'Israel is our friend': Malawi crooners stand with Israel through song in wake of Hamas attack

A cappella group ACA-4 HIM performs cover of Israeli song to express solidarity with Israel following October 7 attack

Rinat Perera Danieli|

The October 7 atrocities devastated many people worldwide, prompting them to show support and solidarity with Israel. A particularly touching and surprising expression of support came from Malawi, an African country that had been particularly supportive of Israel.
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ACA-4 HIM, an acapella group from Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, made a clip as a tribute to Israel, with the Hebrew song Habayta (Back Home, in translation). This is their second clip in Hebrew. About a year ago, before and regardless of the Gaza war, they sang a cover version of the Israeli song Bat Shishim, which was written in honor of the state's 60th anniversary.
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The ACA-4 HIM group
The ACA-4 HIM group
The ACA-4 HIM group
(Photo: Daniel Nyirenda)
The Habayta ("Back home") clip calls on the world to bring the hostages back home. "Israel and Jews have the right to exist and defend themselves like any other country," the introduction to the clip reads.
The ACA-4 HIM group, directed by Precious Phiri, is made up of 7 members, ranging in age from 22 to 36. They are religious, belonging to the Seventh-day Adventists Church, and sing mainly their original gospel songs, "but also songs that have national interests," Phiri says.
"We followed what was going on in Israel, the October massacre, and thought that it was inhuman to attack innocent people," Phiri says. "We condemn that. Thinking that Israelis were attacked just for being Israelis, is not something you choose, as I did not choose to be a Malawian, that's how I was born, and that's how you were born, and to think that someone would hit and kill you for that."
"We were exposed to Israelites by His Excellency Dr. Nir Gess (honorary consul of the Republic of Malawi in the State of Israel). The first encounter we had with Gess demonstrated to us that people from Israel have love, respect and peace. Since then, we have been close to Israel," Phiri adds.
Gess is the one who showed the group the video clip of the song Habayta, from the Homeland Concert Project that appeared at the Caesarea Amphitheater, with the participation of the family members of hostages.
The Malawian a cappella group was touched by the clip and by the fate of the hostages, so they decided to make their arrangement of the song. "We said 'We also have to show solidarity with Israel'," says Phiri. "Israel is doing a lot for Malawians, Israel is our friend, we have to do something about it, so we decided to make this cover version."
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(Photo: Screenshot)
They contacted their Malawian friend working on Kibbutz Zikim near the Gaza border. It is one of many communities that absorbed Malawian workers to replace Thai workers who left the country following October 7, creating a tremendous shortage of working hands that endangered the entire agricultural industry.
At present, the kibbutz is evacuated, except for the essential agricultural factories, which continue to operate with the aid of 3 Malawians who work in the avocado plantations.
Phiri's Malawian friend who works on the kibbutz, turned to his Israeli co-worker Klil Hetzroni, 21, who also came to work in the kibbutz's avocado plantations following October 7. The Malawians learned the Hebrew words with Hetzroni's help, including the correct diction and pronunciation. The result was captivating.
The clip, which was filmed in Malawi by Mr. Solomon Chilemba was completed in 2 weeks. "We love you, it's my dream to visit Israel, and we plan to do more songs in Hebrew," says Phiri.
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