Music and politics in the West Bank

Posted on: June 1, 2009

In Sunday’s (5/31) New York Times, Dan Wakin reports from Ramallah about the “rising tide of interest in Western classical music in the last several years here in the Palestinian territories, but especially the West Bank. … A small effort to teach violin at a refugee camp in Jenin, north of Ramallah, was banned in March when camp authorities heard that the students had played for Holocaust survivors in Israel, saying the concert ‘served enemy interests.’ … In another incident, a music school in Jenin was heavily damaged by arson.” Wakin notes that “Across the border in Israel, which has a mother lode of classical music talent, there is little awareness that Palestinians are pursuing the same artistic tradition … ‘We cannot perceive them as people who have their own cultural lives,’ said Noam Ben-Zaev, a music critic for the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz.” Wakin spotlights sixteen-year-old Dalia Moukarker, a flute student sponsored by the Barenboim-Said Foundation, and cites positive developments in the area. These include Sounding Jerusalem, an annual chamber music festival taking place for the fourth time this spring, and efforts by Palestinian authorities to reopen a music school in Gaza that was damaged in the 22-day war with Israel early this year.

Posted June 1, 2009