The Israeli Government Press Office hosted its annual New Year’s Toast for foreign journalists at Shalva, with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 300 foreign journalists from thirty countries attended the conference which coincided with the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities and appropriately took place at the Shalva National Center, one of Israel’s largest centers for disability care and inclusion.

Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed many of the current hot topics, like Israel’s relationship with Saudia Arabia and condolences to victims of recent terrorist attacks; however, the Prime Minister’s unscripted remarks about people with disabilities delivered one of the evening’s most powerful messages. Following a performance by the Shalva Band, Netanyahu took a minute to compose his emotions before saying, “On the international day recognizing disabilities, really what you want to recognize, what Shalva recognizes is that each human being has a soul.”

“I would say that living creatures with cognitive abilities and the ability to also feel pain, sensation, grief, happiness, sadness,” continued the Prime Minister. “It’s their soul and we recognize that and we salute what Shalva is doing in Israel which I think is a beacon to the entire world.”

One of the things which moved Netanyahu so visibly was the inspiring performance of “Hallelujah” by the Shalva Band, who have recently stolen the hearts of millions of Israelis and people around the world after their recent Eurovision audition which aired on Israeli national television earlier this month and went viral globally.

The Shalva Band, comprised of eight musicians with disabilities ranging from blindness to Down syndrome, Williams syndrome and autism, riveted millions when it performed the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” on the Israeli “Kochav Haba (Rising Star)” television program, which is similar to America’s “The Voice.” The Shalva band received one of the highest scores of 91 points and has moved forward to the next round in Israel’s selection of its next Eurovision representative.