Kings We Are, with Wings of Dust (1)
Memories of the Shalom Salam Tour
by Anis Hamadeh
- August 2004 -
Chapter 1: Leipzig and Halle
In the Gewandhaus
Duo Rubin live
Shalom Salam Infos
Round Table Dinner
At Noon in Halle
Concert Hall, Ulrich Church, Halle
In the Gewandhaus
(May 09, 2004)
The station in Leipzig was crammed with bawling soccer fans. Struggle of the sub-cultures. I pulled the suitcase which was rolling behind me and looked into the crowd of self-marked young people. At the gates the police, only routine work. I asked for the way to the Gewandhaus, but the policemen were no locals. Traffic jam. Olee, olee olee olee. Group identity. Generally not a bad thing. Except you need an enemy for it.
It was not far. The wheather was nice. I knew Leipzig from an orientalists' conference shortly after the turning and liked the city. The Duo Rubin had booked hotel rooms, directly next to the Gewandhaus, which was practical. There in the hotel we met. They had Benny with them, a friend from Berlin, who was helping them with the transport of the beamer, the monitors and some other technical stuff. Especially at the beginning of the journey there were a lot of organisational things to do. We were in a positive stress situation, alert, concentrated. Would everything work out right? There had hardly been any of the posters distributed in the city, the advertising was not too good. This toned us down little. But now we wanted to start at last and make a couple of stage experiences together. After a short refreshment and a cup of coffee in the lobby we went over to the other building for the soundcheck.
To appear on stage in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig was a real adventure. It belongs to the landmarks of the city. Next to our dressing room there were some documents exhibited on the wall in the corridor, behind glass. The announcements of the very first concerts in the Gewandhaus. On the right half there was, among others, Max Reger and Otto Klemperer, then Wagner, then on the left side it went down to the eighteenth century. According to the document, the first concert ever took place in 1789, it was Mozart himself. The building consists of two parts, one could even say: two worlds. The representative outside, public world with its lobby, chandeliers, stairways and halls, and on the other side the extensive backstage area, functional, but not without charm. In the undecorated corridors, in the many corners of which there stood utensils, one would meet musicians, craftspeople and technicians. The friendly assistent, who supervised our performance technically and who had given us a hand with the preparation during the last hours, shortly before the show transformed into a suit-wearer with a tie: the time of preparation was over, now the elegant, public part of the evening began.
I stood next to the Gewandhaus assistent off the stage and watched the TV screen which was showing the hall and the current time. There was still half an hour to go. Meanwhile, Michael Krebs from Cologne and Alex Elsohn, the representative of Givat Haviva, had arrived, too. He is in charge of international relations and the director for Europe. There was also a friend of his, Stefan, whom we would see some more times in the course of the tour. Together we had cared for the last preparations. The beamer did not work, so we could not show the film we had planned to show. But this did not embarrass us too much and we quickly decided that Alex should say some words instead. Michael Krebs had helped organizing the appearance from his place in Cologne. A photographer took pictures of us in the Gewandhaus ambience. The whole time he tried to talk to me in English, but he didn't know any English. I asked him if he was German and he said yes.
While the Duo Rubin was still in the dressing room I started a conversation with the man who has been working here since six and a half years. He was of calm, even temperament. He liked his work, there was an air of self-possession about him. I asked him how many halls there are in the Gewandhaus and he said two: the Mendelssohn Hall, in which we would soon appear on stage and where meanwhile the first visitors have arrived, as I was able to see on the monitor. And the big hall. He pressed a button and I saw on the monitor in front of me four or five people standing on another stage. Now he added the sound. A cappella! These folks sang a cappella, and I read in the folder on the table that it was a festival with many bands. I got enthusiastic about it as I had a faible for this sort of minimal art, both passively and actively. When I sang a cappella myself it was usually bass or baritone. Back then in Hamburg I had sung in a band for a short spell. Unfortunately, we never reached the stage of public appearances. We sang "Mister Sandman", the notes were available in the music library in Hamburg, near the Jungfernstieg. My favorite band were the early Flying Pickets from England, I also listened to the King Singers, Bobby McFarin, the Comedian Harmonists and some bands from the festival in New York ten or fifteen years ago of which Spike Lee made a TV documentary. Not to forget the harmonies of the Beach Boys and of the Beatles. Originally, I associate a cappella with black gospel music.
