Daniel Barenboim, Tania Nasir and The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (also in Gaza…)

🙂 Arab-Short > Music in Mideast & Asia >
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Please check
🙂 Mail Recipients in Palestinian Area

🙂 Barenboim: Shut up BIBI! This is a REAL Palestinian Situation!! (Aug 4, 2009 – Present)
🙂 Has Daniel Barenboim really boycotted in Ramallah? Who are PSC or PACBI? (Jul 14, 2009)
🙂 JIWON: Dear Palestinians, (Concerning Barenboim’s Divan-Project) (Aug 29 – Dec 3, 2008)

🙂 Events & Articles in Nablus
🙂 Strings of Freedom (Orchestra) in Jenin refugee camp: Events & Articles in Jenin
🙂 Events & Articles in East Jerusalem

1. The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
1-1. Jerusalem branch
1-2. Ramallah branch
1-3. Bethlehem branch: International Center of Bethlehem (ICB)
1-4. Nablus branch
1-5. Gaza branch

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🙂 From Section: Nationalist-Govn’t-Please

MARCH 31 – APRIL 3, 2009
(…please click this to read the entire text…)

Whenever I read old stories about those Jews, I am thinking. Those are gone. People are still missing old good days. What if they are still alive? Would all of them become another Kahanist? The foremost reason of their risking lives was to leave their Jewish State to their children. Then what kind of Jewish State were they dreaming when they died for their children? The present bloody one? Or still Greater Israel at any price? Is there something that I misunderstood while reading Israeli history?

Egypt to boycott Lieberman unless he apologizes Apr 2, 2009 / By Jerusalem Post

🙂 From Section: Arad-&-Shalit
Egypt: Israel has made no efforts to renew Shalit negotiations Mar 20, 2009 / By Haaretz

🙂 From Daniel Barenboim, Tania Nasir and The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (also in Gaza…)
🙂 From Music in Jenin
Palestinian youth orchestra disbanded over concert for Holocaust survivors Mar 29, 2009 / By Haaretz

I am not Daniel Barenboim. I don’t belong to Israel or to Palestine. I’ve followed Mideastern affairs through the eyes of third person, and therefore, under the normal circumstances, I have a perfect brain and heart to openly criticize Egypt in Shalit-case and Hamas or even PA in this Holocaust event. But now… I can’t. I know the Operation Cast Lead was an inevitable happening between Israel and Hamas. I also know the IDF Soldiers’ Unbelievably Aggressive Behaviors during the Ground Operation and Civilian Excess Death Toll was also unavoidable happenings. I know.

Despite all these and those FACTS that I can simply prove by organizing the articles in chronological order, I can’t. And this is all because of Phoenix-Bibi. I can NEVER defend Israel on any issues especially after Phoenix-Bibi strategically succeeded in bringing ‘SHAS & Co.’ at any price and Labor’s Barak joined it at any price.

True that I preferred to watch Labor’s Barak accept Bibi’s invitation whenever FOLKS threatened Kadima’s Livni. I needed time; time to contact all the possible (Diaspora) Jews with my Barenboim-message until the next election.
(…please click this to read the entire text…)

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🙂 From Events & Articles in Jenin

APRIL 2, 2009 NORMALIZATION activity

PA expels founder of Jenin youth orchestra to Israel Apr 2, 2009 / By Haaretz
(…) On Thursday PA officials said they and Fatah were under heavy pressure from Hamas members in the camp as a result. (…) who was interviewed by Arab and foreign news outlets, told Haaretz that she would appeal directly to the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “I’ll ask him to appoint a genuine commission of inquiry that will hear the children and their parents, too,” she said. “I will wait until the issue is thrashed out because I cannot continue my work with these interruptions.” (…)

It was basically part of my present writing, regarding Holocaust Education in Palestine, but I am not sure if I can finish it in time. (I promise that this is my LAST one.) So I’m sending this part first. While collecting articles, it was easy to smell the atmosphere in this Jenin Music Group; how much the Palestinian youngsters, their family and neighbors have been welcomed this Israeli Arab female musician as their emotional leader. And this is why I heartily advise her to return to her Jenin group at the RIGHT moment without causing more mess through Palestinian President Abbas.

This time, President Abbas is welcome to do anything he wants… on this issue. Teaching Holocaust is important and necessary, but I don’t think it is a good idea to teach this Jewish history through PEACE-event. It should be taught in the opposite way, and I don’t think it is a right time for this… all thanks to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. At first, I’ve never doubted that the Organizer received Permission from the Government, either from Hamas or from PA, for this NORMALIZATION activity, then I couldn’t believe my eyes. But I still believe that this female Israeli Arab musician, Wafa Younis, will understand and respect any decision from the Palestinian government, if she fits my analysis.

Sincerely yours,

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🙂 From Events & Articles in East Jerusalem

March 25, 2009 Palestinian Culture Festival, Absentee Property Law, and Still Alive Shalit

I’m afraid that it is too late on this issue.

Jerusalem Police set to prevent ‘Palestinian Culture Festival’ Mar 20, 2009 / By Haaretz

To be honest, there was no time on this issue. As far as I know, it was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, and my problem was with this paragraph:

The police said that they were determined to enforce the law, whereby any event organized and funded by the PA is prohibited within Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction. The head of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Nachi Eyal, on Wednesday urged Dichter and Police Commissioner David Cohen to thwart the staging of the event. “To the best of my understanding, this is an attempt to demonstrate Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem in an illegal manner,” said Eyal. “The law…obligates the Palestinian Authority to respect the sovereignty of Israel within the boundaries of the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem.”

Hum… a very weird article in the view of international eyes.
If I were a Palestinian leader, I would make this cultural event the loudest international issue. I would use this golden opportunity to enhance my leadership inside the Palestinian State.

Basically, this kind of issue is what UN Peace-Envoy Barenboim should be involved in and use his international fame to support. However… I promise. The bigger mouth Barenboim performs in front of international media, the more his Mideastern pigs will use it in their favorite way… only to take care of their professional career, then… it will eventually weaken Palestinian leadership, which should exist for the two-state-solution.

I just hope Palestinian leader to organize this cultural event as many as possible. Next time… we’ll see.


So many information on this link, including the Absentee Property Law… but no time now.

Anyway, I am very busy now. I am temporarily done to update my Knesset blog. (Though I had to create another section, Coallition-Deal-2009, to prepare Just-in-Case after reading American President’s address, I feel no need to finish it now.) I just want to read some articles about Shalit. I remember there was an interesting information about Egyptian side, which certainly sounds stinky.

