Monday, January 07, 2008

Peace and the Power of Music

By Faun Finley - News Record - Greensboro, NC, USA
Sunday, January 6, 2008

Israel. We know where the conflict is, but do we know where the peace is?

While talks in Annapolis carved the way for a new hope generated by leaders of government, people in Israel have been taking peace into their own hands for some time. And some Americans are helping.

What do I know about peace in Israel? Not a lot. But I can share with you little miracles of peace I witnessed while on tour with the Yuval Ron Ensemble in Israel in November.

The group's two-week tour covered a lot of ground in a short time: Jerusalem, Haifa, the Negev Desert, Neve Shalom, Tel Aviv, Masada, Galilee and the Dead Sea. I was one of 30 concerned citizens from across the United States and one from Holland accompanying the ensemble.

The Los Angeles-based band plays traditional Middle Eastern music in a nontraditional way, blending Jewish, Sufi and Christian Armenian melodies and rhythms into an epic experience of sound, story and dance.

Rarely -- if ever -- do you hear these traditions played together in one concert. And the ensemble plays them with great reverence and profound soul.

The ensemble's leader, Yuval Ron, is Israeli, and the ensemble represents the same interfaith mix as their music. Their mission: to open a porthole for understanding of -- and among -- Middle Eastern cultures and to create a sacred space where audiences can tune into their hearts and transcend what divides them.

(...)

In the hills overlooking the Ayalon Valley midway between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam ("Oasis of Peace") boasts views that can be compared to that of Tuscany, Italy.

But the beauty of Neve Shalom is more than external. The village is made up of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship who rise to the challenges of living in Israel by a commitment to equality, understanding and inner peace.

This begins with teaching children both Hebrew and Arabic. It continues with celebrating the richness of Arabic and Jewish cultures. It deepens with nonviolence workshops and silent meditation walks.

At Neve Shalom they literally walk their talk. And they share their philosophies and teachings: Ninety-two percent of the children educated at Neve Shalom are from surrounding villages.

An ecumenical community of this kind was first imagined by Dominican priest Father Bruno Hussar, a secular Jew born in Cairo who converted to Catholicism after a mystical experience. He and Anne Le Meignen founded Neve Shalom in 1972. The residents of Neve Shalom have grown the original vision while maintaining the integrity of its intention.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel says: "When Jews and Arabs get together, work together, live together, they create their own miracle." I see evidence of this at Neve Shalom.

And then I witness another miracle.

The Yuval Ron Ensemble plays inside Neve Shalom's spiritual center. A woman in green sits listening, visibly tense. A Sufi member of our tour group invites everyone to participate in a peace dance.

We hold hands and sing "Shalom/Salam." The woman in green cautiously joins our circle. The ice is broken. At just the right moment, our clever clarinetist breaks into an exuberant Armenian party tune. Everyone dances.

At the center of our circle a woman erupts into unbridled movement, spinning a scarf over her head. It is the woman in green!

One year ago her daughter died. She had been the dance leader of the community. She had stopped dancing -- until our visit.

Peace and the Power of Music
Haifa is known as the city of "real co-existence." A staff member at Haifa's Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Center explains, "Moses wasn't here, Jesus wasn't here and Mohammed wasn't here. There's nothing to fight about!"

The center hosts a concert by the Yuval Ron Ensemble. Najwa Gibran sings with such beauty and intensity, I clap and shout "AYWAH!" ("Aywah" is an ecstatic "YES!" in Arabic).

An Arab woman sitting to the right of me echoes my aywahs. I turn to her and smile. She responds in kind with warm, glowing eyes. The rest of the concert we clap and shout together.

The ensemble closes with a Sufi song. Yuval invites the audience to clap and sing with them. Band and audience merge. We are no longer Israeli or American, Arab or Jew, Christian or Muslim. Just humans amid the divinity of music.

Back in Jerusalem, the Yuval Ron Ensemble plays the renowned International Oud Festival. Unlike the Haifa concert, the audience sits quietly. Bodies are still. Voices are silent.

Halfway through the program, Yuval shares a story about the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi searching for his missing master until he realized that the love he was looking for was inside him.

Yuval speaks in hushed tones, "Rumi begins to hear 'Allah' in the sound of the goldsmith's hammer..." he says. The drum beat is strong and even. The music intensifies.

Najwa sings out "Allah" with her whole soul. The ensemble is playing "Illahi" -- the same music that moved Meir, my seat buddy on the flight. But it's even more powerful live.

A man in the center of the theater jumps to his feet and waves his hands at heaven. Others follow. Many slip into the aisles to dance. I witness the ensemble win over a predominantly Jewish audience in the heart of Jerusalem with music that pays homage to Islam.

Yuval calls it "a victory." It is also a little miracle.

So where's the peace? It's inside each of us. We find it when we open our hearts wide enough. My trip to Israel taught me that all of us are capable of finding peace and sharing it -- even in the most unlikely of circumstances, even in the most trying of times.

To recognize this is the greatest of all miracles. To embrace it is the way to live a New Year.

[Picture: Al-Aqsa Mosque Restoration; Interior prayer hall. Photo: Jacques Betant; Copyright :Aga Khan Award for Architecture; Source: Aga Khan Visual Archive, MIT; http://archnet.org/].

2 comments:

crazysoccer said...

Hye I like to share with u some Islamic music.Maybe we can share the information about Saudi Arabia Nasheed artists.Could u give me some informations?This is my website http://islamic-music.blogspot.com

Irving said...

