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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let There Be Music in the Holy Land!

Last Monday, this post "Israel Stops the Music in Gaza" reported that because Israel had refused admission into Gaza to a Palestinian musician, Conductor Daniel Barenboim harshly criticized the Israeli government and subsequently canceled their appearance at a Roman Catholic church in Gaza in solidarity.

Who was this "Palestinian musician" who was refused entrance in to Gaza? He was 28-year-old Palestinian musician named Ramzi Aburedwan, the founder of a charitable Palestinian society – called Al-Kamandjati, which is Arabic for The Violinist – Aburedwan oversees a philanthropic program that provides musical instruments and training to hundreds of Palestinian children.

This group of musicians has gone on to play however in Taybeh. What is his crime? He teaches children to play the violin. He has also produced a documentary titled "It's Not a Gun" which you can read about HERE

THIS is trailer for the documentary (in Arabic with French subtitles)

HERE you can view an Al-Jazeera story about Al-Kamandjati (in Arabic)

Does being declared a "hostile entity" have ANYTHING TO DO WITH MUSIC? Does teaching children to play the violin have ANYTHING TO DO WITH HOSTILITY?


The music DID however go on in Taybeh:

Music soars in the land of sadness
Palestinian violist unites musicians of all faiths for Christmas concert in tiny Christian outpost
Dec 23, 2007 04:30 AM

Middle East Bureau

TAYBEH, West Bank–The concert commenced at 7 sharp, here in the last entirely Christian community in the Holy Land, an illuminated rosary of limestone houses and Christmas lights strung across the high Samarian Hills, 20 kilometres northeast of Jerusalem.

Lit by a bevy of crystal chandeliers, classically trained musicians gathered in the town's Latin Patriarchal Church, flanked by an altar, a glowing electric space heater and an audience of about 60 expectant souls.

After being warmly welcomed by David Khoury, mayor of Taybeh – who speaks English with a Massachusetts accent, the result of 30 years in political exile – the players raised their instruments, traded glances, then plunged into the initial offering on the evening's baroque program, the allegro first movement of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto in F-major for Flute and Orchestra.

And, lo, it was Christmas time in the Holy Land. The spirit of the season seemed to radiate through the church and into the streets beyond, for Christmas without music wouldn't really be Christmas at all.

"We are the last and only entirely Christian village in the Holy Land," proclaimed Father Raed Abusahlia, parish priest at Latin Patriarchal, speaking shortly before the concert began.

"We were evangelized by Jesus Christ Himself."

Partly for that reason, an unlikely group of fine musicians – including Christians, Jews and Muslims – ventured through the darkness and winter cold last Wednesday to converge on this hilltop town to perform a Christmas concert of baroque music against a backdrop of sadness and war – sadness because Christians are fleeing the Holy Land in disturbing numbers and war because this is the Middle East, where armed conflict seems as deeply embedded in the rocky soil as olive trees, religion and tombs.

But on this night there was song, and it was song that brought a Canadian visitor here, on a winding, starlit drive through deep canyons and over lofty ridges, past an Israeli military checkpoint and into Taybeh, an ancient community where Jesus once sought refuge from his enemies.

In biblical times, the town was Ephraim. It was renamed Taybeh in 1187 by Salahaddin, the legendary Kurdish warrior who once captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

Taybeh was inhabited by Christians then and it is inhabited by Christians now, although their numbers are dwindling.

During the 1960s, Taybeh's population reached a high of about 3,400. It has since declined to 1,300 or so, and it continues to fall.

"There is not enough work, not enough money," said Norma Jasser, an elegant, 40-something mother of six who attended the concert with her brood.

"If anyone has the chance to leave, they will do it."

Palestinian Christians face the same trials that afflict the territories' Muslim majority – the economic hardship, political instability and reciprocal violence that are the wages of a 60-year conflict with neighbouring Israel.

And so the Christians leave.

But now it is Christmas time and Christians are celebrating in Taybeh and in many other towns scattered through the Holy Land.

This winter, for the third year in a row, many of them have been blessed by the gift of music, thanks to an ambitious series of concerts organized by a 28-year-old Palestinian musician named Ramzi Aburedwan.

Founder of a charitable Palestinian society – called Al-Kamandjati, which is Arabic for The Violinist – Aburedwan oversees a philanthropic program that provides musical instruments and training to hundreds of Palestinian children.

Three years ago, he launched a Christmas series of baroque concerts that swelled this year to nine scheduled performances – most of them presented in Christian churches, seven in the Palestinian territories and two in Israel.

The players include Palestinians, Europeans and Americans. They are Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Their surnames range from Machour to Ho, Nguenang to Barghouti, Karamintzas to Hewitt Jones – a thoroughly catholic group, in the secular sense of the word.

Financial and logistical support was provided by bodies that include the general consulate of France in Jerusalem, the Goethe-Institut in Ramallah and the Barenboim-Said Foundation, established by famed conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said.

But this is the Middle East, where political tensions intrude upon everything.

Not even the music of baroque composers Vivaldi, Georg Philip Telemann or Giovanni Battista Pergolesi are immune – and nor is the violist Aburedwan.

Last Sunday, he was stopped at Erez Crossing by Israeli border officials, who refused to let him travel from Israel into the Gaza Strip for a Christmas concert there, saying he lacked the proper documents.

Meanwhile, a dozen musicians accompanying him – all Palestinians in this case – were cleared for the same trip.

Aburedwan was later detained for two hours at the Israeli police station in the nearby town of Sderot before being released, but he was still not allowed into Gaza.

In protest, Aburedwan's fellow musicians refused to carry on without him; the concert scheduled for that evening at the Latin Church in Gaza City had to be cancelled.

"The Israelis said I was illegal," Aburedwan later said. "It's discriminatory, racist. They cut people off from people."

An accomplished violist, Aburedwan had recovered much of his composure and all of his artistry for the 90-minute concert in Taybeh.

The audience that night included a trio of nuns in blue habits and white wimples, as well as a cross-section of the village's population, mostly bundled into heavy winter coats and scarves against the chill bite of winter in the West Bank.

Built in 1968, the modern church boasts an airy interior, featuring a huge mosaic that depicts Jesus arriving in Ephraim, as well as vivid paintings of St. George slaying the dragon and a winged St. Michael in combat with Satan.

At the end of the concert, the audience rose to its feet and demanded an encore.

Abusahlia pleaded with the players to repeat the final piece of music in the evening's program – the rousing rondeau from the Ariane and Bachus Suite by Marin Marais.

The players obliged, and later several of the string players performed an impromptu outdoor program of familiar Christmas carols, performing on the stone stairs at the church's entrance, beneath the moonlight and a silent chorus of stars.

Later still, the audience members and musicians gathered for drinks and Arab finger food at a reception room in the presbytery, its interior decorated in the style of a Bedouin tent.

"Thank you for making our Christmas holiday joyous," Mayor Khoury told the musicians, summing up the sentiments of all the concertgoers.

"Thank you for everything.

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"


"Wheresoever the sun shines, the wind blows, there is an ear to hear, and a mind to conceive, there let the precepts of life be made known, let the maxims of truth be honoured and obeyed, let there be music, and let there be Peace". Dave Johnston, guitar player

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