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Really awsome article on Palestinian children that played a violin concert at a Holocaust survivors center in Holon, Israel (city south of Tel Aviv).
Some good news of the day!

Blessings
Stephanie :)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/world/middleeast/26jenin.html?_r=...
Palestinians Serenade Survivors in Israel

By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: March 25, 2009
HOLON, Israel — For just over an hour on Wednesday, a club for elderly Holocaust survivors on a side street in this suburban town south of Tel Aviv came alive with an encounter of an extraordinary kind.

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The New York Times
Many Israelis see Jenin as the capital of suicide bombers.
A youth orchestra came to play for the elderly Israelis, a good turn that might pass in other countries as routine. In this case, though, the entertainers were Palestinians, a group of musicians 12 to 17 years old from the Jenin refugee camp, once a notorious hotbed of militancy and violence in the northern reaches of the West Bank.

Holocaust survivors and descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war would make bizarre companions at the best of times, but the Jenin camp strikes a particular note of discord.

The capital of suicide bombers to the Israelis and a symbol of resistance to the Palestinians, it was the scene of a bloody battle between advancing Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in 2002. Four years later, a young Israeli man from Holon was killed in one of the last suicide attacks in Israel, when a Palestinian from Jenin blew himself up in a restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Adding to the dissonance, one of Jenin’s militant leaders in the second intifada was commonly known as Hitler, a nickname he had answered to since his teens.

Yet for a while on Wednesday, the politics of the conflict were put aside. The youths scratched at their violins and the Holocaust survivors clapped along, trying to keep up with the changing rhythms of the darbouka drums.

“We are here to play,” Wafaa Younis, 51, the Israeli Arab orchestra director, told the rapt audience. “I do not believe in politicians, only musicians and these children.”

Any potential awkwardness may have been dulled by the language barrier — other than Ms. Younis, the Palestinians spoke only Arabic; the survivors only Hebrew and their native European tongues. Each also appeared to have only the sketchiest knowledge about the other side.

Zehava Zelevski, 73, was born in Poland and came to Israel via camps in Germany for displaced people in 1948. Her three brothers were killed during the Second World War. Ms. Zelevski said she knew about the Jenin camp from television and the newspapers, remembering that “all the terrorism came from there.”

One of the young musicians, Qusai Samur, 17, looked blank when asked about the Holocaust. He said he knew only what somebody here had told him — that these people lived alone as children because their parents had been killed.

The event, at the Amcha Center, was organized as part of Israel’s annual Good Deeds Day, an initiative of Shari Arison, a prominent Israeli-American businesswoman and immensely wealthy heiress.

Ms. Arison said in an interview before the concert that she came up with the idea for Good Deeds Day while taking a walk a few years ago. Anybody, whether rich or poor, can help a blind person cross a street, cheer someone up with a smile or help with someone’s shopping bags, she said.

Most of the day’s events are organized by Ruach Tova, an organization of the Arison Group that couples nonprofit groups with volunteers.

Ms. Younis, the orchestra director, had told Ruach Tova that she wanted to bring the Jenin camp youth orchestra, Strings of Freedom, to perform in Israel. Ruach Tova made the match with Amcha, an Israeli association that provides Holocaust survivors with emotional and social support.

The first item in the short concert was a specially composed Arabic song, “We Pray for Peace.” The youths performed it standing, with the seriousness of a funeral dirge. Things livened up a little once the darboukas came out. Ms. Arison, who attended the well-publicized event, was invited to dance.

By the end, it was hard to tell who had done the good deed for whom.

After the concert, Ms. Zelevski, the survivor, said she was “surprised” and “very excited,” seeing things were possible “not by war.” Debating the rights and wrongs of the conflict among themselves, some of the elderly Israelis commented that the Palestinian musicians were “only children” and were not to blame.

The young Palestinians, on a rare trip out of the West Bank, were all smiles. They had performed three times before in the Israeli port city of Haifa, but this was the closest they had come to the Israeli cultural metropolis of Tel Aviv.

Soon, a staff member from the Amcha Center politely asked the orchestra and attendant journalists to vacate the small hall. It was time for the survivors’ exercise class.

Outside, some of the elderly Israelis and the young Palestinians mingled, trying their best to interact.

Ms. Younis, a feisty retired music teacher, appealed for support. She said that an Israeli playwright, Dan Almagor, had donated violins for the Jenin youths, and that the Mormon University in Jerusalem had given other instruments and equipment, but that the orchestra needed more.

“Israel should give them violins,” she said. “We take the pain out of people’s hearts.”

