukkah. This would be the first time I could really showcase who I am as an artist. My hope is that we will be home by then, but it will happen whenever it happens.
The one thing that has changed is that I always thought that what would have made me unique as an artist was the energy that I bring to the stage. I am now being shown that people really connect to my neshama, my soul. That will definitely have an effect on how I approach my songwriting and musical presentation.
What’s the mood of the soldiers in general now? Are they optimistic?
Most of the guys with me are married, and many of them have children. The hardest part for all of us by far is being away from home and wanting to make sure that we take care of ourselves so that we can return to our loved ones. The mood is great. The camaraderie is amazing. We are optimistic about our mission and are open with each other about our fears.
There is a very deep understanding of why we’re here, and we are ready. ■
The Jerusalem Post and OneFamily are working together to help support the victims of the Hamas massacre and the soldiers of Israel who have been drafted to ensure that it never happens again.