Palestinian children sing for Holocaust survivors

Jenin youths sing for peace, learn about Nazi genocide at Holon's Holocaust Survivors Center.

By
March 25, 2009 22:03
3 minute read.
Palestinian children sing for Holocaust survivors

Palestinians sing 4 holocaust survivors. (photo credit: )

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

The Palestinian youths from the tough West Bank refugee camp stood facing the elderly Holocaust survivors Wednesday, appearing somewhat defiant in a teenage sort of way. Then they began to sing. The choir burst into songs for peace, bringing surprised smiles from the audience. But the event had another twist: Most of the Holocaust survivors did not know the youths were Palestinians from the West Bank, a rare sight in Israel these days. And the youths had no idea they were performing for people who lived through Nazi genocide - or even what the Holocaust was. "I feel sympathy for them," Ali Zeid, an 18-year-old keyboard player who said he was shocked by what he learned about the Holocaust. "Only people who have been through suffering understand each other," said Zeid, who said his grandparents were Palestinian refugees forced to flee the northern city of Haifa during the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948. The 13 musicians, aged 11 to 18, belong to "Strings of Freedom," a modest orchestra from the hardscrabble Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the scene of a deadly 2002 battle between Palestinian terrorists and IDF soldiers during Operation Defensive Shield. The event, held at the Holocaust Survivors Center in the tree-lined central Israeli town of Holon, was part of "Good Deeds Day," an annual event run by an organization connected to billionaire Shari Arison, Israel's richest woman. The two-hour meeting starkly highlighted how distant Palestinians and Israelis have become since the al-Aqsa Intifada began in 2000. Most of the Palestinian youths had not seen an Israeli civilian before - only gun-toting soldiers in military uniforms manning checkpoints, conducting arrest raids of wanted Palestinians or during army operations. "They don't look like us," said Ahed Salameh, 12, who wore a black head scarf woven with silver. Most of the elderly Israelis wore pants and T-shirts, with women sporting a smear of lipstick. "Old people look different where we come from," Salameh said. She said she was shocked to hear about the Nazi genocide against Jews. Ignorance and even denial of the Holocaust is widespread in Palestinian society. Amnon Beeri of the Abraham Fund, which supports coexistence between Jews and Arabs, said most of the region's residents have "no real idea about the other." The youths said their feisty conductor, Wafa Younis, 50, tried to explain to them who the elderly people were, but chaos on the bus prevented them from listening. The elderly audience said they assumed Arab children were from a nearby village - not from the refugee camp where 23 Israeli soldiers were killed, alongside 53 Palestinian terrorists and civilians, in several days of battle in April 2002. Some 30 elderly survivors gathered in the center's hall as teenage boys and girls filed in 30 minutes late - delayed at an IDF security checkpoint outside their town, they later explained. Some of the young women wore Muslim head scarves - but also sunglasses and school ties. As a host announced in Hebrew that the youths were from the Jenin refugee camp, there were gasps and muttering from the crowd. "Jenin?" one woman asked in jaw-dropped surprise. Younis, from the Arab village of Ara in Israel, then explained in fluent Hebrew that the youths would sing for peace, prompting the audience to burst into applause. "Inshallah," said Sarah Glickman, 68, using the Arabic term for "God willing." The encounter began with an Arabic song, "We sing for peace," and was followed by two musical pieces with violins and Arabic drums, as well as an impromptu song in Hebrew by two in the audience. Glickman, whose family moved to the newly created Jewish state in 1949 after fleeing to Siberia to escape the Nazis, said she had no illusions the encounter would make the children understand the Holocaust. But she said it might make a "small difference." "They think we are strangers, because we came from abroad," Glickman said. "I agree: It's their land, also. But there was no other option for us after the Holocaust." Later, she tapped her feet in tune as the teenagers played a catchy Mideast drum beat. After the event, some of the elderly Israelis chatted with students and took pictures together. The encounter was not absent of politics. Younis dedicated a song to Gilad Schalit, held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip - and also criticized Israel's occupation of the West Bank. But she said the main mission of the orchestra, formed seven years ago to help Palestinian children overcome war trauma, was to bring people together. "I'm here to raise spirits," Younis said. "These are poor, old people."

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

JERUSALEM: RESETTLED upon its desolation
December 19, 2010
Vying for control of the Temple Mount – on Foursquare

By SHARON UDASIN