Daniel Barenboim: Peace Concert in Gaza
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will on Tuesday lead an orchestra of European musicians in a peace concert in Gaza, in the first-ever performance there by such a prestigious international ensemble.
The rare concert, which will take place at lunchtime at the Al-Mathaf Cultural House, was announced on Monday by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process (UNSCO).
It will be the first time that Barenboim, an outspoken proponent of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, has visited the coastal territory, a spokeswoman for the chamber orchestra told AFP.
“It is the first time,” Judith Neuhoff confirmed, saying that the ensemble, which is made up of 25 musicians and known as the “Orchestra for Gaza,” had been put together especially for the visit.
In a statement released by UNSCO, Barenboim said he was “very happy” to be coming to Gaza. “We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza,” he said.
The musicians, who belong to five prestigious European orchestras, were expected to enter Gaza from Egypt on Tuesday, via the southern Rafah border crossing, a UNSCO spokesman said.
They will travel directly to the venue where they will play a programme of pieces by Mozart including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the G minor symphony to an audience of between 300 to 400 people, which will include music students and other members of Gaza’s civil society.
“The concert is to try and bring something to the people of Gaza,” he said. “It is not a political event in any sense.”
Ibrahim al-Najjar, director of Al-Qattan Music School, the only such establishment in Gaza, told AFP that he and a group of his students would greet the 68-year-old maestro and his delegation, which numbers around 50 people, at the Rafah border.
“This visit is very important to us for many reasons, both cultural and civil,” he told AFP.
Although a handful of musicians had visited Gaza in recent months to support the school and to teach classes, it was the first time such a large group of so many prestigious players was coming, he said.
The ensemble includes players from the Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and the Orchestra of La Scala di Milano.
“We love culture, and music is a way of expressing peace and showing that we Palestinians are civilised,” Najjar said, adding that it was important that people had a chance to meet the orchestra and get to know different musical instruments.
“And from a political perspective, it is important to show that Gaza is a safe place,” he said.
Israelis are forbidden by law to venture into Palestinian territory. Barenboim has previously been refused entry to Gaza by the Israeli army — most recently in April 2010 — meaning the only way for him to enter the Hamas-run territory is via Rafah.
The legendary conductor, who lives in Berlin and holds Argentine, Israeli and Spanish citizenship, also accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship in 2008, saying he hoped the move would be an example of the “everlasting bond” between Israelis and Palestinians.
He has long used his fame as a conductor and pianist to promote the cause of peace between Israel and its neighbours, and in 1999 co-founded a “peace orchestra” with his friend Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American scholar who died in 2003.
Known as the East-West Divan orchestra, it brings together Israeli, Arab and international musicians, and in 2005 it performed in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Barenboim performs regularly in the West Bank, but has never performed in Gaza, which has been subjected to a crippling Israeli blockade since 2006, which was eased somewhat last year following international pressure.
Original post: Daniel Barenboim: Peace Concert in Gaza