Karen Davis: Her Journey from a Detroit Middle-Class Jewish Family to Becoming an Israeli Worship Leader

At age 72, Karen Davis continues to fulfill the word she received from the Lord in the Book of Isaiah 42:11 to “shout from the top of the mountains.”

More than 30 years ago, she and her late husband David established the Carmel Congregation – Kehilat HaCarmel – which sits at the top of Mt. Carmel just south of Haifa, as a part of their ministry to Jewish and Arab homeless and addicted men.

At that time, Karen became the worship leader of the congregation, which led to her music ministry and the creation of several solo albums with original worship songs sung in Hebrew and English. She and her “one new man” worship team of Jews and Arabs remain dedicated to building unity in the body of Messiah in Israel through praise and worship.

Her latest recordings, including “Songs of Eternity,” “Songs in the Night,” and “The Lord Roars from Zion – Songs of the Warrior Bride” are distributed internationally by Galilee of the Nations/Sony Music.

Karen grew up in a Jewish middle-class family in Detroit, Michigan.

“Although we went to synagogue on all the Jewish holidays, the real religion in our home was humanism. Intellectual achievement and education seemed to be celebrated above all else,” she said. “Growing up, I trained in classical music and later studied painting at an art school in Philadelphia. Then I moved to New York to be part of the art scene.”

Karen Davis (Photo courtesy)

“I don’t think any of us, except maybe my mother, really believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Karen said of her family. Her father was an automotive engineer and her mother died of cancer when she was in college. One of her two brothers died of a drug overdose when he was 19 years old and he other brother was a jazz musician and psychiatrist in New York.

“For years, I searched for eternal truth. I believed God was the creative spirit behind the beauty and harmony of music and art that so stirred my soul. I longed to tap into this force, and so I plunged deeply into various New Age and occult practices.”

After many years of trying one technique after another, Karen said she still felt empty. Finally, one day, after realizing she was worn out and had no answers left to make “life work,” she knocked on the door of a friend she’d known for two years and asked for advice.

This friend, Karen said, seemed to have her life together. Camille was an actress and comedienne who worked on the children’s TV series, ‘Sesame Street’ and created new characters for the ‘Muppet’ movies.

“She had a peace about her that was different from my other friends who meditated, chanted and talked a lot about ‘inner peace,’” Karen explained. “Sometimes I saw her carrying a Bible and wondered how someone so sophisticated and intelligent as Camille would be interested in such an old-fashioned book.”

Karen said she poured out her heart to her friend that day and when she finished, she asked Camille if she had any advice for her. ‘Would you like to pray?’ she asked.

“I’ve never done that before,” Karen said. “I thought for a moment, then answered. ‘Why not? I’ve tried everything else. I’ll try it.’ “

Camille led Karen in a brief prayer in which she repeated the words, asking God to help her and admitting she could not save herself.

“I also asked Jesus to forgive my sins, even though I didn’t really know what sin was. Then I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I thought to myself that maybe He was another ‘master.’” Karen said.

“At that moment, the Spirit of Truth pierced my heart like a knife, cutting through all my preconceived ideas and the cherished philosophies by which I had lived. Although I couldn’t explain it, I knew I had heard the truth. Truly ‘flesh and blood’ had not revealed it to me,” she shared.

“Suddenly I remembered a dream I had had the previous night. In the dream, I was in a room with a bright light, but after some time the light grew dim. Then I saw another room with a bright light and went into it. After a while, the same thing happened. I went from room to room always with the same result. Finally, I came out onto an open field with brilliant sunlight. Then the scene switched to the poorest section of downtown New York City, where a group of children were on their knees begging for bread. The next thing I saw was a curtain ripped from top to bottom, and I woke up.”

Karen Davis (Photo courtesy)

Karen later understood that the dream was a picture of her life and her long search for ‘the true Light’ that gives light to every man (see John 1:9).

“Because I had never read the New Testament, Karen said, “I didn’t know that Jesus had said, ‘I am the Light of the world’ (John 8:12) or ‘I am the Living Bread that comes down from Heaven’” (John 6:51).

Karen said she had never heard that “unless you come to Him as a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3).

“I didn’t know that the veil in the Temple in Jerusalem had been torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross during Passover. I didn’t even know that no one could go beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies except the high priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.”

Karen said for the first time in her life she understood that God, in His great love and mercy, had allowed her to suffer many disappointments in order to bring her to a place of repentance, as she stated, “to come to the end of herself, to humble me and to cause me to turn to Him.”

Karen described the “veil” over her Jewish heart being removed.

Camille gave Karen a New Testament and assured her that God would begin to answer my many questions and confirm to me who this Jesus was as she would read it.

“I returned to my apartment and began to read the Gospel of Matthew. I noticed that it was all so Jewish. Jesus was a Jew, and so were His first followers. I devoured the Bible. In the following weeks, I saw how the Old Testament and the New Testament were one book. The New fulfilled the promises of the Old.”

“For the first time in my life, I began to realize what it meant to be Jewish, that God had  called out a people for Himself to know Him personally, to share Him with the rest of humanity, and to be a ‘light to the Gentiles.’”

Karen characterizes her worship style as “that of victory, as music to carry God’s word, to pierce the darkness, to call forth God’s truth.”

She uses Psalms and uniquely created Israeli music from various cultures worldwide, including her own Detroit background of R&B and soul, with New York jazz.

Israeli music is “a blend of styles,” according to Karen and “reflects who we are as Israelis, both native-born and immigrants from the nations.”

Her latest album, “Songs of Eternity,” is a musical journey primarily designed to bring people into the presence of the Lord. She said it carries triumphant joy, hope and healing.

“It was released after David died and has a deep anointing that comes forth from my having dealt with illness and his passing.”

Karen was her husband David’s chief caregiver during the last 18 months of his life, as he suffered from his illness.

“It brought me into deeper levels of living the crucified life – of saying ‘yes’ to the Lord.”

She describes the experience of being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8) and of “allowing the crushing out of our own life, that we might manifest the resurrection life of the Lord.”

 “To the degree that we lose something precious in this life, we gain eternity,” Karen added, saying the loss of her husband brought her into the greater reality of eternity.”

“The songs flow from a deeper well of living water and the arrangements really carry the sounds of heaven. As we move closer into the End Times and closer to His return, we must be seated with the Lord in Heavenly places and deeply rooted and grounded in the love of Yeshua so that our joy will be full,” she said.

She plans to begin releasing single recordings while focusing on increasing the number of worship watches being held at the congregation and initiating worship gatherings of Jews and Arabs along with Gentiles from other countries.

Visit Karen’s website at karendavisworship.com for more information.