Arts can save the world:
Making peace through Jewish, Arab musical roots
Saturday, 07 October 2006
Arts can save the world.
They help us become more human.
They make us want to connect with each other and Earth.
They can bring Arabs and Jews -- everyone -- together at last.
Ali Hatem al-Iraqi, a renowned Iraqi singer, is shocked at how popular his latest recording has become.
Its lyrics called on all
"This song made everybody satisfied because it let them know they all belong to these tribes and in the end they are brothers," he says.
Iraqis have long been drawn to sentimental songs about nationalism and love.
Singers are now turning to the theme of peace.
The lyrics of his new song name many of the most prominent tribes in
"I wanted to put all the tribes in one song, because they represent the spectrum of our society," Iraqi says.
Other peoples in conflict surely have much to learn from this story:
Songs of peace and love find renewed popularity
By Zaid Sabah
Iraqis have a strong tribal identity and long to be acknowledged.
Contemporary social science now instructs us what causes and can prevent violent acts.
Middle East violence, especially suicide bombings, are mostly rooted in desperation from being unheard, unacknowledged, humiliated and disenfranchised from indigenous lands and national aspirations, fearing loss of identity.
A first step in healing is to acknowledged the the identity and equal humanity of the "other."
Shared stories in face-to-face, perpetual Dialogue is a way that works.
Music, drama and the many arts are also powerful ways to acknowledge one another and tell our stories.
Help people listen well to the stories of everyone -- no exceptions.
Stories -- well told and well heard -- are the new power to change the direction of history.
Arts, too, can save the world.
Published by Israel21c -- Tuesday 03 October 2006
On the Web at:
Making peace through Jewish and Arab musical roots
By Barry Davis
While the notion of Jews and Arabs in Israel playing music together is relatively commonplace, Ariel Nishri's Groupeace initiative has grander, more global designs.
"I'm looking to bring musicians from
Thirty-nine-year-old Nishri's peace-oriented artistic endeavors have some hereditary collateral. His mother, Drora Havkin, was a singer who grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1930s, enjoying harmonious neighborly relations with the Arab residents.
"She was always aware of the suffering caused by wars, without any political connotations," says Nishri, adding that it did not stop her from helping to keep Israeli soldiers' spirit up during wartime. "During the  Yom Kippur War, my sisters and I didn't see our mother for two months. She was busy singing for the troops over on the Egyptian side of the
Part of Nishri's formative years were spent with his mother in Holland, although Havkin returned to Israel in 1984 leaving the 17-year-old Nishri to complete his high school education there before moving back to Israel to do his compulsory military service. It was around this time that Havkin began to take an interest in musical synergies with local Arab artists.
"When I was 17, and still living in Holland, my mother made a trip to Israel and fell in love with [the Galilee town of] Rosh Pina. She came back to
Havkin soon teamed up with Arab Galileean duo percussionist Salem Darwish and violinist George Samaan, and they began performing all over the country. "I've looked into the matter and, as far as I can see, Drora,
"There was no political intent there. As far as they were concerned, if 300 people in an audience spent an hour or two listening to Arabs and Jews performing music together on the same stage, and they left with a pleasant experience, then the musicians had done their job. For Drora,
Sadly, Havkin died suddenly in 1995, and in March this year Nishri, his partner Yifat and sister Shiri arranged a tribute concert in her memory in Tel Aviv, which featured many top Jewish and Arab Israeli artists from the pop, rock and ethnic sectors including, naturally Darwish and Samaan.
"While we working on the concert we began to realize that we were coming across more and more bands and musicians that Drora would have liked - bands like Hisham and Friends. It seemed like there was a lot more mileage to be had from Jews and Arabs, and people of all ethnic backgrounds, playing music and living together."
Hisham and Friends was one of the acts that recently performed at the Melchett Villa on the banks of the
The "Hisham" in question is a Jordanian oud player by the name of Hisham Abu-Me'iteg who, unfortunately, didn't make it to
"It was just bureaucracy," he says. "It was a great shame Hisham couldn't make it but we've performed together all over
Abu-Me'iteg and Givati met by chance in the
For Givati, Hisham and Friends, which includes three Jews, a Muslim and a Christian Arab from
The group's Christian Nazarene violinist Ihab Nimer fully endorses Givati's observations. "Music is just music," says Nimer. "I come from a classical Arab music background but I don't have a problem playing with musicians - Jewish, Muslim, Christian or whatever - who come from a different area of music."
Meanwhile, Nishri is looking to take his Groupeace bandwagon on the road, and across the globe. He is currently negotiating a project with a leading songwriter, record producer and promoter from
"It's a sort of 'Singing for Peace' concept," says Nishri. "The idea is for a Jewish singer to invite an Arab singer to record a duet with her, and vice versa. The recordings will take place in
Naturally, there are some logistics, and some unavoidable politics, to be taken into account. "There are musicians we can't possibly bring to
"My mother had no grand illusions about ending all wars or changing the world after a concert or two, but she, Salem and George, and others like them, tried to generate what they called: 'peace within'. That's all we need."