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Israel: Palestinian Youth Orchestra Disbanded for Israeli Performance

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Israel, Palestine, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, International Relations, Music, Politics, War & Conflict, Women & Gender, Youth

In honor of Good Deeds Day in Israel, a Palestinian youth orchestra performed for a group of Holocaust survivors. Known as the “Strings of Freedom,” the group was composed of 13 children, ages 11 to 18, from the Jenin [1] refugee camp in the West Bank.

CK of Jewlicious relays [2]:

The 13 member orchestra performed an Arabic song, “We sing for peace,” followed by two musical pieces with violins and Arabic drums. Sweet, right?

But not so fast. Upon learning of the event, Jenin officials immediately disbanded the orchestra, and banned its leader and the event organizer from the city. Adnan Hindi (alternately identified as Adnan al-Hinda), director of the Popular Committee for Services in Jenin, called [3] the orchestra's performance:

[A] “dangerous matter” with “suspicious elements… seeking to impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of the residents of the camp during the Israeli invasion in April 2002 [4].”

Simply Jews reflects [5]:

“So what is the crime perpetrated by the youngsters? It appears that the presence of a few Holocaust survivors in the audience was interpreted as a ‘political event.”


“”Yeah… if you feel the peace in the Middle East in your waters, better send your waters in for an analysis. Sad.”

News sources are now reporting that both the audience and their young performers had a degree of ignorance about the event. Jenin parents only knew that their children were performing in Israel; the youth did not know who comprised their audience; and the Israeli audience did not know their performers were from Jenin.

According to the Jerusalem Post [3]:

“The youths said their conductor, Wafa Younis, 50, of the Arab village of Ara in the Triangle, tried to explain to them who the elderly people at the event were, but chaos on the bus prevented them from listening.”

Jenin parents said that if they had known about their children's destination– the Holocaust Survivor's Center in the city of Holon– they would not have granted permission for them to participate.

Jenin activist Ramzi Fayad condemned the event, declaring [3]:

“There can be no normalization while Israel is continuing to perpetrate massacres against our people.”

Dion Nissenbaum of Checkpoint Jerusalem sheds light on the situation for those unfamiliar with regional intricacies. He elaborates [6]:

“Jenin… was the scene of one of the most politically-explosive Israeli military operations of the second Palestinian uprising.”

Adnan Hindi emphasizes [7]:

“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves… We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years.”

Perhaps the most interesting figure in this story is not the young Palestinian musicians with their peace music, nor the audience of Israeli Jewish Holocaust survivors, but the orchestra conductor herself, Ms. Wafa Younis. Younis, whose Jenin apartment is now boarded and barred from entrance, asserts [7]:

“They want to destroy this group… It's a shame, it's a tragedy. What did these poor, elderly people do wrong? What did these children do wrong?”

Good Deeds Day, the context of this conflict, was founded by Israeli billionairess Shari Arison in partnership with the nonprofit organization Ruach Tova in order to encourage Israelis to volunteer their time and energies toward helping the community. CEO Rafi Elul explains [8]:

“The idea is that any one can get up in the morning and ask himself ‘what can I do for my neighbor, to help a new immigrant, to help Israeli society as a whole?’… We aim to increase the national level of volunteering, and to show that not only those with means can help others.”

Elul adds:

“Every one of you can be a part of a day that is all good, a day when thousands of people will open up their hearts to the needs of others and will try to help them even just a little bit.”

One has to wonder what would have happened if everyone involved had had informed consent? What could have gone differently to enable a successful interaction? Readers, let's hear your thoughts.