Sunday, August 23, 2009

on peace/demonstrations/declarations and taranta

On August 23rd I had the pleasure of performing in the impressive “Notte de la Tarante” festival in Melpignano , Italy.
It is a wonderful celebration of the traditional Taranta music of the region. hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young, show up to celebrate, sing and dance. Not with Madonna or the Rolling Stones, but with their own heritage, their own roots.
Being an honorary citizen of Melpignano, an extraordinary place with a unique mayor (the one and only Sergio Blasi) which deserves a chapter of its own, I was happy to accept the invitation to participate in this exceptional event. I came together with the wonderful Mira Awad. We were to each sing one song from the taranta repertoire, and then sing our song, “there must be another way”, together.
(For whoever does not know, Mira is a Palestinian Israeli singer-songwriter. We represented Israel this year in the Eurovision song contest with a song we wrote in three languages, Arabic Hebrew and English, conveying a message of tolerance and co-existence to hundreds of millions of people around the world.)
I went on stage at roughly 1:30 am (it’s an all night event). After singing the beautiful Taranta song “damme nu ricciu” , I spoke to the audience, saying how happy and proud I was to be there, and explaining that the song they were about to hear bore the message of peace and co-existence, breaking the walls between languages and cultures , bringing hope though music. I then invited Mira to the stage. As I looked out over the audience I saw a huge sign. It said “mira and noa…”, and I couldn’t make out the rest. There was a map of Israel, and Palestinian flags were waving.
I immediately interpreted this as a sign of support from the audience for the work mira and I were doing, and this made me very happy. When mira came on stage I pointed it out to her joyfully, wanting to share the beautiful moment. We sang together with energy and intention, as we always do, took our bow, and I went off stage, leaving mira to her solo song. I could hear the audience yelling “mira, mira”, and I was once again happy they were embracing my friend with love and respect, as they have always embraced me.
When I got to the side of the stage, I saw galia my tour manager looking like a ghost, with tears in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong?? And she said:”the sign, the sign! Didn’t you see it? I’m devastated…”.
That’s when I realized my mistake. I became cold as a rock.
You see, dear friends, it was no sign of support. No demonstration of unity and hope, of willingness to build a better future.
The sign said: : “noa and mira, accomplices in the killing machine. Israel=Nazis”.
Yes, that’s what the sign said. Right in front of our faces.
And the calls ‘mira mira’ were to the killer mira, the criminal mira.
Her crime? Singing for peace. Daring to hope for a better future.
The organization who are responsible for this hijacked the Taranta festival for their own selfish, ignorant, destructive propaganda-driven agenda. And their southern-Italian hosts were just too polite, sweet and open-minded to do anything about it.
The Italians around me were unbelieving, shocked and apologetic. For many of them I am a sort of hero. Years of concerts, stubborn insistence on playing even in the smallest venues and sustaining the highest level of musicianship and originality and tireless work for peace have gained me their unwavering love and admiration. They simply could not understand this rude and violent display of hatred.
I know these Palestinian groups. This is not the first time they have shown me their ‘love’. They have been haunting me for years. I have tried communicating with them by mail, tried intelligent dialogue and reasoning but to no avail. The fact that I have dedicated half my life to supporting the Palestinian cause, at a very high personal price, means nothing to them.
These groups represent a very small part of the Palestinian people. As always, most people want to live and not die. To live and let live. To live.
But these groups know how to make noise. They are funded by big money from fanatic organizations that call for nothing less than the death of my children and the destruction of my country (unless of course I convert to islam and wear a burka). They have no interest whatsoever in finding a ‘path to follow’ that will lead to two states for two people, coexistence, prosperity and peace. Their agenda includes fanning the flames of hatred and war for eternity, until we all burn in a hell of vengeance and self-righteousness
I have no intention of embarking once again on the endless, futile dissection of thewhat/who/where/why/how of middle eastern politics. I’ve been around that block too many times and it has led me nowhere.
I say only this:
There are two options.
Either we eternalize the violence, hatred, suffering killing and vengeance and pass it on to our children and our children’s children like a bloody, cursed inheritance.
we put the past respectfully behind us and look to the future, using all of our resources to find a way to live together without violence.

My agenda is clear.

I have children and I have no time to waste on testosterone-driven religious fanatics who want to die and kill in the name of some god or another and pull us all down with them. Or bored European pseudo-intellectuals who need a cause and choose one carelessly.
As I’ve said many times before,
Recognize, Apologize, Share. (you can read the elaborate version of that theory in a former blog)
So, despite how hurt I was by what occurred, I plan to continue in just the same way, stubbornly, adamantly, bull headedly, with full belief that…
there must be another way.