On the way to the dressing room I met a group of stage women. Hey, was that you singing a cappella out there right now, I asked. We exchanged some words in passing by. Then I saw the Duo Rubin and we went out on stage.
Duo Rubin live
To have experienced the Duo Rubin so close on stage was something special. They play together in perfect harmony as they have known each other for a long time and have similar talents. Piano and cello sound well together, too, there is nothing missing. All in all, I listened to the program about twelve times live, not counting the rehearsals, and I never got bored or tired, although I am an impatient fellow. Maybe it is due to the fact that we like similar pieces and styles. Bach, for example, for all three of us is one of the, if not the most important composer. At the soundcheck in Düsseldorf Ithay once started to play the Musette out of the "Notenheft von Anna Magdalena". He showed me how to accompany the melody with a simple guitar rhythm. It is fun to play with a cello. My major part was literature, though. I read an excerpt from the current book for young people: "We Both Want to Live Here" (edited by Sylke Tempel) and some poems from my poetry album "Loving Jay".
The Duo Rubin, like me, likes to try out new things. Thus they have an Israeli composer in their repertoir, Paul Ben Chaim, and an Arab one, the Egyptian Alberto Hemsi. As they recounted Hemsi is not a known composer. The two have rather found him in a private library and brought him to a world première. Their program is colorful, this is how I as a semi-layman would call it. They have serious as well as cheerful things, technically difficult pieces like the variations on one string by Paganini or Piazzolla's Grand Tango. There was also Chopin (Polonaise Brillante Op.3), as well as the fast and actually quite folkloristic pieces "Csardas" (pronounced: Tshardash) by Monti and the "Fire Dance" by de Falla (pronounced: de Faiya) which I liked best. Later on Offenbach's "Sledging" ("Schlittenfahrt") was added. I liked all the compositions in one way or another, there was none which would have gotten on my nervs after a while. Sometimes during the tour I had the feeling that the couple would play more brilliant today than on average, but their own assessments mostly were totally different, so I refrained from comments of this kind.
I enjoyed it a lot altogether. During the rehearsal time in Berlin Ithay late one night started to practise cello for the next day. He plays first cello in the Staatsorchester in Halle. Ithay often practised during the night, in their house in Berlin this seemed to work. Gabriella had already gone to bed and I stood in the garden, drank red wine, smoked, watched the small white dog, which never seemed to sleep, be it day or be it night, and listened to the cello. Tired as I was I could make it to the living-room sofa where I ended up motionless in horizontal position. I drifted away whenever I heard this music, it makes one dream so fine. Some time later, when I got up and said goodbye, Ithay also finished rehearsing.
Maybe the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and Germans can be looked at a bit closer from the outer periphery here. For politically, Ithay and me do in a way represent Israel, Palestine and Germany. What made the tour interesting and authentic was the fact that we had not solved the conflict before between us. Instead we did something completely different: new experiences. There are by all means Israelis and Jews who stand coser to me in political contexts than Ithay. Such different individuals as Felicia Langer, Uri Avnery, Abraham Melzer, Shraga Elam, Michel Warschawski, Moshe Zuckermann, Moshe Zimmermann, Uri Davis, Ilan Pappe, Paul Eisen, Avraham Burg, Noam Chomsky, Michael Neumann, Amira Hass or Tom Segev, to name a few examples. Ithay, of course, in the first place represents himself, yet he also comes from the kibbuz movement and insofar represents - under consideration of the fact that politics is not his major field - a part of the Israeli left. In the broadest sense Labor Party, not Likud. In favor of two souvereign states and against occupation. Against helicopter attacks, against terror assaults and in favor of the human rights. At the same time, the security of Israel is important to him and he is loyal to his country and to Judaism in the way he sees it. He was in the Israeli army, as a musician.
As the Duo Rubin, contrary to me, is not journalistically active and as they also have not followed the newspaper discourse for years, I did neither expect nor demand an intellectual approach. There certainly were some details in the political history about which we had to talk and about which we wanted to talk, too, as was the subject of violence. But all three of us realized early that the main point was to start with listening to the other and getting to know him and her. With their initiative the Duo Rubin had already signalled that they wanted this encounter. The kibbuz, in which Ithay grew up, is situated in the vicinity of Nazareth. When on a clear evening I watched from the terrace on the hill where my grandparents used to live over to the horizon I could see the lights of Nazareth. In-between there is the Green Line. In-between there is so much. In our shared action there was a chance, we quickly sensed that. There was something to it. Maybe simply because we all were tolerant in a similar way, peace-loving by nature, and musicians.