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Solly,

we are here to work together, not to allow or not allow . even what you say is allowed.

so now we deal with it, but as you are allowed you must allow the others.
Solly,

I am Israeli, my son and my friends are Israeli so I have to care. (I am not Jewish if that was what bothered you)

We need separation stage and for that we need to be fair and respectful to the Palestinians

your solution "first is stop persons like Mazin stop warmongering and tribalism." is not applicable here in mepeace.org, please consider other wonderful sites:

http://truthinjustice.ning.com/forum

it will suite you just fine.
Hi Mazin.
Thank you for sharing this article.
This gives me a better persepective of the anger that Hindi was showing.
Dear Neri and Basil:

I posted Khalid's piece because it directly relates to the subject at hand and brings in new perspectives. For example, before I read Khalid's piece, I did not take into consideration that indeed some of those elderly folks there have served in the 1947-1949 ethnic cleansing and massacres that made these same children refugees; Children who are playing violins now for them and are forced to return to their refugee camp while their villages are empty and are now picnic sites for Israelis who do not know the history of those villages. The language of Khalid is rather strong indeed but I hope you will take time to know a bit about Khalid's family history including the murder of many of his direct relatives by the colonizing/occupying Israeli army. BTW since several people mentioned it let me be clear: using strong language like I do or even stronger language like Khalid does does not mean we are less interested in peace. I am not Khalid of course and disagree with him on many areas and my approach is very different (khalid would not waste his time on such a forum). But Khalid also arrived at a draft agreement with a right wing Rabbi and the two of the submitted the draft deal to Hamas and the Israeli government. Now, many have already lectured many of us on the way we right or what they think we should be writing about and how. I don't know if you note that these kinds of lectures make any difference. I for one do not want "Samir/sunshine" to speak nicer. He/she will write like he is able and educated to write. All I or you can do is shin a light at those writings when they are racist/tribalist. If this person reads and can comprehend he will change out of his own accords to avoid making such mistakes again. But if he does/does not, it will happen internally with self-reflection not because anyone says to him/her that they should "talk nice."
Palestinian orchestra shut after Holocaust concert

By DIAA HADID and BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Writers
Sun Mar 29, 2:39 pm ET

JENIN, West Bank – Authorities in an impoverished Palestinian refugee camp have shut down a youth orchestra, boarded up its rehearsal studio and banned its conductor from the camp after she took 13 young musicians to perform for Holocaust survivors in Israel, an official said Sunday.

Conductor Wafa Younes took the children from her Strings of Freedom orchestra to sing songs of peace last week as part of an annual Good Deeds Day organized by Israel's richest woman. But once parents and leaders back in West Bank's Jenin refugee camp realized where the group had been, they shut down the program, saying Younes had dragged the children into a political issue.

The discord highlights both the distrust many Palestinians have of any engagement with Israel, as well as their reluctance to acknowledge Jewish historical suffering because of concerns that it weakens their own claim to this disputed land.

Some 6 million Jews were killed in the Nazi campaign to wipe out European Jewry, and the urgent need to find a sanctuary for hundreds of thousands of survivors catalyzed the creation of Israel after World War II.

A community leader in the Jenin camp, Adnan Hindi, said the musicians' parents had not known where Younes was taking their children and were angry when they learned of the performance from media reports.

"She exploited the children for a big political issue," said Hindi, head of a camp committee responsible for municipal duties.

Hindi did not deny there was a Holocaust, but said Palestinians had suffered at the hands of Israel.

"The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves," he said. "We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years."

More than 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that followed Israel's creation, an event Arabs call the Naqba, or catastrophe. Many of their descendants still live in refugee camps like Jenin.

"If I had known this was a political excursion, I would not have let my son go," said Ibrahim Samour, father of 18-year-old Qusay, who plays the kamanja, a traditional Arab stringed instrument similar to a violin.

When asked why he objected to his son performing for the group of about 30 elderly Holocaust survivors, near Tel Aviv, Samour, 61, said his family fled to Jenin in 1948 from land that is now part of Israel.

"I'm not denying bad things happened to them, but there has to be mutual recognition," he said.

Avner Shalev, chairman of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, called the orchestra's closure "very unfortunate."

Ignorance and even denial of the Holocaust is widespread in Palestinian society.

To increase awareness, Yad Vashem created an Arabic-language Web site last year with survivor testimonies that has so far received about a half million visits, Shalev said.

Khaled Mahameed, an Arab Israeli who runs a small institute in the biblical town of Nazareth to teach Palestinians about the Holocaust, said many Palestinians feel Israel uses the Holocaust to justify its actions against Palestinians.

"They think that if you talk about the Holocaust, then you feel sympathy for the Jewish people, and the conclusion is that you have to support Israel," he said.

Younes, an Arab from the northern Israeli village of Ara, had been training the modest orchestra of 11- to 13-year-olds for about three years and had taken them on previous trips, camp residents said.

Younes said camp officials closed the ensemble so they could take over its funds.

"They want to destroy this group," she said. "It's a shame, it's a tragedy. What did these poor, elderly people do wrong? What did these children do wrong?"