Sincerely yours,

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🙂 From JIWON: Dear Palestinians, (Concerning Barenboim’s Divan-Project)

ORIGINALLY PART OF Dear Berlin Mayor / Israel / Palestine, FINALLY… (Aug 29 – Sep 30, 2008).
There are things to be added in Dear European Countries (WEDO in Europe) (From August 13 to Present).
(…please click this to read the entire text…)

(Updated on NOVEMBER 17, 2008)
🙂 From After Gaza Truce
1. Nonviolent Palestinian demonstration as blackout hits Gaza (Nov 11, 2008)
2. Poll: Most Palestinians support dissolving Hamas-controlled parliament (Nov 3, 2008): (…) 48% of the surveyed will vote for Fatah while 12.3% will elect Hamas. (…)

Please compare this real Palestinian Hope with the information in this article;

Poll: Only 6% of Americans think U.S. should back Palestinians in peace talks Nov 17, 2008 / By Haaretz
(…) Comparatively, 66% said the U.S. should support Israel in the peace process. Some 80% of GOP voters and 59% of Democratic were among those (…)

I hope all the Palestinian politicians to realize what a terrific role the Palestinian Orchestra can play as the best tool to defend their right of Palestinian State while traveling all over the world. Please use it in the most effective way. People all over the world will believe that Peace is what Palestinians want to achieve inside and outside their Palestinian State. Basically, I wanted to do this with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, but who has been listening to me? What about Palestinian Classical Culture? Everything is up to the Palestinians, too. This is their business, I believe.

If they want me as their partner, I can promise one thing. Whether through music or others, everything will be part of educational program. I will train Barenboim’s Palestinian kids as the strongest human beings. I want to see all the Palestinian kids armed with strong Palestinian mentality.

Gilad Shalit becomes punchline for jokes in the Gaza Strip Aug 25, 2008 / By Haaretz
(…) Gilad Shalit, who was abducted from the Gaza Strip border by Palestinian militants in 2006, has become the butt of more than one joke in the coastal territory. Several video clips and E-mails have been making the rounds in Gaza, triggering laughs that stand in stark contrast to the anxiety Shalit’s fate elicits in Israelis and Jews around the world. One clip in a recording of a mock phone call from Shalit’s mother to her son, which thousands of Gazans have downloaded onto their phones. Another image circulating online depicts Shalit dressed as a Hamas fighter and mocks him for supposedly marrying a member of the clan implicated in his abduction. (…)

I wrote and wrote… that the Palestinian case differs from the Venezuelan one. They are born with the feeling of hatred at the bottom of their heart. Unlike other children of lesser God, they clearly know what controls their dying heart. As they get old, this feeling only grows and thickens. Whenever they encounter IDF soldiers, a bitterer feeling of hatred… it just runs through their blood. From the start of their birth, this feeling is destroying their life.

How many human beings are reading this message? Does anyone know what this feeling of hatred is all about?

I knew I was dying. No one had a power to cure my dying heart. I know I can never cure those Palestinian dying hearts. All I can do is to explain how I overcame this strong desire of ‘suicide bombing.’ I just hope those poor Palestinian kids to join my club.

Below is part of my mail to Knesset on OCTOBER 31, 2008;

🙂 From When is the best time to join FACEBOOK? (Regarding my Legal Business with Yeheskell Beinisch, From Aug 6, 2008 to Present)
JIWON: (…) Anyway, I feel no need to intervene in your Election Process. While traveling ALL over the world, including Arab countries, I will just work to prepare EVERYTHING for PM Netanyahu and his nationalist government. If I resume my work in FACEBOOK, my message will only become ‘NOTIFICATION,’ rather than ‘PERSUATION.’ Then, what’s the reason of my mailing today, when I know FOLKs are busy whenever I post something? I have ONE important business with PM Netanyahu and ALL his supporters. I feel no need to ask his permission, though. If my project, which would ‘actually’ hurt nothing Bibi’s life, can prevent ONE Palestinian suicide bombing, PM Netanyahu will be the first one, who would welcome my idea. I know this guy is the most generous Jew. Below is a clue:
Gilad Shalit becomes punchline for jokes in the Gaza Strip Aug 25, 2008 / By Haaretz
Voodoo dolls, zombies and France’s president Sometime in Past / By International media
JIWON: Remember? I’ve never ‘fully’ approved Barenboim’s Divan-project, because the Palestinian case clearly differs from the Venezuelan one. Remember? I am the one, who suffered one serious mental symptom-or-illness in American music school and didn’t know it was another myself until I found Jacqueline du Pre’s biography. I promise. Music never helped to cure my mental problem. Ever since the beginning of Barenboim’s Divan-Project, I wanted to raise this issue first, which has been killing Palestinian young hearts. I wrote and wrote, and absolutely NO one listened to me. Because absolutely NO one has suffered the same mental problem as the poor Palestinian kids. ALL they wanted to hear from Barenboim’s international fame was ‘brilliant-titles.’ Is it called a Mental Therapy in the world of medical science? Whatever it is, I don’t care.

How many Voodoo dolls would I have to make for the Palestinian kids?
Time to finish this writing.

Sincerely yours,

NOVEMBER 17, 2008
Dear Palestinians,
There are more than two ways to ‘hilariously’ use Bibi’s Voodoo dolls. Don’t you think so? We can even make an archery ground inside a playground. No gun, please. At the same time, those healthy kids will learn how to distinguish good Jews from all the Kippahs.
(…please click this to read the entire text…)

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Spring of Culture 2009 in Bahrain March – April, 2009
BAHRAINI – Celebrating Jerusalem: A special performance for The Palestine Youth Orchestra
Commenting on the concert, Lina Saleh, the public relations manager of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, said that the two orchestras are composed of 80 artists. This concert comes after the great success of “Celebrating Jerusalem” concerts. The tour has visited Jerusalem, Ramalah, Jericho, Jordan and Syria in the summer of 2008.
“The tour was a great success and well accepted by the Palestinian and Arab audiences. However, the members of The Palestine Youth Orchestra were not able to rehearse before last summer due to the Israeli occupation. This is a dream that has been in our hearts for more than 5 years and it’s now a reality in Arab countries. This was well received by the Arab and Palestinian media, and they valued the high performance and the cooperation between German and Palestinian musicians toward the same goal which is Jerusalem.”
(…) In addition to the concert, Spring of Culture is organizing an educational gathering between the members of Palestine Youth Orchestra and children from Bahrain to let the children know more about the orchestra and its elements of players, musical instruments and their different roles. The Palestine Youth Orchestra was established in 2004 through the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. This conservatory receives more than 600 new students each year. The conservatory wanted to establish the orchestra, which was a dream for all Palestinian musicians, using all the Palestinian musical capabilities in Palestine and abroad, so they can put Palestine on the world musical map.