It was the end of the second part of the first night of Shalom-Salam. I woke up from a dream I had dreamed during the long sequence of the Duo Rubin. The audience was content to the same amount. They realized that we stood for a specific thing here on stage and they wanted this thing. After several applauses I came back onto the stage at the end and got the guitar out of the case, while Ithay was concentrating on the final piece which we would play together now. We did not need any microphones, the acoustics were perfect. Round about the end of the tour, when the routine had improved the words I used to say: "Ladies and Gentlemen, after that we have crossed one border now, namely the one between Palestine and Israel, we want at the end cross another border, and that is the one between serious music and entertaining music. It follows a piece, which I have written, with the title: Wie oft wirst du es noch tun". I loved to play this piece with Ithay. The reason that Gabriella did not participate in this song was that we did not have the time and the possibilities to elaborate a full score musical sheet for it. That means that there still is a potential and ways to improve and top what we did before. For example, if we thought about continuing with the tour. Only scarcely had I been able to achieve musical closeness recently. With Ithay I could play freely. He was tolerant, he just let me be. I did not have to have fear or inhibitions. It was the same the other way around.
I am not a virtuoso on the guitar and in singing. At least most of the times. I hardly practise, either, because while practising I find new pieces which I then rather like to finish composing instead of playing the old thing. Moreover, I remember times when my voice and guitar was at an optimum. Only that in these phases I made negative experiences which were still inhibiting me. For when I played well I needed an audience. And if there was no audience to find I would get real problems with my inner balance. I was happy that Ithay and Gabriella liked the song. A ballad, written in a tradition, which used to be German, too, but today mostly is associated with the French chanson.
The audience was most of all happy about the fact that we did this together, but also about the song I heard in the course of the tour from some people that it had touched them. There is nothing more an artist could wish. This is what the song was written for and it had proven its soundness when it was played for friends and in earlier appearances. Michael Krebs, whom I will introduce later on, was enthusiastic every time we played it. I add the lyrics of the piece, yet the message rather lies in the melody, and in this special case also in the playing together. You can listen to it on the internet:
WIE OFT WIRST DU ES NOCH TUN?
How often will you do it again?
Anis 2000, Song # 82, C minor
1. So viele Leute, Jäger und Beute, wie oft wirst du es noch tun?
So many people, hunter and prey, how often will you do it again?
Ein Mal? Zwei Mal? Wie oft wirst du es noch tun?
One time, two times, how often will you do it again?
2. Einmal vor langer Zeit, da reisten wir um die Welt.
One time, long ago, we two traveled around the world
Du warst so schön, ich war schön, es hat uns keiner gefehlt.
You were so beautiful, I was beautiful, we did not miss anybody
3. Du hast gewonnen, du hast verloren, wie oft wirst du es noch tun?
You have won, you have lost, how often will you do it again?
Drei Mal? Vier Mal? Wie oft wirst du es noch tun?
Three times, four times, how often will you do it again?
Sleep my child, Daddy's here by your side.
5. Du sagst ja, du sagst nein, wie oft wirst du es noch tun?
You say yes, you say no, how often will you do it again?
Ein Mal? Zwei Mal? Mit wem wirst du es noch tun?
One time, two times, with whom will you do it again?
Wir waren gefahren um die Welt, oh yeah.
We did ride around the world, oh yeah.
Die ganze Welt, ja, die ganze Welt
The whole wide world, the whole wide world
Sleep my child, Daddy's here by your side.
Gabriella reappeared on stage and the three of us turned to the audience. The people raised from their seats and applauded. I have never before experienced such a thing. That people stand up, I mean. So it was a success. We could go ahead.
Shalom - Salam Infos
Before the journey goes on here is some general information about the project Shalom-Salam, about the project "Children teach children" by Givat Haviva, about the Duo Rubin and about me. No war has lasted forever. One day this war will be over, too, and we want to be ready for this day. The following press information is also online at www.anis-online.de/1/orient-online/salam-shalom.htm:
"Shalom - Salam", Benefice Concert Tour of the Duo Rubin and Anis Hamadeh for the benefit of the Jewish-Arab Peace Center Givat Haviva
On Sunday, May 9, in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, starts a one month benefice tour to the benefit of the Jewish Arab communication project "Children teach children" of the peace center Givat Haviva. "Shalom - Salam", the Hebrew and the Arabic words for "peace" make up the title of the tour in the course of which the Israeli Hungarian Duo Rubin, who live in Berlin, and the German Palestinian writer Anis Hamadeh will appear in numerous German cities.
