Almost every believer knows the song “How Great is our God,” but when American-Israeli worshipper and songwriter Joshua Aaron filmed a music video singing those popular lyrics in Hebrew, his music — and his ministry — went viral.
It also confirmed what Aaron felt was his mission: to be a bridge between Israel and the nations, between Jews and Christians, using music as a tool.
“That’s when I realized, this is what I’m called to do,” he told KNI.
And who better than Aaron, who was raised in America by an Israeli Messianic mother and Christian father, and now makes his home in Israel. Aaron grew up in Pennsylvania as a believer, but was always interested in Israel.
“My grandmother was Orthodox so she’d always remind me that I’m Jewish,” he recalled. “I was sort of annoyed by it when I was young, but later in life I was grateful for the reminder to stay connected to my roots.”
Indeed, Aaron’s music makes a connection between the land and the God of Israel. His music videos incorporate stunning landscapes of Israeli cities and countryside as the backdrop to lyrics in both English and Hebrew. He also spans the cultural bridge by implementing a variety of styles in his music, from modern worship melodies to a lively ukulele and whimsical Persian instruments which add an Oriental flare.
“I’m this guy between the Christian world and the Jewish world. My music is friendly to both sides musically,” he said. “I’m like Israel 101 whereas, Miqedem is my favorite Israeli band, but that’s the final class. I’m more the gateway.”
Miqedem is an Israel-based band comprised mainly of sabras, native Israelis, with a distinct Middle Eastern sound.
Aaron’s music relates to, as his latest album title denotes, “every tribe.” The album’s title song was recorded with a Native American chief, Joseph Amahura RiverWind. Filmed in Ein Gedi, the video features Aaron and his son Shuki along with Joseph and Laralyn RiverWind with traditional Native American instruments and dress. The single hit no. 1 on iTunes in the “world” music and no. 1 on Amazon in three categories when it was released.
A songwriter for Integrity Music, Aaron decided when he began recording his own albums that he would remain independent rather than sign with a label. He studied the digital market and decided YouTube would be his best platform “to share music with the world.” Now, his YouTube page receives over 1 million hits a month and his breakthrough song, “Gadol Elohai” (How Great is our God) stands at more than 6.7 million views.
Aaron found his niche between Israel and the U.S., between the Messianic community and Christians abroad as he spent time in worship centers in Israel where much of the singing was in Hebrew.
“I fell in love with the Hebrew worship, so I came home and that’s what I did,” he said. “I pulled together two choirs and produced a low budget album, entitled “Bo Yeshua” (Jesus, come). I put it on iTunes … and that’s when people started finding me.”
Aaron, his wife Jeannie and their four children resettled in Israel in 2015, near the Sea of Galilee. Shortly after that, and rather organically, Aaron began receiving invitations from people overseas to sing or lead worship for their tour groups coming to Israel.
“That was God’s stamp that I was going to bring this to the nations,” he said. “I was always a worship leader by heart but the response to that album — that low, low budget album — made me realize that people were really interested in what I was doing.”
While his focus is on connecting the church with Israel, Aaron’s music appeals to Israelis as well despite his unwavering message as believer. An Israeli sports channel even played one of his songs.
“I’m not trying to alter my message — I’m a believer and I believe in God. You see it in my music,” he said.
Aaron Shust, an award winning Christian artist from the United States, also found Aaron in a similar way while he was searching for Messianic music. Shust won New Artist and Songwriter of the Year awards at the 2007 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. His song, “My Savior My God,” was recognized as Song of the Year. He is also known for “My Hope is in You.”
The two artists, who are now friends, hosted two concerts in Israel during Aaron’s annual tour, Worship in Israel, ongoing this week.
“The vision is to be a bridge to the church,” Aaron said. “We sing and worship. We have a concert or two and meet with local believers along the way. We keep it real. The goal is to get them to fall in love with Israel in a personal way. They meet people they wouldn’t have met on a regular tour.”