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‘Ode to Joy’ at a joyless concert Last update – 13:45 15/01/2009 / By Haaretz, Noam Ben Ze’ev

RAMALLAH – The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music chose to open its youth concert at the Ramallah Cultural Palace on Sunday with the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a call for brotherhood between nations, humaneness, joy and peace. Anyone who has followed the Palestine Youth Orchestra in recent years must surely be amazed by the pace of its progress. Now touting 60 young musicians, the orchestra is wholly self-reliant, no longer dependent on international support or guidance from abroad. The children play all the instruments, including the more rarely heard tuba, French horn, oboe, timpani and contrabass. The orchestra is composed of youngsters all under the age of 18, who represent the best of the conservatory’s 600 students at its Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem branches.

After the nod to Beethoven, conductor Eiad Awadi bowed to the audience and the program continued with a classical repertoire: Handel’s “Chaconne” with variations, an overture by Carl Maria von Weber, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and a festive piece by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Some of the players had traveled wide and far to reach the concert: There were string players from Jericho and a trombonist, clarinetist and cellist from Nablus. How did the Nablus youngsters, none of whom enjoyed regular training, manage to raise the level of their playing to that required of an orchestra?
“They in any case have nothing else to do with their time,” explains the director of the music center, Nablus The Culture, a center which is inactive at the moment because Israel Defense Forces road blocks have made it almost impossible to enter or leave the city. “So they practice all day long.”

The auditorium in Ramallah is usually filled with a festive atmosphere when concerts are in full swing. The lobby and the auditorium of the elegant building, which was completed in 2004 and stands atop a hill overlooking the outskirts of Ramallah, are usually flooded with light and echo with the noise of a large and lively audience. But this time, few smiles could be seen and it seemed as if even the lights had been dimmed. The news about the disaster that had befallen the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had turned the atmosphere gloomy, and there was a certain incident that made the sadness even more acute – the fate of the new music school in Gaza that had been hit during Israel Air Force strikes on the Strip.

The news was announced before the concert by the conservatory’s director, Suhail Khoury, who added that a fund-raising campaign was being conducted to rebuild the Gazan institution. Thirty-one girls and boys had studied at the school, which was set up six months ago; most of the girls studied guitar or piano while most of the boys studied the oud, he said. They were taught by European teachers, who were married to Palestinians, and despite the fact that strict religious Islamic observance opposed musical education, Hamas authorities did not block the establishment of the school or interfere with its activities.

But the school, and all its musical instruments, were destroyed in the first waves of the IAF bombings. Fortunately there were no pupils in the building at the time.
“If every family of the students at the conservatory donates just 10 dollars, we will already have $6,000,” Khoury told the audience. “And if you also add something, we will be able to reach $10,000.” Three young girls, violinists in the orchestra, then started wending their way between the seats with their instruments to collect donations. Hands swiftly went into pockets to retrieve shekels for the donation boxes.

Following this unusual interval, the concert continued with one of Mozart’s piano sonatas for four hands, the aria from Bach’s Third Suite for the Orchestra, an original composition for a flute solo by a gifted young 12-year-old musician, and finally, a surprise – two songs in Arabic by Rima Tarazi, a pianist and composer, president of the conservatory and a childhood friend of Edward Said, sung by Tania Nasir. The finale, a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony, left the audience with mixed feelings, as they retreated into the cold and damp night in Ramallah.

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http://www.birzeit.edu/news/16464/news September, 2004 / By Birzeit University
Culture and Spirit Transcend Pain and Suffering: Palestinian Youth Orchestra Perform in Amman
By Rima Tarazi, BZU Board of Trustees Member

In September 2004 the Palestine Youth Orchestra was launched and introduced to audiences outside of Palestine for the first time.
The embryo of this orchestra has been in the making ever since 1999 composed of students of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music affiliated with Birzeit University. However, due to the deteriorating situation in Palestine, the development of the Orchestra was hindered until August 2003, when Maestro Daniel Barenboim made a commitment to develop a youth orchestra in five years time through the generous help of the Barenboim Said Foundation.
Unfortunately, the late Edward Said, the guiding spirit behind this project and a staunch supporter of the Conservatory and a strong believer in the vital role of music in education and in life in general, had already passed away at the launching of the Orchestra last May in Ramallah, under the magical baton of Daniel Barenboim.

In Amman the youth of the ESNCM were joined by gifted and advanced young Palestinian instrumentalists coming from various parts of the world, mainly, Syria, Jordan, Germany, England and Italy, who were mobilized through the efforts of ESNCM faculty members.
With the generous financial support of several organizations and the untiring efforts of volunteers and musicians in Amman and faculty and staff members of the Conservatory, fifty three young people spent a whole week in a secluded hotel in Jarash practicing and rehearsing with local teachers and musicians from abroad.
The performance, which was dedicated to the prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, was in a word superb as could be seen by the standing ovation the performers received. The audience was thrilled and reinforced in their conviction that no matter how hard the Palestinians are hit, their identity and culture will always allow them to transcend their pain and suffering and assert themselves with dignity and beauty.
Moreover, it was extremely heart warming to feel the enthusiasm of Palestinian and Arab musicians and music lovers amongst the audience, who expressed their willingness to do their utmost to promote the Orchestra.

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http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/654/feature.htm 4 – 10 September 2003 / by AL-AHRAM
No ordinary concert BY Tania Tamari Nasir:

Last week the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the musical group set up by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, played at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Tania Tamari Nasir tells the story of two powerful experiences in Jerusalem and Birzeit, the backdrop to this unique project where Arab and Israeli musicians play together, transcending conflict and war, extending a hand for peace.

Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim’s friendship has inspired numerous creative collaborations which have significantly touched and continue to touch the lives of many Palestinians and Israelis. Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society, (Pantheon Books, 2002) is a perfect example of such a collaboration, an exciting record of some of their most stimulating conversations in recent years. In his introduction explaining the reason behind publishing these conversations Said wrote: “Our whole aim was to share our thoughts amiably and energetically with each other, and with others for whom music, culture and politics to-day form a unique whole. What that whole is I am happy to say, neither of us can fully state, but we ask our readers, our friends, to join us in trying to find out.”

As a reader and friend I am dutifully heeding the call, responding by recounting what I have personally experienced and what I have discovered when in the company of Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, and at an unusual concert five years ago in Jerusalem; music, culture and politics met to create a unique whole, a unique moment, of truth and reconciliation. Alas, only a moment, and only for a while.

A few months ago a friend sent me Suzie Mackenzie’s article “In Harmony” (The Guardian, 3 April, 2003). “I am sure you would enjoy reading it,” she said. She was right. The article was an interview with Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, authors of Parallels and Paradoxes. I had read the book in galley proof when Edward Said sent it to me and I was moved and impressed by what these two creative minds had to say to one another and to the world, on issues as diverse as music and politics, all set in the frame work of a liberal humanism.