The project "Children teach children", which will benefit from the net proceeds of the concerts, often is the first chance for Jewish and Arab children to enter a dialogue by shared activities. As this peace basis constitutes a shimmer of hope in the Middle East conflict Federal President Johannes Rau took the patronage for the benefice tour, to appreciate the way Givat Haviva "engages in an exemplary way in peace and communication and understanding between Jews and Arabs." Givat Haviva was awarded in 2001 with the UNESCO peace award for its communication work.
Mutual understanding also is the concern of the artists who will dedicate the net proceeds of this tour to this project. The internationally renowned Duo Rubin - Ithay Khen, celebrated Israeli cellist and scholarship holder of the Berlin Philharmonisches Orchester and Gabriella Gonda-Khen, the successful Hungarian concert pianist - take their different origins for a reason to integrate the idea of mutual understanding between peoples into their work and to use music as an international instrument of communication. For Anis Hamadeh, the writer and musician who lives in Kiel, "there is no conflict which cannot be solved." The graduate of Islamic Studies has not only in prose texts dealt with the Middle East conflict, but also is tied to the region for family reasons, as his father was born in the Westbank.
In order to do justice to the cultural diversity of the region and to the manyfold peace activities of Givat Haviva a colorful tour program was designed which is financially supported by DaimlerChrysler Services. In the program, rarely heard Arab and Israeli composers are presented. Among other pieces, classical highlights by Paganini, Chopin and Piazzolla are played. Anis Hamadeh recites, next to his own poetry, prose by Jewish and Arab authors. And as a visual pre-program excerpts are shown from "With the eyes of the Other" - a film which does not show the usual pictures that are dominated by violence, but which testifies the way Arab and Jewish young people overcome hate and prejudice. In a workshop of the art center of Givat Haviva they learn together how to photograph and thus they make each other's acquaintance in their respective living worlds.
The Duo Rubin has initiated the German-wide peace tour, because "the permanently increasing loss of trust on both sides must be obviated - both on the political level and in everyday life; not only in the crisis zone, but everywhere in the world: on streets and squares, in schools, in theaters and in concert halls."
Givat Haviva - Educational Institution
Givat Haviva is one of the biggest, oldest, and leading institutions which in Israel concern itself with Jewish Arab mutual understanding, which support cultural and religious pluralism, which work for democratic values and peace, and which bring the past of the Jewish people to the consciousness of the youth of today in its educational work.
Givat Haviva was founded in the year 1949 as the national educational center of the Kibbuz Artzi Association. The central campus of Givat Haviva comprises 15 ha and is situated in the Sharon Plateau, quite exactly half the way between Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Today Givat Haviva offers formal and non-formal educational programs to a heterogenuous population. Givat Haviva has gained the recognition of - among others - academics, teachers, pedagogues and social workers for the educational work which is done here. Givat Haviva is especially respected for the engagement of the assistants and their obligation to convey knowledge and cultural pluralism. Tens of thousands of individuals every year participate in the diverse seminars, courses and workshops which are held in Givat Haviva. Some stay only for a day, others remain for a full, intensive year of study.
The subjects of specialisation of the institute range from Jewish Arab co-existance, the history of the Middle East, the roots of Zionism, Arab language and culture, the history of the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance to the history of the kibbuz and workers' movement in Israel. In January 2001 the peace library was opened in Givat Haviva, it contains millions of documents and offers over 120.000 volumes in 5 languages. The archives and the library do not only serve students and teachers of the campus, but also researchers and PhD graduates from all over the world.
Givat Haviva - a bridge between two peoples
Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in October 2000 many people have posed the question of how the peace process should continue. Israel and Palestine today - and probably not for the last time - are stuck in a dead end. Nevertheless, the peace institutions like Givat Haviva agree that peace foremost has to grow bottom-up. Only when the people in the region will want to meet each other the process of mutual understanding and trust can slowly begin. For this a patient educational work is needed, this was also agreed upon in the Oslo B treaty. But: these demands must also be realized in practise if both sides are shooting, if the political climate worsens, and it seems that earlier attempts of approximation have not brought about any results.
