Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cultural Palaces Trying to Grow Culture, Mideast Edition

"On Sunday, when Daniel Barenboim, the great Israeli conductor, brought his youth orchestra of young Israelis and Arabs into Ramallah, it captured the imagination of the world. In a week that had seen the occupied territories once again hitting global headlines, as 8,000 Jewish settlers finally withdrew from appropriated land in the Gaza strip, the arrival in the West Bank city of an orchestra that was founded to promote the principles of peace and reconciliation seemed to offer some faint hope of normality and harmony. The town's "cultural palace", built last year, was full to bursting, its capacity of 800 boosted by at least another 300 people sitting in the aisles and standing at the back of the hall, and the concert was broadcast live on television in Israel and through much of Europe. But, as the final notes of Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations faded away, what was left in Palestine? What of the artists who are building, brick by painful brick, some semblance of a cultural life under, by any standards, the most difficult of circumstances? ...

As with everything in the occupied territories, politics are only a breath away, even when the talk is of Mozart and Tchaikovsky. For Rima Tarazi [a composer and chairperson of the Palestine National Music Conservatory], the very act of reaching for a violin and starting to play is itself an act of resistance and dignity, and an attempt to forge (or reignite) a national culture and identity. With music, she says, "We are not only resisting occupation but trying to educate a young generation to stand up to the challenges of being a nation."

Charlotte Higgins "The Key to Peace" The Guardian Unlimited August 24, 2005

Subotica Synagogue. Subotica, Serbia-Montenegro. Marcel Komor and Deszo Jakab, Architects (Budapest) 1902.

One of World Monuments Watch's 100 Most Endangered Sites 2006 which was featured nationally on MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour August 23, 2005.

Photo credit: World Monuments Fund, New York City.


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