'I wrote 'A Girl Named Limonad' exactly 30 years ago, when I loaded my piano on a truck and moved for a stay at the Druse village Dalyat al-Carmel," recalls composer Tsippi Fleischer. "I wanted to immerse myself in the right atmosphere. I was young and romantic and seeking my own path. I needed to be surrounded by nature - today it wouldn't be necessary, as I carry nature in my bones."
Fleischer is not only a prolific composer but also a linguist, with degrees in Hebrew and Arabic literature and history of the Middle East, as well as in musicology and music education.
"I bow my head in tribute to the musical culture of the Arab East," she says.
It was during her studies at Tel Aviv University that she came across the poem "A Girl Named Limonad" by a young Lebanese poet, Shauki Abi-Shakra.
"I first read the poem in translation by Sasson Somekh. Abi-Shakra is a surrealist poet, and I liked how he combined the rational with the irrational. The poem is about a young girl torn apart by rural life."
While the arrival of a young Jewish woman with her piano in a Druse village seemed quite strange to the locals, Fleischer recalls that "they received me very well. Among my host family, everyone liked music and played an instrument. They taught me, and I quoted a few phrases in my piece, as well as from Abd el-Wahab."
For Fleischer, who was composing light music for theater and ballet at the time, this was the first concert piece she'd ever written.
"I created very simple and pictorial scenes with the leitmotiv of the girl as she undergoes various experiences. Fortunately, I met an extremely beautiful girl in the village, and she became my inspiration. I would just sit and look at her. The landscapes in the poem are very much like those of the Galilee."
Later, when the peace treaty with Egypt was signed, Fleischer offered the 20-minute piece to the Haifa Symphony, which premiered it in 1979. It was also performed in Germany and the US, and its broadcast on Kol Israel's Arabic radio station brought much positive feedback from the Arab-speaking world.
"I think people liked the piece because of its naivete. For me, it's like a newborn baby; it's forever young, and I am unable to spoil its beauty."
Noam Sherif, artistic director of the Haifa Symphony, decided to include the work in this week's concert, entitled "Song for after the War," as a homage to Fleischer, now celebrating her 60th birthday.
"We never expected that Lebanese rockets would explode in our city," says the Haifa-based composer. "But angry as we are, this is no reason to change the concert program. In fact, Arab Israeli actor Yussuf Abu-Varda will read the text of the poem in Hebrew and Arabic. That would have been impossible in the '80s."
In the 1970s, Fleischer made contact with Shauki Abi-Shakra through an Italian monk and philologist who often visited the poet in Lebanon. "I do not know if Abi-Shakra is still alive, but with my all heart I would like to invite him to the concert."
The concerts take place November 11, 12 and 13 at the Haifa Auditorium and November 26 at the Northern Theater. The program also features three pieces by Hector Berlioz: "Symphonie fantastique," "Le Carnaval romain" and "Les nuits d'ete."
All concerts start at 8:30 p.m.