What a beautiful story :) Indeed, the miracle is inside each of us, the love of Hu that engenders peace and hope and joy :)

Ya Haqq!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Peace and the Power of Music
By Faun Finley - News Record - Greensboro, NC, USA
Sunday, January 6, 2008

Israel. We know where the conflict is, but do we know where the peace is?

While talks in Annapolis carved the way for a new hope generated by leaders of government, people in Israel have been taking peace into their own hands for some time. And some Americans are helping.

What do I know about peace in Israel? Not a lot. But I can share with you little miracles of peace I witnessed while on tour with the Yuval Ron Ensemble in Israel in November.

The group's two-week tour covered a lot of ground in a short time: Jerusalem, Haifa, the Negev Desert, Neve Shalom, Tel Aviv, Masada, Galilee and the Dead Sea. I was one of 30 concerned citizens from across the United States and one from Holland accompanying the ensemble.

The Los Angeles-based band plays traditional Middle Eastern music in a nontraditional way, blending Jewish, Sufi and Christian Armenian melodies and rhythms into an epic experience of sound, story and dance.

Rarely -- if ever -- do you hear these traditions played together in one concert. And the ensemble plays them with great reverence and profound soul.

The ensemble's leader, Yuval Ron, is Israeli, and the ensemble represents the same interfaith mix as their music. Their mission: to open a porthole for understanding of -- and among -- Middle Eastern cultures and to create a sacred space where audiences can tune into their hearts and transcend what divides them.

(...)

In the hills overlooking the Ayalon Valley midway between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, the village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam ("Oasis of Peace") boasts views that can be compared to that of Tuscany, Italy.

But the beauty of Neve Shalom is more than external. The village is made up of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship who rise to the challenges of living in Israel by a commitment to equality, understanding and inner peace.

This begins with teaching children both Hebrew and Arabic. It continues with celebrating the richness of Arabic and Jewish cultures. It deepens with nonviolence workshops and silent meditation walks.

At Neve Shalom they literally walk their talk. And they share their philosophies and teachings: Ninety-two percent of the children educated at Neve Shalom are from surrounding villages.

An ecumenical community of this kind was first imagined by Dominican priest Father Bruno Hussar, a secular Jew born in Cairo who converted to Catholicism after a mystical experience. He and Anne Le Meignen founded Neve Shalom in 1972. The residents of Neve Shalom have grown the original vision while maintaining the integrity of its intention.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel says: "When Jews and Arabs get together, work together, live together, they create their own miracle." I see evidence of this at Neve Shalom.

And then I witness another miracle.

The Yuval Ron Ensemble plays inside Neve Shalom's spiritual center. A woman in green sits listening, visibly tense. A Sufi member of our tour group invites everyone to participate in a peace dance.

We hold hands and sing "Shalom/Salam." The woman in green cautiously joins our circle. The ice is broken. At just the right moment, our clever clarinetist breaks into an exuberant Armenian party tune. Everyone dances.

At the center of our circle a woman erupts into unbridled movement, spinning a scarf over her head. It is the woman in green!

One year ago her daughter died. She had been the dance leader of the community. She had stopped dancing -- until our visit.

Peace and the Power of Music
Haifa is known as the city of "real co-existence." A staff member at Haifa's Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Center explains, "Moses wasn't here, Jesus wasn't here and Mohammed wasn't here. There's nothing to fight about!"

The center hosts a concert by the Yuval Ron Ensemble. Najwa Gibran sings with such beauty and intensity, I clap and shout "AYWAH!" ("Aywah" is an ecstatic "YES!" in Arabic).

An Arab woman sitting to the right of me echoes my aywahs. I turn to her and smile. She responds in kind with warm, glowing eyes. The rest of the concert we clap and shout together.

The ensemble closes with a Sufi song. Yuval invites the audience to clap and sing with them. Band and audience merge. We are no longer Israeli or American, Arab or Jew, Christian or Muslim. Just humans amid the divinity of music.

Back in Jerusalem, the Yuval Ron Ensemble plays the renowned International Oud Festival. Unlike the Haifa concert, the audience sits quietly. Bodies are still. Voices are silent.

Halfway through the program, Yuval shares a story about the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi searching for his missing master until he realized that the love he was looking for was inside him.

Yuval speaks in hushed tones, "Rumi begins to hear 'Allah' in the sound of the goldsmith's hammer..." he says. The drum beat is strong and even. The music intensifies.

Najwa sings out "Allah" with her whole soul. The ensemble is playing "Illahi" -- the same music that moved Meir, my seat buddy on the flight. But it's even more powerful live.

A man in the center of the theater jumps to his feet and waves his hands at heaven. Others follow. Many slip into the aisles to dance. I witness the ensemble win over a predominantly Jewish audience in the heart of Jerusalem with music that pays homage to Islam.

Yuval calls it "a victory." It is also a little miracle.

So where's the peace? It's inside each of us. We find it when we open our hearts wide enough. My trip to Israel taught me that all of us are capable of finding peace and sharing it -- even in the most unlikely of circumstances, even in the most trying of times.

To recognize this is the greatest of all miracles. To embrace it is the way to live a New Year.

[Picture: Al-Aqsa Mosque Restoration; Interior prayer hall. Photo: Jacques Betant; Copyright :Aga Khan Award for Architecture; Source: Aga Khan Visual Archive, MIT; http://archnet.org/].

2 comments:

crazysoccer said...

Hye I like to share with u some Islamic music.Maybe we can share the information about Saudi Arabia Nasheed artists.Could u give me some informations?This is my website http://islamic-music.blogspot.com

Irving said...

What a beautiful story :) Indeed, the miracle is inside each of us, the love of Hu that engenders peace and hope and joy :)

Ya Haqq!