Times of crisis sometimes can provide opportunities for better and more intensive cooperations. In this way, especially the longterm cooperation with the Israeli Palestinians in Givat Haviva has proven its soundness and has indicated that the daily peace work of strengthening the civil society in Israel and of building bridges between Jews and Arabs, is stronger than the altering political situation. In all of the 40 years since the founding of the Jewish Arab center for peace in Givat Haviva this cooperation has not ceased for one day and it continues today, too.
About the Duo Rubin
The brilliant Israeli cellist Ithay Khen was scholarship holder of the famous Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester and made music under the conductors Claudio Abbado, Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Sir Simon Rattle. With the successful concert pianist Gabriella Gonda-Khen he ventured concert tours all over Europe, to the USA and to Asia. With this the Duo Rubin laid the foundation of its international reputation. The two artists take their different backgrounds for a reason to let the idea of mutual understanding between peoples flow into their work and to use music as an international instrument of communication. More about the Duo Rubin on the homepage www.duorubin.de.
Anis Hamadeh is a musician, literary writer and essayist and lives in Kiel. The Middle East is known to the German Palestinian graduate of Islamic Studies since many years, by way of intensive journeys and studies. In February he went on a literary reading tour through Egypt. Freedom and sovereignty of the Palestinians is an important issue for him which he also transforms into literature. He is engaged and does not escape arguments; for him there is no conflict which cannot be solved. Anis Hamadeh wrote about ten books and one hundred songs. He is the editor of the sites www.anis-online.de and www.virtual-palestine.org.
We Do Have Different History Books, and Yet...
Press info for the Shalom Salam Tour, Anis Hamadeh, April 12, 2004
When the Duo Rubin asked me half a year ago whether I was interested to take the Palestinian part for a concert tour to the benefit of Palestinian and Israeli kids in the framework of the peace and dialog work of Givat Haviva, I said yes, of course. For there are two things which - if really honestly wished - one must not refuse: peace and the wellbeing of the children. This was the way I first met Ithay Khen and Gabriella Gonda-Khen. Nermin Sharkawi from Berlin made the connexion.
In the time of the preparations and rehearsals we learned more about each other; I visited them some times in Berlin and also spent some nights in their house. Ithay is a born Israeli and has relatives in Israel, Gabriella is Jewish with Hungarian background. I am a German with a father who was born and raised in the Westbank near Jenin and I have been concerned with these roots in such a long-lasting and intensive way that I don't consider concepts wrong like "Palestinian German" or "Arab German". In Arab countries I am often identified as an Arab, and it is okay for me, too. I am also Arab. Citizen of the world, at any rate.
By way of my networking I have already made acquaintance with some Israelis and Jews (NB: As Jewish identity very often expresses itself in a confession to Israel, I see fuzzy edges in the distinction), nice ones and less nice ones, but this project is something new for me, too. In the beginning we hardly discussed politics at all. Rather, I trusted my instinct as Ithay had approached me in knowledge also of my critical writings. In the course of our encounter something extra-ordinary happened: on the one hand we realized that we can handle each other without much difficulty, on the other hand our political views appeared to be different in several points.
Our history books are not quite the same, neither are our respective attitudes towards the order and measures of a state - not only regarding Israel - congruent. In view of the extreme situation in Palestine/Israel and in the world this could lead to an unbridgeable distance. Which we don't feel, as a matter of fact. It is rather as if there was something which separates us, but this something does not belong to us, so we don't have to place it in the center of our relationship.
The music of the Duo Rubin I find marvellous, just as they also respect and appreciate my art. We share many, vital points in our personal lives concerning our motivations. Cultural differences are not a problem for any of us, often they are regarded as enriching. Uniting us is the will for peace and dialog.
Nevertheless, we do not ignore the political circumstances by any means, the talk about it does not stop. I am a little familiar with the attitudes of the scope of the Israeli left and know the difference to other areas of the Israeli society. In a way, Ithay and Gabriella bring me some calm and hope, as they are open-minded, creative and free. Some of the things I heard from them also hurt me, as I have and get different information, this might be similar vice versa. I could at this point present a detailed and pointed analysis of the matter, but I don't feel a need to. This here is about something else. If we had such a common history book, then these grey zones would be vanished. One day there will be such a book. And one day there will be peace.