But there was something else in the article that touched me personally. At one point, in the course of the article, Mackenzie quotes Edward Said describing a concert of Barenboim’s that he had attended several years ago in Jerusalem at which Barenboim dedicated an encore to a Palestinian friend who, with her husband, had entertained both him and Edward at their home in the occupied West Bank. The person Edward Said spoke about was me, and the briefly alluded to story was an experience that has enriched and inspired me ever since. The experience had a special significance for me. It had reinforced my long-held belief in the arts as unmatched instruments of change, as powerful tools of the mind and soul that when used creatively and honestly, can conjure up new and exciting realities of their own.

It was the first week of March, 1998, and Edward Said was calling from his hotel in East Jerusalem, his voice, as always, urgent, energetic. “I am here with my close friend Daniel Barenboim, he told me. He is a wonderful man, a great human being. He is Israeli, an ardent supporter of peace and justice for Palestine and the Palestinians.”

“Daniel is giving a concert this week-end in West Jerusalem,” Edward went on to say, and had asked him to invite, on Barenboim’s behalf, some of his Palestinian friends.

Edward must have sensed my hesitation on the other end of the telephone. “Tania,” he hastened to say, “I really know the situation, your sensitivities and reservations, but Daniel is no ordinary man, no ordinary musician. I would like you to come. What do you think?”

What did I think? Invited to a concert by Daniel Barenboim, in the company of Edward Said, two intellectual and artistic giants of our time. How could I stop and think? Others would jump at such an opportunity, yet Edward knew exactly why I had hesitated and why I had to “think” instead of blurting out the spontaneous “yes” that should have come to my lips.

I had to think because, apart from the emotional and moral barriers, actually getting to West Jerusalem, just 20km away, was itself a major and risky undertaking.

AS A PALESTINIAN residing in the West Bank, under Israeli occupation since 1967, I was prevented by military orders from being in Israeli territory. West Jerusalem, where Daniel was to give his concert, was a physically prohibited area for me.

Most Palestinians under occupation have deep reservations about relations with Israelis. With the on-going military occupation and daily human rights violations one cannot simply turn a blind eye to the injustices and the humiliations. One cannot simply go to a concert in West Jerusalem and act as if everything in our lives is normal.

It was now close to five years since we had returned to Palestine. After almost 20 years of exile my husband, Hanna Nasir, president of Birzeit University, had been allowed back home, a home under occupation but home nonetheless. The end of the deportation order was part of the confidence-building measures that came in the aftermath of the Oslo accords. Promises of peace brought cautious joy to our hearts. The long years of exile were a strenuous burden. We were tired of confrontation, animosity, bitterness and anxiety. We longed for stability, for our family and for the millions of Palestinians living and struggling for decades in a state of endless hope for a just resolution to their national problem.

Now back in Palestine I felt that peace might have a chance. I am a pacifist at heart and I can never accept wars or violence as a solution to any conflict. Wars, and the arrogance of military power, may offer immediate solutions but it is only justice that brings lasting peace and real healing to any conflict. And I wanted that healing more than anything else in the world. For over 50 years, ever since childhood, my life has been a battlefield, not only actual but intellectual, emotional and moral. Ever since 1948, and the beginning of the Arab-Israeli wars, my life has been a constant witness to pain, anguish, despair, humiliation and the ever growing yearning for liberation and dignity.

The deportation of my husband was especially traumatic. He left our home on the evening of 21 November, 1974, in answer to a phone call from the military governor of Ramallah, asking him to come for an 11 o’clock meeting at the military headquarters to discuss the repercussions of a peaceful protest march that students of Birzeit University had conducted earlier that day. The whole West Bank was in an uproar against occupation.

It was just after Yasser Arafat had addressed the United Nations General Assembly. The Palestinian voice was finally being heard at an international forum and everyone felt the impact of this historic occasion and the possibilities for a major turning point in the Palestinian struggle. Worried at the summons Hanna left our home around 10pm. The children were asleep and I started what was to become a seemingly endless, tense waiting for his return. Several hours later, with Hanna still not back, I realised something was seriously wrong.

I alerted members of our family, friends, and university officials. Morning came without any news. Enquires were made on all levels. The military governor’s office assured us that Hanna was still at a meeting with other West Bank leaders. He will be home soon we were told again and again. Finally, as we listened to the 10am Arabic broadcast on the Israeli radio we learned the devastating truth. Hanna, with four other Palestinians, had been deported at dawn to the Southern borders of Lebanon. There was no meeting with the military governor. All they had been told were lies and attempts to stall. Later we learned how Hanna, like the others, was handcuffed and blindfolded like a criminal and driven for seven hours to the Lebanese border where he and his companions were deported. Furtively, under cover of darkness, our lives changed.

I remained in Birzeit with our four children hoping that efforts to bring Hanna back would bear fruit. Deportation is an illegal act under all international human rights laws. Close to a year passed before we realised that the Israelis were adamant and that his return would not happen. Hanna and I were forced to make one of the most difficult decisions in our lives: I left Birzeit, family and friends, the landscape that I loved, and with the children joined Hanna in his exile. Amman, Jordan, was to become our new home.

Besides being illegal, deportation is inhuman and unjust. Exiled or deported, banished from everything you know and love, you realise that there might be no limit to the sentence. A lifetime may pass and you might never see your homeland or loved ones again. We were lucky. After almost 20 years, with new political circumstances, on 29 April, 1993, we received news that Hanna’s deportation, like that of many others, was over. Early the next day, at 7.30am, we were on a bus with the first group of Palestinian deportees allowed to return to the West Bank and Gaza. Once again, dramatically and without warning, our lives changed. We were on our way back to Palestine.

DESPITE THE JUBILATION, returning to Birzeit after all those years was not a simple matter. Many things had changed, not least ourselves. The long years of absence and the ongoing pains of occupation had taken their toll; the daily confrontations, fear, death, destruction, confiscation of land, uprooting of trees, the ever present threat of illegal settlements and fanatic settlers and with it all the growing resistance, the Intifada , a people’s uprising calling for freedom and for justice. All of this had left its mark and shaken people’s lives into new patterns and realities. And as if this was not enough there were now the new political, social and moral issues brought about by the Oslo accords with which to deal. Oslo brought with it severed dreams and distorted rights. Yes, we needed a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but it was imperative that it be just and dignified. How could this be achieved? I wanted to understand and come to terms with the new circumstances of our return.

