Monday, October 5, 2015

Interview with Deborah Hemstreet, all the way from Haifa, Israel: Part III

Welcome back, again for Part III of my interview with Deborah Hemstreet, who lives in Haifa, Israel. If you missed the previous blog posts with Debbie, click on PART I and/or PART II to learn about my friend across the sea.



Matter of fact, here’s a map of Israel, the blue star marking Haifa, where Debbie lives. Click to enlarge.


Now, let’s pick up where we left off on Thursday. Ready?

Q: I understand you’ve written a song and made a video. How did that come about?

A: The name of the song is Kotel. I first wrote it in 1982 during my first visit to Israel. I remember looking at the Western Wall (Kotel in Hebrew), and praying, “Lord, what is it about this place that touches my soul so much?” Just like that the words and melody came to my mind. I couldn’t forget them and wrote it all down as soon as I got to my hotel room.

About a year later, after I had come to Israel to live, I was thinking about the song and could see in my mind exactly how it should be presented, with me singing it, out of sight, and everyone looking at a big screen with pictures about the history of Israel flashing on and off in succession. This was long before the advanced features of PowerPoint had been created. In fact, the closest I'd seen of something of what I envisioned was a costly slide show with several projectors working in synchronization for an amazing presentation! I remember sharing my dream with some friends. I deeply believed it was from the Lord and that this was HIS vision for the song He had given me. They quickly reminded me of my limited budget and suggested that I should place this dream on a back shelf where dreams belong—if it was from the Lord He would have to do it.

Some 30 years later I was preparing for my first trip to Norway. My friend Solvejg and her husband loved the song. Over the years, every time they visited they would ask me to play it on my guitar and sing it for them. If I was visiting them with friends, they would ask me to perform for their friends. They even had me sing it at their wedding! Truthfully, I got sick of the song and lost the vision. But since coming back to Israel in 2011 my heart has markedly softened and I began to find a new place for it. I began to understand what God had given me in a different way. Now, as I prepared to visit Solvejg, I realized that I needed to give her a gift—a recording of my song for her to enjoy all the time.

Then I remembered my dream from so long ago and thought, “Oh, Lord, it’s hopeless.” The thought came to me, “Are you sure? What about PowerPoint?” I got a friend to help me with a piano accompaniment and put a quick presentation together. Needless to say, my friend Solvejg and her husband William were thrilled.

When I got back to Israel I began to fill this tugging on my heart strings with the thought, “Now do it again, only with a professional recording and good photos that you have permission to use, and put it on YouTube to speak to people about Israel.” I talked about it with one of the elders in my congregation and his response was, “I was wondering how long it would take you to do this!”

So my friends on the worship team in my congregation helped and we did a professional recording. What is really neat is that the musicians are myself, from the USA, Alexi from Russia, Kyung Im from Korea, Naomi, an Israeli, Gabriele the guitarist is from Italy and his wife is an Israeli with Swiss background. One of the verses talks about the waves cast upon the shore of Israel. In Israeli history, they call the different groups that came en mass to Israel a “wave.” I realized as we prepared to record that in God’s eyes, the waves cast onto the shore of Israel were not just the different groups of Jewish people, but all the people groups who have found refuge here over the centuries, refuge in God their savior!

Putting the pictures together was quite a challenge. I found amazing photos on the Israeli archives for free. One newspaper gave me permission to use their photo—for free, and another company charged me only $75 instead of $500 for a photo.

So more than 30 years later, I feel like my dream is on the way to being fulfilled. I don't know if this video is the fulfillment of that dream, but like this song, it’s a start.

For some reason my web browser (Google Chrome) wouldn’t allow me to embed the video within this post, so here’s the YouTube e link:

Debbie, would you mind sharing the lyrics here?


Stone upon stone upon stone

Polished by touch of hand.

Shining from multitudes' tears

Standing tall in an eternal land.

Touch upon touch upon touch

In tremors of joy and of pain

Centuries' old dream come true

Hearts linked to a wall in a chain.


Tear upon tear upon tear

Shed in a stream that won't dry,

Praying for peace to come

That no more of her sons may die.

Land upon land upon land

Casting waves upon the shore

Determined from their hearts

To live free forevermore.


Kotel, Kotel, Kotel,

You've engraved your stones on my heart

So now I lay my prayer in yours

Trusting Him before whom you stand.

All that you are no man can see

But perhaps with this song it's a start.

Original lyrics by Deborah Hemstreet © 2015. All rights reserved.


Oh, what beautiful, heart-touching words. Thank you.

Where can folks find you on the Internet?


Haifa at NightAnd now I share the final picture Be sure to click to enlarge this one. It’s beautiful!

Debbie says:

“One of my favorite views is Haifa at night. This is looking towards the north, with Haifa Bay middle right.”

And I don’t blame you one bit, my friend. I wouldn’t mind sharing that view with you some day.

Thank you, Debbie, for sharing so much of you, your life, and your beloved Israel. It’s been a wonderful visit.

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

                                          And give you peace.


  1. Debbie, it has been a joy and a pleasure to have you on my blog. Thank you so much for sharing, not just part of you and your life in Israel, but for these beautiful pictures. And of course, your song.
    Bod bless you.

  2. What a wonderful three-part interview, Debbie and Peg. I enjoy your blog, Debbie, so I had read much about your fascinating life and times in Israel. This filled in so much more. The photos are wonderful and I hope all who read this clicked on each of them to receive their full effect. My favorites are Saint Peter’s in Gallicantu where you love to walk the stairs where Jesus walked, and your night view of Haifa.
    Thanks for such an in-depth glimpse of who you are, Debbie. And your YouTube presentation of Kotel is beautiful. God bless you always.
    Many blessings dear online friend,

  3. Hi, Sally,
    Thanks so much for stopping by. I agree with you on those two pictures, but I was also fascinated with the one at Caesarea Philippi where Peter made is declaration of who Jesus was in the midst of idolatry and paganism. I think an extended visit to Israel would be the top item on my Bucket List, and of course, Debbie would have to be my personal tour guide . . . not one of those organized tours!

  4. Thank you! I pray my sharing could encourage other. Thanks for your encouragement to me.

  5. Hi, Debbie. Encouraging you is easy :)
    I finally found the RSS feed link to subscribe to your blog so I'm now getting each post delivered directly to my RSS folder. Thanks again for being my guest.

  6. Love the song, the picture of Haifa at night and the interview. Thanks for agree to do this interview Debbie and thank you Peg for hosting it. So much nostalgia for me as I remember my trip to Israel and the wailing wall, Kotel. Blessings, Cass