Introduction of the Duo Rubin:
"Israel - Vadi Ara - September 2000, we are on the road to visit relatives. A violent view reveals itself to us: burnt car-tyres all over the place, bus stops and street lanterns are destroyed, the road is damaged, the valley is unpassable. We are shocked, this track has been familar to us for years, we know the Vadi Ara as a calm, peaceful, even idyllic area. Never would we have thought that the here prevailing Arab population could have such an anger which - as an expression of their solidarity with the Palestinians - could evoke such an extend of destruction.
The shock is deep, the impressions do not leave us anymore, even when back in Berlin. We know for certain: the permanently increasing loss of trust on both sides must be obviated - and this worldwide: both on the political level and in everyday life. It suggests itself that we use our music as a means of communication. Therefore we initiate the German-wide peace tour Shalom-Salam. We are glad to have won the German Palestinian writer Anis Hamadeh for our project. Happy we also are about the patronage of Federal President Johannes Rau."
Round Table Dinner
After the première concert reading we went through the pedestrian zone in the city center, there hung huge pictures showing Daniel Barenboim who would play here in July. I said hello to the maestro. Ithay and Gabriella had already played with him, they knew him. I realized that he constituted an overall frame for us, as we all held him in high esteem. Georg Meggle guided us to a historic inn. Professor Meggle was the only one in the circle who joined the group from my side, so to speak. The others, Alex Elsohn, Stefan, Benny and Michael Krebs, they all came from the side of the Duo Rubin, in the broadest sense. Meggle teaches philosophy at the uni in Leipzig and works, among other things, on the subject "terror" which will be mentioned later on in more detail. I was glad that this first bigger circle during the tour was together in such a harmony. In the course of the weeks I have noticed this fact again and again: we got along well with the people of the respective other.
At a round wooden table we sat in a Medieval atmosphere, chatting about the concert and Making each other's acquaintance. Alex told us about his current journeys between Switzerland, Tel Aviv and Germany. He is responsible for the whole European sector and organizes meetings, finds sponsors, makes Givat Haviva more known. There is a certain distrust vis-á-vis participants of the conflict I have, even concerning myself, and especially with Givat Haviva I was in the beginning not able to assess the whole thing properly. They did not get any money from the current Israeli government, this in my view was an important point. During the government period of the Labor Party it was supported by the state. From networking circles I once or twice heard that Givat Haviva was an Israeli thing and not a Palestinian one. Indeed do most of the participants come from the 48 area, that is the current territory of Israel. Yet there are contacts to Palestinians in the Westbank. I had studied the newsletters and info sheets, which I had at my disposal, from the press file and was willed to contribute to the thing in a constructive way, in order to find out whether a cooperation was meaningful here. Such a thing you cannot learn from books or texts. Give it a try. So far everything went fine.
Georg Meggle told us about Leipzig and what happened in 1989. The gatherings in the church next to us, and that this mentality would still be detectable in Leipzig. "Then they came out of the church and probably sat down at this very table, this round table, to resume the talks." To breathe history. To smell the revolution. It was two o'clock in the morning when I fell asleep in the hotel bed.
At Noon in Halle
(May 10, 2004)
After breakfast Michael drove me the short distance over to Halle. He was going on to another, parallel reading at which the memories of the chairman of the Central Council of the Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, were recited. On our way we picked up a professional actress who would read out the text. The Duo Rubin would also join the event and play there, I renounced and took a rest for some hours in the hotel. There were a lot of impressions to digest. For a late lunch we met in the hotel restaurant and analyzed the situation. We were feeling well, only a bit exhausted. We agreed to leave out the excerpt from the youth novel "Samir and Jonathan" by Daniella Carmi (Hansa Publishing House, 1994) and substitute it in the second half of the program, because one long text was enough. In the first half I read excerpts from: "We Both Want to Live Here. A Difficult Friendship in Jerusalem" by Amal Rifa'i and Odelia Ainbinder (with Sylke Tempel, Rowohlt Berlin, 2003), the collection of an authentic letter exchange between a young Israeli and a young Palestinian, both from Jerusalem. This text had impressed many people in the audience and it shows the conflict to the settlement of which we wanted to contribute. The press sometimes unfortunately wrote that this book was by myself. This is not the case, I only read out of it, but I had made that point clear on stage.
