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Jerusalem on a knife edge


As street violence increases in Israel-Palestine, Shoshana Gottesman looks at the vital work of Heartbeat

  • Published

    23 December 2015
  • Written by

    Shoshana Gottesman

Last month young Israeli and Palestinian musicians from Heartbeat gathered at a staff members’ apartment for a home-cooked meal, where they discussed recent incidents of violence. They expressed their sadness and frustration at events, and asked each other searching questions about the conflict, trying to understand the multiple layers of the unfolding situation.

One Palestinian singer-songwriter smiled as she told of her surprise that a stranger – an Israeli teenager – had emailed her to tell her how he loved her song that he’d heard on YouTube. She says they now speak regularly to share their experiences and feelings during this hard time. A Jewish-Israeli flautist spoke in heavy tones, expressing her dismay that her school classmates had proudly proclaimed their eagerness to join the army once finishing high school. She didn’t know what to think, and still doesn’t, but recognises the importance of asking difficult questions about society, even when the answers are unclear.

Despite the current strife, Heartbeat launched its 2015-2016 program in November with more energy, resolve, and possibility than ever before.  As we welcome back continuing participants, we especially look forward to inviting new youth musicians into our ensembles in Jerusalem and Haifa, for a transformative year of weekly meetings, retreats, field trips, and performances.  In addition, the upcoming year will see the development of the first music education-critical dialogue curriculum, the Graduate Program’s first official year, and three international tours in 2016, which will hopefully include performances in the UK.

As violence continues to blanket our landscape here in Israel-Palestine, we see why we must urgently create such spaces, where young Israeli and Palestinian musicians can come together and creatively challenge systemic separation, racism, inequality, and violence. Our musicians, staff and their families have so far thankfully stayed out of harm’s way, yet a pervading fear of violence has impacted the daily routines of our musicians and staff. In East Jerusalem, our Palestinian youth musicians have been severely restricted, some have not been able to leave their neighborhoods through fear of violence, some have witnessed continuing clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli police.

But we have hope. Our hope exists in the resilience of our Palestinian and Israeli youth musicians, as they remain deeply committed to challenging the fear and racism that is overwhelming public life and expanding hardship. Our hope exists in our youth musicians’ yearning desire to continue meeting, despite everything surrounding us. Our hope exists in their continued love for each other.

Heartbeat’s strength lies in our ability to open spaces in which Israeli and Palestinian can come together as equals, build empathy, amplify their voices, and be in solidarity with one another. This academic year, we hope to continue building towards a just, peaceful future.


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