Signing out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

home made religion...

just got back to hotel after performing with Mira Awad in Paola, Itlay. The concert was great. people were warm and receptive. the goal was to raisie money to re-build a church that had been destroyed by the earthquake in l'aquila.
i have mixed feelings.
on the one hand, i can commend the church of st. francesco de paola for making this effort. it is noble, on their part..and no doubt, san francesco was one of the 'good guys' of his genre, nature loving, modest, kind. but i can not help but wonder, would it not make more sense to use all that power and money to build a new school, orphanage, library, shelter for battered women or homeless people, rehabilitating clinic, etc etc etc...?

this brings us to my problem with religion.
first, it amazes me what an ENORMOUS amount of money and resources go into the maintenance and cultivation of the religious institutions wherever they may be, money that could go into making people's lives better...feeding, educating, healing...for a start. i mean, could it be that proportionally, churches, temples, mosques and synagogues are THAT much more important than schools, hospitals and museums?

then, it AMAZES me how much war, hatred, misogyny, prejudice , and violence is waged in the name if this or that religion. from the crusades to the Inquisition to 9/11 and the list us WAYYY long. fueled by fear and greed, religion will ever too often transform into a dark-hearted monster, evoking pandemonium, sweeping all it's believers along in the great flood.

for me, there is only one justification for the term god, and that is, if it is in direct correlation with the term LOVE. love, and with it, compassion, unity, fraternity, solidarity, benevolence, kindness, generosity, and so on and on and on, the heart's to-do list. love your brother as you love yourself.

and the question is asked: if these terms are universal, if they exist in every single human being's heart, if they are known to every mother nurturing her child, why then, do we need religion?

don't get me wrong. i can respect anybody's religious beliefs, UNTIL they tangle with morals and values that should be shared by all humanity. until they get ugly and violent and domineering and worse of all: self righteous. until they become the moral apron for hiding behind. until they separate the world into 'them' and 'us'. until they become dangerously judgemental. and so sadly, much too often, religion is the source of all of the above, where it should never be. it should be solely a source of hope, light, positive energy and solace.

recommended reading: 'the god delusion', by richard dawkins.
and/or check out the lyrics of a song i wrote called "home made religion", from the album "blue touches blue".

tomorrow ravello. a very beautiful place. we'll take it from there...

good night.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

greetings from tarragona

hi everbody.
writing from Tarragona in Spain. People here live so differently. all the political mass that sits so squarely on our shoulders back in the middle east and weighs us down to the ground is non existent here. we were out walking at midnight, the streets were teeming, families and couples and seniors and infants all together , talking laughing eating living...just living! is that what peace really means? normality? ah yes....what a dream.
People recognized me everywere and i was happy and proud to greet them. i feel comfortable and easy going in their midst.
on the way to dinner (which starts at ten here!) we passed by 2 'clubs' where young people are taught the local art of human tower building! yes, that's right. they climb up on each other’s shoulders until they create a sort of human ‘tower of pisa’ but without the slant :-) and of course the smallest children, like little monkeys, are taught to scramble up nimbly to the top and stand proud, their hands outstretched, links in a long chain of Catalonian tradition. it really moved me. that chain. i guess making the album 'genes and jeans' and performing it over the last 2 years has made me feel more deeply than ever the significance of connecting to a deep root, and spreading your wings from that little girl on top of the tower..

Tonight we perform here. Mira Awad will open the show with her beautiful songs and we'll continue with our ‘genes and jeans’ and other stuff, then Mira and i will sing duets from our album.

thank god for music.

be well all.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a tired mother's thoughts

so what's going on??
i am feeling down in the dumps these days.
i feel israel is on the brink of a real explosion. like some horror sci fi movie scene, the forces of evil seem to be gathering frightening momentum. we've had hordes of ultra orthodox going crazy on the streets, throwing stones, hitting cops, creating total havoc, in DEFENCE of a woman who almost starved her child to death! and why?? simply because she was "part of THEM"! what the hell is THEM for god's sake?? does being part of THEM justify murder?? shouldn't a court of law be the judge of that?? i am appalled and horrified. and the treatment of foreign workers here is beyond belief, beyond disgust. if they would have passed that law about evicting the children of foreign workers born in israel from this country, i would have ripped up my passport. enough is enough. and add the horrible murder of those young homosexuals in TA and the murderer still on the loose!! i mean, who needs terrorist bombers when we have all this?? i don't know what's going on. it's just appalling. but you know how the hebrew saying goes, the fish stinks from its head.i feel the present government is such a pathetic failure they should all go home NOW, staring with Netanyahu the zero and followed by his criminal entourage led by the psychopath Liberman and the fascist Eli Yishai. HOME.
sadly, besides Livni (possibly), there is not a ray of light in parliament to replace them. darkness all around.
so what do i hang on to?
i look close to home. i shut off the tv and search for hope in the boring mundane actions of stubborn people who won't give up..
like my friend Issam who escaped from gaza and is now living in ramallah, who against all odds created a summer camp for kids form ramallah and sderot who spent 2 weeks of the summer together. he said it was a blast (no pun intended :-)
like my friend ofer bronstein who travels ceaselessly to an fro talking to this side and that, bringing people together, fusing, mending, building bridges.
like the incredible "parent's circle", amazing people , bereaved families who have paid the highest price as a result of this conflict, arabs and jews dedicated to peace against all odds.
these and many more like them are my heros.
i salute you!!!!
and now, i'll go to sleep. tomorrow my daughter turns 5. we'll sing and dance and eat choclate cake. she wanted fairies for her birthday. she likes to dream. like her mom.
may she grow to see better days than these.
good night.