May 7, 2004) Ramallah is now usually quiet at night.
This has not always been the case for this summer
town located in the center of the West Bank. As a
matter of fact, before the latest Israeli military
aggression and subsequent re-occupation of the West
Bank, Palestinians in Ramallah were known to walk
the streets and socialize well into the night. However,
tonight the deafening silence was broken, not by the
frequent Israeli tanks and jeeps that now enter and
exit the city at will, but rather by the music of
the distinguished Daniel Barenboim, one of the great
musicians of our time.
the Israeli Apartheid Wall and despite the humiliation
of having to cross the Israeli military checkpoints
surrounding Ramallah, this world renowned musician,
an Israeli by nationality, visited Palestine again,
being received by a larger and larger audience every
Barenboim, this absolutely incredible musician
a legend in his own right took to the stage
tonight at the Friends Boys School in
front of a standing room only audience and proceeded
to perform an extraordinary piano recital. For a continuous
sixty minutes, the mixed Palestinian and foreign audience
watched the intensity of his every move and the fiery
of his musical climaxes along with the occasional
lull in the beat. Children in the audience stared
with awe. If I did not know better, I would swear
that my daughter Areen, a first year piano student,
didnt blink throughout the entire performance
as she soaked in every note.
than a musician, Mr. Barenboim is a humanist who sees
beyond the frameworks that define traditional conflicts,
especially those between Palestine and Israel. He
values justice, social justice, which he profoundly
articulates as the needed foundation for successful
resolutions of conflicts around the world.
following intermission, Mr. Barenboim addressed the
audience and reflected upon the life of the noted
literary critic, scholar, advocate for Palestinian
independence and his close friend, Dr. Edward Said
(1935-2003). As the disciplined musician he is, Mr.
Barenboim explained how he and his late friend, Dr.
Said, created the Barenboim-Said Foundation in order
to promote music in education and educational
music two distinct goals as stated by
Barenboim reiterated the need for all sides
to look beyond the borders issue and economic issues,
and so forth, but to realize that without the presence
of social justice peace will not come to the region.
Barenboim spoke frankly of the need for both Palestinians
and Israelis to remove the ignorance of the
other in order for a peace based on social justice
to ushered in. He spoke to the fact that more and
more people from all corners of the world understand
that the existing situation has reached a point that
is now intolerable.
if a piano recital was not enough, Mr. Barenboim proceeded
to proudly announce that an initiative that he and
the late Dr. Said started during their last trip in
August of last year, the desire to create a Palestinian
Orchestra within five years, had already begun to
bud. He spoke as two dozen Palestinian youth music
students from the National Conservatory of Music Student
Orchestra -- or more accurately called tonight by
Mr. Barenboim, the Palestine Youth Orchestra -- surrounded
him on stage, each armed with a weapon of mass pleasure
violins, flutes, cellos, and drums. This beginning
Palestinian orchestra performed for the first time
tonight under the directive of conductor Daniel Barenboim.
They were received by multiple standing ovations and
by Mr. Barenboims beaming pride and joy.
music, Palestinians have proven that they have the
institutional discipline of development needed to
join the ranks of a global world. As Mr. Barenboim
stated tonight, everything is linked, everyone is
linked, all our actions have ramifications, and music
is a teacher of this interconnected reality. Palestinian
organizations like the National Conservatory of Music
(http://ncm.birzeit.edu/) in Jerusalem and Ramallah
are giving Palestinian children an alternative to
the destruction being imposed on them. Mr. Barenboim
is not only paying lip service to a different kind
future for our two peoples, he is contributing to
forging this future, professionally, financially,
morally and politically.
Mr. Barenboim so eloquently spoke tonight, one could
not but think about how many other of our Israeli
neighbors share his humanity. As I told Mr. Barenboim
following tonights event, as he engaged my daughter
about her first piano lessons, we thank him for allowing
Palestine to share in his legend, just as much as
we respect and admire him for putting humanity and
justice before all else.
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living
in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian City of Al-Bireh
in the West Bank; he can be reached at email@example.com.
He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine
and Palestinians (1994).
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