A few days ago I had the honor of participating in two Memorial Day ceremonies here in Israel. One was in Rabin Square, whose namesake gave his life for Peace right in that very spot (I was singing in the square the night Yizchak Rabin was murdered…circles open and close around us all the time..)
The ceremony was attended by tens of thousands , all sitting or standing in silence as a string of artists came up on stage and sang melancholy songs in memory of the thousands of Israeli soldiers fallen in service. I was proud to be one of them. It was a beautiful and moving event.
But before coming to the square, I went to another memorial ceremony, held in a Hangar in the Tel Aviv Port. Ironically enough, I will be singing there in a few days with Bobby McFerrin (who will surely be urging me to not worry, be happy, tootoodoo. Ah, little does he know ). This Hangar is a popular event space and I was surprised the ceremony would be taking place there, as it is quite a large venue. I was even more surprised to see the place fill up completely. The reason for my dismay was the nature of this particular ceremony: It is an Alternative Memorial Day Service, and it is organized by a group called Combatants for Peace. This group is a joint Jewish/Arab organization striving to break the circle of violence between the two sides. You can read more about them here: http://cfpeace.org/?page_id=2. In this service, BOTH sides come to mourn their loved ones lost in the seemingly endless violent conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. People come to tell stories, sing songs, read letters, show films and present theater pieces, all centered around one simple idea: violence is not the answer, and LIFE , not death , is our common goal.
This ceremony started some years ago in a small, underground fringe theater in the south of the city but in recent years it has grown out of that small space and thus I found myself standing in front of thousands of people and couldn’t stop the chills from shooting up and down my spine and raising the hairs on the back of my neck. I was thinking of all those brave people sitting there, some of which had paid the highest price of all, seen their loved ones perish for, frankly, who cares what cause?! And there they were, Arabs and Jews, sitting together, seemingly “in the clutches of the enemy”, breaking the stereotypes, reaching out across the lines, turning their backs to hatred and violence, choosing LIFE! I felt fortunate and privileged to be allowed to lend my voice to such an important event. (see also this: http://www.theparentscircle.com/)
The next morning I started getting messages from friends and family, asking if I had seen the facebook campaign that was gaining momentum, calling to BAN me because I had sung in memory of terrorists on Israel’s Memorial Day.
I couldn’t really believe it. I though they must be mistaken or joking but this was very real. Could it be I thought , that in Israel of the 21st century people still think all Arabs are terrorist? Nawwww. But as the hours passed, more and more messages, calls and e-mails flooded my phone and computer, all dealing with this issue. Some wanted to know had I REALLY sung for terrorists? Some were blatantly violent and aggressive in language, a handful were supportive and sympathetic. What’s for sure, this had become an ISSUE and it was coming at me from every direction.
My friends, I am writing all this to you because it is important that you know that Israel is now going thorough one of the darkest periods of her short history. The amount of brainwashed people walking the streets here, the amount of RACISM and blind hatred, is simply mindboggling (and this goes for both the Jewish and the Arab population within Israel). I am but one of a long list of people and organizations with views similar to mine who have been bashed, banned, ostracized, ridiculed and marginalized, virtually OUTLAWED, since the present right-wing government has been in office. AN entire country has turned to talking in slogans, our minds have become little advertising sound-bits: we’re right, they’re wrong, they’re terrorists, we’re angels, god’s on our side, we did everything for peace, they refused, it’s their fault, there’s no partner, you’re either with us or against us etc etc ect.
The ensuing witch hunt, evoking medieval times, an Israeli take on McCarthyism, is a dangerous slippery slope that will lead Israel straight to oblivion.
SO, to all you Jewish/Israeli friends and family, I urge you, do not bindly support anything and everyrting Israel does! In such you are contributing to her demise! Rather, strengthen the sane, the humane, the caring and loving! Give those organizations working for a PEACE the support they so desperately need.
And to you, whomever you are, you who are not Israeli or Jewish, and don’t really know exactly what’s going on here, to you I say, do not bindly criticize anything and everyrting Israel does! In such you are contributing to her demise! Rather, strengthen the sane, the humane, the caring and loving! Give those organizations working for a PEACE the support they so desperately need .
There is a long list of organizations who need you, here is very partial one, take your pick:
and on and on…
may we know better days than these.