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‘Israeli idol’ rocks for a good cause

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Idan Amedi rocked a full house at Thornhill’s Sephardic Kehilla Centre.

The star of a popular American Idol-type show in Israel, rocked the crowd at a sold-out show last week in honour of an Israeli organization that works to treat former IDF soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Idan Amedi sang at a benefit concert for Peace of Mind (POM), a program funded by  The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP), that benefits discharged Israeli soldiers by bringing them to Toronto for a therapeutic, week-long retreat. The concert was held May 14 at Thornhill’s Sephardic Kehilla Centre.

Linoy Hazan, POM’s Canadian co-ordinating director, explained that since 1989, ICTP has been working to treat the estimated nine per cent of Israelis who suffer from PTSD – which is three times the level of that in the most western countries.

“Different groups of discharged vets are brought here several times a year. They are housed by members of our community and attend community events while they’re here” and take part in daily therapy sessions, Hazan told  the gathering.

She said the program helps veterans find their way back to civilian life by providing them “with an opportunity to strengthen their mental health and resilience.”

Last week, Toronto hosted a unit from the IDF’s Nahal Brigade, a combat unit.

Before Amedi, 24, who finished second in the eighth season Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born), took to the stage, Israeli Consul General for Toronto and Western Canada Amir Gissin briefly welcomed “his brothers from the Nahal unit.

“It’s been 25 years since I ran with the Nahal uniform and cap,” Gissin began.

“Some of us went through experiences more than others and it is very difficult to begin to understand these experiences that stay with you and don’t go away… And this is why it is important that we have a project that gives them a true chance for a new beginning.”

Few can relate to the troops as well as Amedi, who was still in uniform when he auditioned for Kochav Nolad in 2010 with a song he wrote called Pain of The Warrior, which is about his experiences as a combat soldier.

Little did he know that two years later, that song would be used in therapy sessions by an ICTP therapist.

Hazan explained how Amedi came to volunteer his time and talent to help raise awareness about the organization.

“He was doing a performance in Israel, and one of our therapists had heard his song, Pain of the Warrior, that talks about nightmares and blood on the uniform. He started to use his song in therapy sessions,” Hazan said.

“After seeing him perform, the therapist approached him and explained to him how much his song has helped other soldiers involved with the organization.”

She said when Amedi learned more about POM, he was eager to help in any way he could, and insisted on performing the benefit concert free of charge.

“That’s the kind of person he is. He’s so grounded,” Hazan said.

Throughout the hour-long performance that had some audience members singing along to the tracks off his 2011 debut album, he spoke to the crowd in both Hebrew and English, sharing an anecdote about fans encountering him on the street (a fan told him, “You wish you were Idan Amedi. He’s way better looking”), as well as the meaning and inspiration behind some of his songs. 

One of the songs he performed at the concert  was written while he worked on Soon We’ll Become a Song, a project in which musicians composed songs using the poetry of fallen soldiers.

When he received a stack of letters written to the girlfriend of a soldier who died in the Second Lebanon War, Amedi used direct quotes from the letters to write a song about the soldier’s pain and longing for his girlfriend and family. 

Following the performance, which ended with the visiting IDF veterans dancing around him and serenading him with a song the unit used to sing during training camp, Amedi was showered with thank-you gifts donated by a number of host families from the Jewish community, including an iPad and a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey jersey with his name stitched on the back.

The concert raised $40,000 for the cause. “Every single dollar raised today will go towards sustaining and improving this very worthy endeavor,” Hazan said.

For more information about Peace of Mind, visit www.traumaweb.org.

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