Settling back home Hanna and I realised that we had passed a new milestone on our journey. As the days went by, happy to return home, I felt my natural optimism winning over my anxious questioning. I wanted this to be a turning point. A healing wholesomeness was settling in my heart as I saw hope permeating the despair of the previous years. All around me, although conscious of the painful price of Oslo, people wanted to give the promise of peace, no matter how fragile, a chance. And I was one of them. I felt ready for a new beginning, for making the most of a historic moment of change. I have faith in change — positive, constructive — in liberating land and identity. I wanted to accept compromises with dignity. I wanted to trust the adversary. I knew that in order to make the most of this latest peace effort wise, pragmatic, yet cautious decisions had to be made.

I remember now how, with the Oslo peace accords, scores of attempts at what was termed normalising relations between the Palestinians and Israelis were proposed. This was one of the conditions for the implementation of this latest rapprochement. As Palestinians we felt the pressure on all fronts — political, social and cultural. We were told, now that a peace process was unfolding, there was no reason why Palestinians and Israelis should not work together and efforts at normalising relations between them should get underway.

Was it as simple as that, I wondered? Were the Oslo sponsors so naïve as to think that years of conflict and suffering can be just put aside, wiped out and forgotten? We realised that drastic and painful changes in attitude and thought needed to be made as part of the dynamics of reconciliation, but we also felt that respect and sensitivity should be shown to any reservations or questions. People, of flesh and blood, were involved, not inanimate pawns in a game of chess. To be able to last, and be credible, the Oslo accords needed proper, cautious handling by all.

Like many others active in the cultural life of the community I was involved with issues dealing with normalisation. As a singer I was often invited by visiting artists and managers of cultural events from abroad to take part in “peace concerts” with Israeli artists, concerts that were to reflect goodwill and the winds of change brought by Oslo. Although I was willing to listen and appreciated the sincerity and enthusiasm of those involved I had to politely refuse such offers explaining that, although I strongly believed in the arts as a vehicle for understanding, I believed even more strongly that to be effective such a message could not be based on wishful thinking but must be embedded in the credibility of factual truths.

And the truth was that despite the signing of the Oslo accords Israel was still occupying Palestine, was still building settlements, was still committing grave human rights violations. Israel was still not showing any serious intention of implementing Oslo. What was there to celebrate? What was there to show of peace? My singing with an Israeli artist in the context that peace was finally here would be a lie and one cannot play around with the sacredness of truth, nor with the wholesomeness of art. We cannot give false impressions. We cannot deceive the world.

Alas, despite the expectations the post Oslo years are a period I look back at with sadness. The false sense of peace grew larger with each day. The years brought more and more disappointments as the Israelis proved less and less willing to implement the Oslo agreements, blaming the Palestinians, describing their protest and resistance to occupation as terrorism. The frustrations mounted and erupted into the inferno of the second Intifada, that burns to this day .

Depressed, but not ready to give in, I searched for ways to keep going. I remember the excruciating anger that gnawed at my heart. I had been cheated and robbed of my expectations and of the chance for peace. I hoped against hope for a miracle that could save us, all of us, Palestinians and Israelis alike. It was at this time of intense frustration and a growing fear of the mounting hostilities surrounding us that I felt myself investing more and more hope in the Israeli voices calling for justice and peace. I desperately wanted such voices to make a dent, to become voices of sanity and moderation influencing the Israeli government’s negotiations for a political settlement.

The tragedy of Palestine and the complex conflict between Arab states and Israel have lasted too long. Serious attempts at solving them have been the focus of numerous mediation efforts yet, after decades, the problem is still here. Why? Where is the fault? Where does the solution lie? To me, a Palestinian who has lived first hand the details of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, I have always thought of it as a simple, straight-forward, black and white situation. Naïve, maybe, but true if you examine the details of how Israel was created on a land not its own, replacing an indigenous people by others, strangers to the land, from all over the world.

I wonder how many of those states that voted positively for the creation of Israel, hoping that by doing so they would be absolving the horrible crimes committed against world Jewry in the West, also realised that with this solution they were committing another similar and grave crime against a people faraway and innocent of the whole affair.

The creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land contained a death sentence for Palestine and the Palestinians. It was an injustice par excellence. I firmly believe, and more than ever before, that peace will only come if the international community, as well as Israel and the people of Israel, decide to put the record straight. Peace will only come when the injustice is dealt with, when rights are restored, when Israel is ready to recognise an independent, viable Palestinian state alongside its own.

Despite the years of war and conflict many Palestinians were now pragmatically ready to accept new realities. Many became actively involved in peace activities, not only independently and internationally but also taking the courageous step to work with the Israeli peace camp. To some it was rewarding, to others disappointing. Not much was achieved. Not much could be achieved. Hostility was turning into chaos and I was scared and shaken as I watched the avalanche of militancy and violence. I wanted at all costs to save the remnants of the positive feelings of optimism that had permeated my being since our return from exile. What should I do? I felt the need to try out new ways of dealing with the situation, with the delicate and pertinent political and existential issues surrounding me. Who holds the secret wand, the magical potion for salvation? The stagnation was suffocating.

IT WAS AT THIS TIME, five years ago, while this battle was raging within me that Edward Said called inviting me, on Daniel Barenboim’s behalf, to attend his piano recital in West Jerusalem. I knew that it was not a casual invitation and I promised to think about it. And I did. Not only did I accept the invitation to the concert but I found myself inviting Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said to have dinner at our home in Birzeit.

The visit was a warm and memorable occasion. We spoke mainly of politics, little of music. The myriad levels of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were discussed, argued and analysed. There were points of conflict, moments of mutual recognition and understanding. We were conversing with sincerity and respect. I could feel Edward’s pleasure to be with his friends from both sides of the divide. Daniel enquired about my husband’s deportation, our return, about the University of Birzeit, the students, how we coped, how we dealt with occupation, the hardships of closure and check points and siege.

I can still see his face, concerned and absorbing all that was said, genuinely needing to understand and, most importantly, genuinely wanting to find ways to change the appalling situation for both the Palestinian and Israeli people. We stressed the fact that it was for the occupier to make bold and courageous goodwill gestures, to offer the Palestinians some proof of its commitment to peace. The Oslo accords needed to be implemented in the time and framework set for them. This was the test and the crux of the matter. Israel was stalling, walking away from it all. How could we trust it?

It was late when Edward and Daniel left and once again Daniel extending the invitation, personally this time, for me to attend his piano recital in Jerusalem the following evening. I assured him that I would be there.

Writing about it now, after all these years, I seem to live the experience all over again. I remember how, full of apprehension and excitement, I took the taxi that Edward had sent. It had special licence plates that would make it easier to “smuggle” me from Birzeit, in the occupied West Bank, to “Israeli” Jerusalem. It was a risky decision to make yet I knew in my heart that the time had come for me to make it.

