If you will it

The Gilboa Coexistence Festival, brainchild of Gilboa Regional Council head Danny Atar, is devoted to fostering ties between the regions 25,000 Jews and Arab residents.

symphonette raanana (photo credit: Courtesy)
symphonette raanana
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Coexistence has never been so much fun. Over three days next week, the Gilboa region up north will be transformed into a cultural oasis featuring unprecedented performances by Israeli Jewish and Arab artists, a slew of outdoor activities for kids and their families, and… oh yeah, a show by someone named Joe Cocker. The Gilboa Coexistence Festival takes place mostly at either the stately Ein Harod Amphitheater or Ma'ayan Harod just down the road. It's the brainchild of Gilboa Regional Council head Danny Atar, who has devoted much of his career to fostering ties between the regions 25,000 Jews and Arab residents. "Despite the fact that we have both Jews and Arabs living here on one piece of land, we really don't know anything about each other's culture. The festival is a tool to enable people to meet over their culture - whether it be music, food, crafts, or going to each others' homes and sitting together," Atar told Billboard. Or, possibly, coming together over watching British rock legend Cocker, who performs at Ein Harod on the festival's opening night. The Woodstock-era survivor is being press shy, but if he did deem to talk about his performance, he would undoubtedly state what an honor it is to appear on behalf of such a worthy cause, one so close to his heart as coexistence. Of course, Cocker, who lives with his family in seclusion at a Colorado country fortress, may have no idea what's happening in the region, for him it's just another gourmet meal ticket. But, according to Atar, the choice of headliners is no coincidence. "Against this backdrop of the need to build coexistence, who better to bring over than Joe Cocker - one of the symbols of Woodstock and its message of peace and love. Today, that message is even more important," he said. To bring that message home in a more relevant fashion, Atar, with the help of musical producer Carmi Wurtman, has gathered an impressive list of performers on both sides of the Jewish-Arab spectrum who, they stress, will be performing together. The festival's second night - dubbed 'A Cultural Meeting' - will feature an evening of Israeli and Arab duets featuring Kobi Aflalo and Mira Awad Amir Lev and George Sama'an, Hadag Nahash and Palestinian rappers DAM, and David Broza with Yair Dalal and Ibrahim Eid. And, perhaps the highlight of the festival, is the closing concert on the 28th, with Zahava Ben, Sarit Hadad and Israeli Arab singers Lubna Salame and Riham Hamadi, all performing together. Their performance is in tribute to the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and influential Arab singers Fairuz and Leila Morad. They will be accompanied by both the Ra'anana Symphonette Orchestra and the Nazareth Orchestra. In addition, each day of the festival features an outdoor stage with performances by top Jewish and Arab artists like Dana Berger, Yirmy Kaplan, Efrat Gosh, Kamal Suliman, Zuhir Francis and Wisam Habib. And, if music doesn't soothe your inner beast, the festival offers mixed Jewish and Arab dance troupes, outdoor activities like hikes and jeep and bike expeditions, arts and crafts, an outdoor food market with noted chefs, a children's Koran-Bible quiz, and kids' performances by Saba Tuvia (Tuvia Tsafir) and Yuval Mebulbal. But, most of all, the festival provides the opportunity to explore one of the more picturesque and undeveloped regions of the country. So flock to the Gilboa Coexistence Festival and make sure Danny Atar gets by with a little help from his friends. The Gilboa Coexistence Festival runs from August 26-28. For more information visit www.hagilboa.org.il and for tickets visit www.tkts.co.il or call (03) 604-5000.