The project was bankrolled by billionaire businesswoman Shari Arison.

At Wednesday's concert in Holon neither the orchestra nor the audience initially knew where the other was from. Audience members gasped when the performers were introduced as West Bank Palestinians, a rare sight in Israel.

And the performers had no idea the audience were survivors of the Nazi genocide — or even what the Holocaust was.

Israeli historian Tom Segev said lack of knowledge about each other's history hinders prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

"You can't understand Israel unless you understand the role of the Holocaust in Israeli identity," he said. "And if you don't understand your enemy, you can't make peace."
Israeli historian Tom Segev said lack of knowledge about each other's history hinders prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

"You can't understand Israel unless you understand the role of the Holocaust in Israeli identity," he said. "And if you don't understand your enemy, you can't make peace."

But Basil,
I've always been talking about what you are calling 'deep peace.'
The other kind does not deserve to be called peace because it involves little peaceful coexistence.
Peace is more than an absence of hostilities.
It is coexistence.
Yes, Stephanie, definitely wonderful and heartwarming and we need much more of it. Sadly the orchestra was disbanded by the PA as a result of this visit, and the Arab-Israeli organiser/conductor, Wafa Younis, 50, of the Arab village of Ara in the Triangle was banned from ever visiting again.
Mick - should we peacemakers here start a peaceloving campaign to get Wafa Younis her job and home back?
or is all of this being blown out of proportion?
I think, Yigal, that moves like this to bring people together parallel what we are doing here on ME Peace, in the belief that it will ultimately help people better understand each other and communicate. There are many such projects in Israel. I think that the fact that the PA shut it down and disbanded the orchestra is a clear indicator that they have no interest in any moves that might bring peace ... unless there is some other motive that I'm missing. This looks so positive and benign ... perhaps it could have led to a combined Israeli Palestinian orchestra .... I fail to see any other motive for shutting it down.

As to Wafa, she hasn't lost her home, as she lives in Wadi Ara in Israel, but is just probably very disillusioned. I think it very sad, but the only message I see is that peace may not be possible without people at the top who actually want it.
I think this whole issue has been blown out of proportion. Yes, it was a noble gesture but be realistic the solutions to the complex problems in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are not resolved by getting a group of angelic Palestinian youths to saw through a symphony for aged Holocaust survivors. I am not discrediting the importance of dialogue indeed I would encourage people from both sides to engage in each others narrative but there is a limit to gesture politics and far too often such acts appeal to people who are not directly involved in the conflict and they appeal because it gives the illusion of progress and the opportunity to once again ignore the more deeper problems. You will notice that majority of the posters are not from the region and none are from the West Bank.

The more militant supporters of either the Palestinians or the Israelis resort to generalisations (sometimes racist) and grand theories which are constructed largely to inoculate themselves from reality. But this argument applies with equal validity to those who crave ‘peace’, without giving any clear definition to what they mean by the word. For such people concerts such as these are the life blood of their vacuous ideology. They are engaged in the same act of self-affirmation that the militants are. A day where Palestinians and Israelis hold hands and sing ‘Imagine’ will not come. The Middle Eastern conflict is not a soap opera. It cannot be reduced to meaningless terms of heroes and villains any more than it can be seen as resolvable with well intended acts such as those of Wafa Younis.

Let’s put things into context: recently there has been a great deal of investment in Jenin, a restructuring of the Palestinian Police force, a serious effort to route out corruption and attempts to reform the monolith that is the UNRWA. The Palestinian economy is more important than gesture politics. This is real achievement. This situation could be improved if the Israelis reduced the restrictions in the West Bank and helped to create an economic union as apposed to the series of city states that exist at present. Even Netanyahu seems to recognise the present economic plan is just suicide.

Yes, it is sad that the orchestra has been disbanded but what do you expect? The subject of the Holocaust is taboo in Palestinian society and one that must be broken but such things don’t happen over night let alone peacefully. But even then there is a limit and people should just get over it. For heavens sake it’s just an orchestra. There are many programs to help young Palestinian musicians, many of whom are extremely gifted, but there will be no orchestra if there is no economy. In short: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Now you may argue that there will only be an economy when there is no occupation. In which case Bill Clinton famous saying becomes: ‘It’s the occupation, stupid’ but that is a subject for a different debate but one that is more important.
Generally I agree with Max's comment that we should not elevate this issue (especially not knowing the particulars in terms of how youth were recruited/informed etc). I for one am not shy speaking to other Palestinians about the Jewish holocaust (and Armenians, and Congolse, and Rwandans etc) but I do recognize that for many other Palestinains it is very difficult. That is because Zionists used that story to justify the 61 year ethnic cleansing (the Nakba) of Palestine where 70% of Palestinians are now refugees or displaced people.

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