In attending Daniel Barenboim’s concert in Jerusalem I would be attending my first function ever in Israel. But I was not simply going to attend a concert, and Daniel Barenboim was not simply an internationally renowned musician. More meaningful to me was that he was an Israeli who recognised “the other”, who addressed the injustice inflicted upon us by his own people, who recognised the Palestinian identity and the need for an independent Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel. For him, as for me, this was the only viable solution to the long years of conflict between his people and mine.

Comforted by this knowledge I accompanied Edward Said to the Crown Symphony Hall. Backstage we met Daniel. There was an obvious excitement in the room. Daniel was happy to see us. We were equally thrilled but I could not shake off an intense feeling of unease. After years and years of denial here I was, in West Jerusalem, at an Israeli function. Was I right to come here? Was this normalising relations with the adversary? Was what I had stood against for years, what I have refused to be party to, now underway? What had changed to make me do it? Had the occupation ended? Was I free? Had justice been done?

The familiar leitmotif of questions were repeated but I reminded myself of my conviction, of the conscious decision that I had made and as if to support me I heard my father’s voice, advising me: “If you believe in something you know is right have the moral courage to stand by it, defend it against all odds.”

He would have blessed my coming here. He would have understood. I remembered his friendship with a Jewish doctor from Jerusalem. They grew up together and my grandmother would knit pullovers for both of them. They were close, very close, until the 1948 Arab-Israeli war separated them, only to meet again in the aftermath of the 1967 War in a tearful reunion that was cruelly severed once more by the ugly reality of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the rest of Palestine.

At this point another image, that of my friend and mentor Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, came to reassure me. I remembered his commitment to literature, and music in particular, as “creators of miracles” as he would passionately declare. Jabra, the well-known Palestinian writer, artist, critic and translator was born and grew up in Bethlehem, fleeing in 1948 to Baghdad where he lived and died in 1994 and where he was instrumental in paving the way to modernity in Arabic literature and art. I remembered how he often reminisced about his life in Palestine, about Jerusalem in particular, the scene of many of his novels and poems, and how he had told me with enthusiasm about a fine arts club that he had started in Jerusalem in the early 1940s following his return from studies at Cambridge. It was a wonderful group, he would say, with Jewish, Arab and international members, all of whom, he said, believed in the power of the arts to transcend difference. Yes, Jabra, also a friend of Edward Said, would understand why I was here. Slowly the questioning abated. Feeling less anxious I tried to relax and enjoy the evening. I had not been to a concert for a long time.

Daniel hit the first notes of the magnificent Pathetique and slowly I was transported to another world where music reigned, enveloping me with tranquility, helping me forfeit pain and anxiety. I wanted only the healing power of music to take effect. But this was not to be: for to me this was not an ordinary concert at which one could close one’s eyes and pretend all was well with the world. Try as I might I was acutely conscious of where I was, of the people around me, of why I was there and how. I was conscious of Edward sitting beside me. Was he worried about my being here, wondering if he was right in encouraging me to come tonight? I felt him watching me as from time to time I dried my tears. This was nothing new, I wanted to re-assure him. Beautiful music never fails to move me to tears. But here, now, the tears were not only for the music. I found myself crying for all the joys and sorrows of my life, the past , the present and maybe, unknowingly, for the future.

Snatches of Beethoven’s familiar music echoed in and out of the alleyways of fancy, the depths of the mind, the labyrinth of the soul, searching, probing, questioning in dazzling kaleidoscopic formations of sights and sounds memories and recollections, flowing, climaxing and receding like words of a song in harmony with Daniel’s music, recreating for me a dense, intricate, long forgotten narrative of my own.

In the confined space of a small concert seat faces, places, events and emotions crowded around me: images of my childhood, parents, family, husband, children and friends unravelled, projected against the backdrop of a landscape of rocks, of cypresses and pines, of flowers and fruit orchards, of sea, of sand clouds and light. All were seeped in an overwhelming quagmire of injustice that shaped the reality of my days, of where I lived and how I lived and to where I was heading, of loss of country, of exile, of tragedy, of war, of hope of resilience and of the ever present pain of severed dreams. Shaken by this unexpected surge of emotion I suddenly realised that I was here not only to examine new ways of dealing with the adversary, not only for the music, but intuitively and just as importantly I was making an intimate return. I was returning home.

NOT FAR FROM WHERE I sat in the concert hall was the Maskobieh, the Arabic name for the Russian compound where in June 1941 I was born, where the walls of an old hospital heard my first cry, where my eyes first saw the luminous light of Jerusalem. Now this same Maskobieh is the site of an Israeli prison where Palestinian young men and women are detained and tortured. Unlike me their cries are of death not life, and their eyes, unlike mine, are made blind to the light of this holy city. As I sit here I could feel the pain fusing and reverberating with the music, instigating the doubts. What was I doing here, enjoying a concert with my adversaries? I was torn with feelings of guilt. I should not have come.

With memories of Maskobieh another picture came rushing by, of my aunt Olga who lived in this same compound in a beautiful house with a lovely garden of blue jasmine and climbing pink roses. She had to flee her home in fear for her life when the British army suddenly left Jerusalem on 15 May, 1948, ending their mandate in Palestine, leaving the country defenceless, vulnerable to the bloody battles that rage to this day. I remembered my aunt’s anguish, her tale of bewilderment, of how in her hurry and fear to flee she had left a pot of lentils cooking on the stove and discovered herself with a shoe on one foot and a slipper on the other. As a child, listening to her recount the sad story, I realised for the first time in my life the power and horrible impact of war and what fear means. I became aware that a great tragedy had befallen us.

But not all was sad. Images of happier moments in Jerusalem peeped in to refresh me, when in spring my parents and I would come from the nearby resort town of Ramallah, where I grew up, to visit relatives in the Qatamon district of Jerusalem. Images of picnics in the fields, lush and green at the edge of the forest, the anemones red and glowing. Yet it was not only the pastoral outskirts of Jerusalem that I remembered. Jerusalem was the first city I knew and I was dazzled by its energy and magic, the hustle and bustle that tantalised my senses and imagination. It was my city, I was born here and I was proud to be a Jerusalemite.

Now, years later, I feel the same pride, yet it is an injured pride tainted with pain and humiliation; sadly, I had to come to Jerusalem in secrecy, I had to infiltrate it like an outlaw. The anger was deep and real and I felt it blocking the joy coming from the stage.

Daniel was playing beautifully. Was he aware of what I was going through? What about Edward sitting next to me? Knowing him the music would, as always, be at the centre of his concentration. I envied him and longed for the music to take over, but again this was not an ordinary concert. Endless recollections, like variations on a theme, kept pushing themselves against the glorious sound. Unawares, I must have needed the comfort of reminiscing, of revisiting the Jerusalem I love.

