Archive for June, 2017

Last-minute Reprieve for Endangered Music in Jerusalem

June 20, 2017

Jerusalem’s Etnachta series of chamber music concerts concluded its season on a high note: Yesterday’s concert was the first to be broadcast by Kan, Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation. The previous concert, on May 22, which was not broadcast, had ended with the announcement that the series’ continuation was in doubt. The popular free series was produced under the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Kan’s predecessor, and no provision had yet been made for the concerts’ survival.

Yesterday’s offering was full of verve, perfectly matching the upbeat news. Pianist Gila Goldstein and pianist, composer, and arranger Tal Zilber premiered one of Zilber’s works “Out of Order,” a lively piece for two pianos. Even livelier was Zilber’s arrangement of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 (based on a czardas) with a salsa beat. The program also included Bach, Arensky, and Poulenc, as well as Zilber’s arrangements of three Israeli songs.

Hayuta Dvir, who has produced and presented the concerts since 1989, introducing each performer and work with knowledge and passion, also announced that she would be presenting the series when it resumes in the fall.

If you visit Jerusalem, save Monday afternoon at 5 for the concerts, at the Jerusalem Theater’s Henry Crown Auditorium. Arrive at least 15 minutes early to pick up a free ticket.

Text copyright 2017 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author

What would you do for peace?

June 18, 2017

A man sits for six endless days, fasting, near the house where the prime minister reportedly enjoys fine cigars and his wife allegedly chugs pink champagne from a questionable source. The fasting man is Avi Ofer, of Kibbutz Ma’anit, 69 miles northwest of Jerusalem, who decided he had to do something to prod the country’s leaders to make peace.

Ofer, an archaeologist turned techie, is no stranger to activism. In the past, he took green paint and painted the Green Line—the ceasefire line drawn in green ink following the 1948 War of Independence. Maps in Israeli geography text books omit the line, as do the maps in Palestinian text books. Israel remains a country without permanent borders. How do you know who you are when you can’t define where you live? And how can you make peace when each side says, “It’s all mine”?

This time around, four kilograms (about nine pounds) of body weight, a hunk of will power, and physical presence were Ofer’s contribution in the name of peace. His ordeal concluded last Friday with a Sabbath-welcoming ceremony. Gaunt but flying with adrenalin, Ofer joined in the songs of peace, Sabbath peace, peace for Israel, peace for all dwellers of the universe, led by (Reform) Rabbi Nava Hefetz of Rabbis for Human Rights and accompanied on guitar by (Conservative) Rabbi Ehud Bandel. With them were about thirty supporters of Ofer’s initiative.

The Middle East is a lousy neighborhood, but I doubt that Uganda would have been a better solution to the Jews’ need for a safe place. (Like Ofer, I remain a Zionist, in the sense of believing in the need for that safe place, though not at the expense of others.) So we send our children and grandchildren, year after year, decade after decade, to kill and be killed. Our military cemeteries overflow.

Jordan and Egypt have made peace with us. What seemed impossible has been done. More than 50% of Israelis and Palestinians have said they favor a two-state solution. Before the 2014 Gaza war the percentage was even higher. But it’s not enough to know in your heart that a peace agreement—imperfect as it may be—is the only solution. Only action will make it happen. Miri Aloni’s “Song to Peace,” which Yitzhak Rabin sang at the peace rally at which he was assassinated, concludes with the words, “Do not say the day will come; bring the day!”

With all the government corruption and growing fanaticism in the country it is so easy to slip into the paralysis of despair. Ofer’s example is a welcome antidote. At least for a moment, at that Sabbath-welcoming ceremony, the gloom lifted, and I thought, what if we each did something to bring the peace?

Text copyright 2017 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.