As I was the one with the verbal part of the performance I pondered about responsibilities. It is true that Gabriella started with a few words, but Ithay, for example, did not really say anything, he just wanted to present himself as a musician and as part of the project, which was completely legitimate. Thus I did not want and was not allowed to speak in a way which reflected my individual opinion, but our opinion. Sometimes this was like walking on an edge. But it worked out and there never had been an argument about the words. I was proud of that, because I never had to deny myself.
The Duo Rubin today had two appearances, that was tiring. Live musicians must be more concentrated than recitators, they must know more things by heart, the fingers got to be activated. The only nervousness I felt from time to time was because of the song in the end. Everything else was easy. Therefore I was considerate when the two had a nervous moment sometimes. They had a lot of work with the whole preparation and I had less work in total. The whole thing had been their idea, this was something always to be remembered. In respect of this fact I helped where I could, in my field, created, for example, a webpage with all the infos of the tour. I had also informed the internet community, yet was not always completely satisfied with the results concerning public relations. There were too few people from Palestinian and Arab circles involved, I should have done a better preparation and could have called more people telephonically. On the other hand it is always problematic to advertise the own projects. The reactions, anyway, which I received via emails, for instance, were all in all positive. The impulse had gotten through.
Gabriella and Ithay shared an ice-cream for desert. Maybe I should read "Curfew for Feelings", my current poem which had been a success in Egypt and which was out in three languages. Why not, the two said, do you have it with you? No, I didn't, actually. Maybe you can print it out here in the hotel from the internet, Gabriella suggested. Ah! Long live the internet! At the reception I learnt that only the hotel manager had an internet access and a printer, but she was called straight away and a couple of minutes later she came down the stairs. I explained to her in few words what was the matter, that I needed a page printed, and she reacted friendly. In her office I clicked on my homepage and she said: "Oh, this is you", when she saw my photograph. When I printed out the poem she said: "But this is not a usual poem, is it?" I grinned. She was an attractive woman. So little time and so many beautiful women... But I was rather shy, anyway, and so the story ended here.
Concert Hall, Ulrich Church, Halle
Ithay was a bit under tension, because some of his colleagues from the orchestra in Halle were sitting in the audience. But it went all well. The film worked this time, too. Gabriella entered the stage and announced it. It only lasted for some minutes and showed the work of Givat Haviva. You could see young people taking pictures of one another. It was not really possible to say who of them was Israeli, no: Jewish, and who originally spoke Arabic, being Palestinian. They were only young people meeting each other. There was more interest than tension. They also crossed the border into the homes of the respective other. Took a look around, taking pictures of the contents of the refrigerator and the wardrobe, all relaxed.
I have seen this film several times. One day I will go and visit them, I thought. Wanted to see this from a shorter distance. How would they be? How did they deal with the conflict? It was impossible to tell that from the few minutes of the film. Moreover, the short stage version was only with music, without words and quotes. In the long version you could hear them talk. Later in Bocholt we once had the long version with us by mistake. I realized that all the people there talked in Hebrew. I found that a bit problematic, because it meant a certain hegemony. Yet I transformed this feeling constructively insofar as I intended to bring in the Arabic, which I sensed to be missing, by way of my own participation. When finally, at the end of the tour in Berlin, I met the Palestinian spokesman of Givat Haviva, Mohammad Darawshe, as well as Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, the head of the research department of Givat Haviva, a Jewish Israeli historian, who speaks Arabic very well, my reservations were dispersed. Those by all means were people with whom one could talk. Including Alex Elsohn, of course, who was with us in Halle today for the last time until Berlin.
This second appearance still was part of the brandnew experience. There was a routine only much later, actually only at the very end. A Palestinian student approached us after the show backstage and we talked for a while. He was like many: he wanted to engage himself more, but did not exactly know how. There was a lot of potential in the society which we could reach. The organizer in the Ulrich Church, Dr. Haupt, had given a short welcome speech and also told us some details about the history of the church which today was only used as a concert hall. The flags on the walls, for example, he explained, are mere phantasy flags. Their only purpose is to provide proper acoustics.
With Michael Krebs we had a late evening meal. After that he even drove back all the way to Cologne. He was in a good constitution. We would soon meet again. The Duo Rubin and me drove on to Vreden in Westfalia, close to the Dutch border, early in the following day, for the second stage of the tour.