It was not only childhood memories that pressed. Others, more recent ones, came. I recalled an incident, early after the 1967 War, when my husband and I accompanied our cousin Kamal Nasir, Palestinian nationalist and poet, on a visit to West Jerusalem. He needed to go there to settle a traffic violation fine. After years of separation we were excited and apprehensive to find ourselves, once again, in West Jerusalem, inaccessible to us since 1948. Jerusalem was and still is at the core of every Palestinian’s life, as a reality and as a symbol of our belonging to the land, and like children happy to be back at the scene of our youth we set out on a moving journey of memories .

Hanna and Kamal were exchanging stories and anecdotes of growing up in Jerusalem, their old haunts, Cinema Rex, the coffee shops, the YMCA where they played tennis, where Hanna learned how to type, where they attended concerts given by the Palestine Symphony and where the Palestinian musician Salvador Anita gave his memorable organ recitals. They remembered how once a year Jewish musicians from the Symphony, under the direction of Arnita, would come from Jerusalem to Birzeit College (now Birzeit University) to perform at commencement exercises with the school choir in which Kamal, with his warm tenor voice, was an enthusiastic singer.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, how during that same visit to Jerusalem with Kamal we saw a little Israeli girl crossing the street, happily carrying her violin, confident and at peace with herself and the world. Noticing her Kamal, the committed humanist, known for his love of children and of music, looked at us, looked back at her and in the grand manner of the orator that he was, his face radiating compassion, said: “Look at her, a mere child, carrying her violin, her music. How can I, as a Palestinian leader, label this Israeli child an enemy. How can I disregard her people’s humanity even if they have dispossessed me of my country?” His words carried with them the ardent need for peace, and a hidden yearning for a Jerusalem he had once known.

Ironically, soon after that moving incident Kamal, in December, 1967, was amongst the first Palestinians to be deported by the Israeli government. He was a threat to the security of the state, so they said. In 1973 Kamal, then the PLO spokesman and an ardent believer in justice and liberation for all mankind, was brutally assassinated with two other Palestinian leaders by an Israeli commando force that raided their apartments in Beirut. His murderer, decorated and hailed as a hero, is now a well-known Israeli politician. In the concert hall I felt the same unbearable pain and indignation that I first felt when years ago I saw photographs of Kamal’s violent death, his bullet riddled body crucified on the floor, his joie de vivre stilled, his voice silenced and his pen dried. I remembered the devastation of loosing a friend, of being robbed of a compassionate leader.

DANIEL BARENBOIM’S music rose to awaken me to reality. What would Kamal say, if he was to see me now, his friend, casually sitting in a concert hall in the midst of an Israeli audience? Would he approve, would he understand? Was I betraying his memory? I felt confused and distraught, then I heard his voice coming to me, tolerant, kind. “Tania, music, art and love are the most powerful gifts the world has given us, a blessing that we should use to bring peace and justice, to heal wounds and soothe pain. You are not betraying me, on the contrary you are re- enforcing the essence of what I believed in.” and as if in an after thought I heard him ask: “Do you remember that incident, years ago in Jerusalem, when we saw that little Israeli girl with her violin? Maybe she is here, now, in the audience with you?”

His eyes were twinkling and his smile offered a promise.

The music was at it again, crisscrossing with my recollections, playing havoc with my emotions and I was giving in to all its cathartic powers. My own trials and the ordeals of my family emerged: my husband’s deportation, the years of exile, the longing, the homesickness, the anger and frustration, my mother-in-law, sick, waiting for her only son to return, dying without him at her side. The children, growing up in exile, how they suffered as we waited for long hours on the Allenby bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank as we travelled back and forth from Amman to Ramallah and Birzeit to visit grandparents, family, friends and home. Memories of the humiliating body search, the ordeal of hunger and thirst as neither food nor drink was allowed. And once again the questions emerged. How can I come to attend a concert amidst men and women whose elected government is responsible for the suffering of my family, my people? How?

Try as I wanted I could not still the doubts. I could not stop the internal monologue that seemed to surface whenever I succumbed to the beauty of the music. Could this be right? Is it justified to be sitting here casually listening to a performance by an Israeli musician when at this very moment all the villages and towns of Palestine are under Israeli military occupation, where strict siege and daily loss of life and imprisonment is the norm? How did I come here, not heeding all this?

But I was well aware of the circumstances before I came, and I reminded myself of how and why I had accepted Daniel’s invitation. Slowly I felt the scepticism ebbing away. Once again confident of my decision I felt a comforting sensation fill my heart. Daniel was fingering the last notes of the poignant Sonata in B minor by Liszt. The brilliant performance was coming to an end and the audience rose in a standing ovation. I stood too, clapping, happy not only for the music but for my own being there.

The enthusiastic audience sat down in the expectation of an encore. Instead Daniel Barenboim took a few steps forward, closer to the audience. He was speaking in Hebrew, which I did not understand. Quickly he resorted to English. “Last night I was in the West Bank, at the home of a Palestinian academic who has recently returned from an unjust 20 year deportation by the Israeli government. He and his wife received me not just as a friend, more as a member of the family.”

As he spoke, his voice vibrant and full of emotion, Edward and I looked at each other with wonder. What is Daniel trying to say? Silence, saturated with expectation replaced the resounding applause of moments before. I can still remember that intense silence as Daniel Barenboim, in the white circle of spotlight was fervently talking to an audience in the darkness of the concert hall. His words, as eloquent and moving as his music, hit us all like a shooting star. Awed, we listened, united in a unique moment of intimacy, each alone, yet all mesmerised by Daniel Barenboim’s unexpected words.

Daniel spoke of peace, of justice, of the need to end the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis, then all of a sudden I heard him say: “I am happy to have my Palestinian hostess of last night here with us this evening. She has accepted my invitation to come to Jerusalem, despite prohibitions and many reservations. To thank her, I would like to dedicate my encore to her.”

As he moved back towards the piano the stillness was shattered by a thunderous applause. Edward was hugging me and repeating with pride and deep emotion: “Only Daniel can do it, only he can have the guts.” And I, what could I say? Overcome and moved beyond words, only the tears expressed what engulfed my whole being, and as if Daniel knew my love for Chopin’s music and all it symbolised of an artist’s love for his country he chose a Chopin nocturne for his encore. Listening, overcome and happy, I could not help but feel vulnerable as I wondered about the audience, all these Israeli men and women. What were they feeling?

Daniel’s courageous words must have placed his Israeli audience face to face with an existential reality. Were they happy? Were they upset at what they heard? The impulsive applause at the end of Daniel’s short address must surely be a positive sign. At least they must have understood and appreciated the essence of Daniel’s generosity of heart. Suddenly it all became very clear; unconsciously it was for something like this that I was yearning. I knew then I was right to have come.

Back stage, surrounded by well-wishers, Daniel, Edward and I embraced. It was a moment of unparalleled camaraderie. Daniel gave me his flowers. I thanked him for his magnanimous gesture, and Edward, our deus ex machina, beamed with joy over a blessed encounter and a blessed new friendship.

RETURNING ELATED to Birzeit I recounted to my family and friends the magic of the evening, but most of all I tried to convey the impact of what took place: Daniel Barenboim’s gesture was an offering to the cause of reconciliation and towards a just rapprochement between adversaries. We ardently hoped that similar gestures, cultural as well as political, would soon come about, paving the way for a humanitarian and just ending to the long years of suffering for our two peoples.
Soon after, in January 1999 and in the same spirit of good will that I had experienced that April in 1998, Daniel Barenboim came to perform at Birzeit University, sponsored by Birzeit University’s music conservatory. Returning a call one might say. The performance was memorable. Once again Edward Said was there. In an introductory speech he spoke movingly of music as the perfect vehicle to cross boundaries, to unite adversaries and to heal wounds. His joy and support of Daniels’s first visit to this prestigious Palestinian institution was clear for all to see. He believed in his friend’s mission. And just as in the concert that I had attended the year before in Jerusalem Daniel Barenboim’s message was clear and simple: here was a musician, transcending conflict and war, extending a hand for peace.
The presence of the young pianist Salim Abboud, with whom Barenboim performed a four hand encore, added a special flavour to the evening. The event was covered by the international media and was hailed as a breakthrough. “Piano Diplomacy”, one headline dramatically declared, “An Overture To Peace”. Maybe, but to me it was simpler and much deeper than that: it was the noble, courageous and unpretentious testament of an artist committed to the cause of justice and reconciliation. That was what Daniel’s visit and concert in the West Bank was all about.
Now, five years later, I continue to draw upon those two powerful experiences in Jerusalem and Birzeit. They are a source of strength and inspiration as we find ourselves still at the mercy of an ongoing Israeli occupation intent on subjugating and harassing the Palestinian people. Current, unprecedentedly harsh conditions imposed by the occupation forces are beyond comprehension. Surely they are the perfect breeding ground for the bloody confrontations and surging animosity that threaten to drown us all irremediably.
As I write the Oslo accords are behind us, a failure. The roadmap, a new concoction for peace is now on the table. Will it work when so many other attempts at resolving this conflict have failed?
One thing I know for sure is that like never before we, Palestinians and Israelis alike, are at the edge of the abyss. We desperately need to save each from the other.
We have lost faith in words. We have lost faith in mediating plans. I watch, frightened, as we await the days and months ahead. I do not expect miracles. Scepticism is a constant companion. For me it is a case of I’ll believe it when I see it. I’II believe the change only when occupation is gone, when the siege is lifted, when the checkpoints are removed, when the imposing ogre of the cement “security” wall is pulled down, when illegal settlements are dismantled, when I can move freely and securely in the beautiful landscape of my homeland, when fear is gone from my heart and tranquility is restored to my soul and when what is normal becomes once again the cornerstone of my days.
Only then will I believe in peace. Only then will I respect reconciliation. Yes, only then, when I can go freely to Jerusalem, not smuggled into the city of my birth, will I know that the conflict is resolved. Only then will I be able to fulfil a dream, to hear Daniel Barenboim’s music in Jerusalem once again, with joy and celebration, safe from the shadows of tragedy and of war that have plagued and haunted me for decades.

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Published in LIFE Magazine, May 1999
Written by Richard Pollak

A famed Israeli musician
makes an overture for peace.

“No tanks, no missiles, no intelligence services will give you security. The only security for Israel that is of any long-term value is acceptance by its neighbors. It is in that spirit that I come to play on the West Bank.”

Daniel Barenboim has appeared on most of the world’s great concert stages. His recordings have been heard by millions. But until he performed in a recital hall at Birzeit University earlier this year, the internationally renowned Israeli pianist and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had never played on the West Bank.
The trip to Birzeit from Tel Aviv, where Barenboim grew up, takes about an hour, but it represents a lifetime’s journey. In 1967, just after the Six-Day War, the 24-year-old pianist performed a series of concerts with his then fiancee, cellist Jacqueline du Pre, to support the Israeli war effort. Since then, he has grown increasingly critical of what he sees as his country’s harsh treatment of Palestinians and its failure to make peace with them after a 22-year military occupation. Last year, when asked to help commemorate Israel’s 50th anniversary, he declined. “It was not an act of defiance,” says Barenboim. “I did not have the feeling I could celebrate with an open heart.”

The idea for the concert at Birzeit, a Palestinian school repeatedly shut down by the Israelis, was Barenboim’s. But the story behind it began six years ago when he met Edward Said in a hotel lobby in London. A professor of literature at Columbia University, a leading Palestinian intellectual in the United States and a talented pianist, Said has much in common with Barenboim, and the two men became fast friends. “What appeals to me about Edward is the ability to connect art, literature, music and politics,” says Barenboim. “I try to be like this.”

Early last year, Said arranged for Barenboim to have dinner at the home of Birzeit president Hanna Nasir, who had been exiled by the Israelis for 20 years, and his wife, Tania. Like most Israelis, Barenboim had never spent an evening in a Palestinian home on the West Bank. “Are you sure it’s safe?” he asked Said as their taxi made its way from Jerusalem into the West Bank. Barenboim was particularly drawn to Tania Nasir, a lover of art, poetry and music with a large, embracing personality. The pianist responded by inviting her to Jerusalem for a recital. And he dedicated an encore to her, telling his audience that he had spent an evening at the home of a leading West Bank citizen and had been treated not just as a friend but as a member of the family.

Soon after, Barenboim told Said he wanted to perform on the West Bank — something no prominent Israeli musician had done since the territory was seized from Jordan. With Said’s help, and with the cooperation of the Nasirs, the recital was scheduled for January 29. The 500 people who jammed Kamal Nasir Hall (named after a cousin of Hanna Nasir’s who was assassinated by the Israelis in Lebanon in 1973) burst into applause when Barenboim walked onstage. Whatever bitterness might have been lingering in the hall was banished when he played the dramatic opening chords of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata. By the end of the evening, after a rousing four-hand encore with Salim Abboud, a young Palestinian pianist, the audience was on its feet, applauding wildly. Even the three apprehensive Israelis who had brought a Steinway from Jerusalem for Barenboim to play were impressed. “This is the way to do peace,” one of them said. “With music and with love.”

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