Israeli singers contribute to International Peace Day broadcast

The annual Peace One Day happening, which has been going for 19 years now, is happening on September 21 with streamlined events with megastars such as, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Annie Lennox.

SHAANAN STREET will be giving a spoken word performance for the International Day of Peace broadcast. (photo credit: OHAD ROMANO)
SHAANAN STREET will be giving a spoken word performance for the International Day of Peace broadcast.
(photo credit: OHAD ROMANO)
 If, like most people, you are intravenously hooked up to the media, to regular updates on the pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing etc., it might be a good idea to try something with a little sunnier side to it.
International Peace Day wouldn’t be a bad place to start. The annual Peace One Day happening, which has been going for 19 years now, is happening on September 21 with streamlined events with, mostly, musical content by a pantheon of megastars from the pop and rock world – Paul McCartney, Elton John and Annie Lennox are on board – and various spiritual leaders and intellectuals also due to spread the good word. 
Happily, we are also putting in our pennyworth to the worldwide proceedings, with production called Voices of Unity which will be broadcast from a rooftop overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. As marketing angles go, that’s a pretty decent trick to have up your sleeve and which is, naturally, fully appreciated – and gainfully utilized – by Gil Karniel.
Karniel is co-producer of the local contribution to the global message of positive vibes and unison, along with veteran musician-storyteller Gil Ron Shema. The Jerusalem roster features a glittering array of performers, through a broad sweep of genres, styles and musical intent and ethnic backdrops. Internationally acclaimed Ladino singer Yasmin Levy will team up with non-Jewish longtime Israeli resident Iranian born and bred multi-instrumentalist Amir Shahasar, while singer songwriter Yael Deckelbaum is due to share a spot with Haifa-based Palestinian vocalist Meera Ailabouni, and with British-bred Israeli-born vocalist indie Orka Teppler in the mix too. In recent years, Deckelbaum has become something of a figurehead of a mostly woman-based movement working to promote regional peace. Stand up comedienne, and current Harvard University student, Noam Schuster should add some spicy insight to the occasion.
Inclusion is the name of the game. “We felt it was important to have Yael and Meera involved, two women musicians, one Jewish-Israeli and one Palestinian,” says Karniel. “One will sing in Hebrew, one in Arabic. That’s part of the local fabric, and that will come out of here and spread across the world.”
Other participants in the Jerusalem offering include singer-rapper Shaanan Street, who will deliver a spoken word slot, while Ron Shema and his ensemble will appear alongside seasoned Arab singer Kamal Suleiman. The program kicks off in Jerusalem at 8 p.m., and will last 90 minutes, with a 20 minute excerpt from here incorporated into the UK event. Peace One Day also has an impressive bill of A-lister speakers lined up, including South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Anglican cleric Desmond Tutu, grandson of head Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia Prince Erma’s Shale Selassie and Indian spiritual leader Chicaned Sara Swati.
Karniel hopes the gathering here will send out soulfully nutritional and encouraging ripples across the globe. “What we will be doing in Jerusalem will be broadcast in 200 countries around the world,” he notes, including one particularly emotive spot. “The town near the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp (Oswiecim in Polish) will also broadcast what we will be doing in Jerusalem.” He is aware of the advantages of location too. “I think people from abroad, who can’t come here now, who, maybe, have been to Jerusalem or would like to come, will be powerfully impacted by the image of the Old City.” Considering the amount of physical and emotional pain inflicted and blood shed over this walled millennia-worn core of the country’s capital, the choice of location here is more than a little poignant.
In these tough times, Karniel believes captivating artistic endeavor can provide a soothing balm to our lockdown-bound, mask-wearing souls. “Music is such a healing element for everyone,” he says.
The Israeli event is being facilitated by Australian-based philanthropic organization Uplift and the Global Days of Unity vehicle, aiming “to honor and celebrate the diversity of all cultures and affirm the need for unity and the healing of our world.” 
Karniel says there will be a lot of positive energy and output on offer on Monday, by artists from across ethnic and seeming political divides, particularly in these trying times. And the challenge is not only generated by the current coronavirus morass. “There are less Arab musicians who, today, are willing to collaborate with Israeli musicians. There are artists who would normally appear in [annual Old City of Jerusalem-based festival] Mekudeshet, including artists who are personal friends of mine, who say taking part would only cause them problems.”
That is, of course, yet more regrettable fallout of regional tension, and political shenanigans, and Karniel says he, and his fellow organizers, are keen not only to send out a powerful positive message of harmonious coexistence, but also to present the world with some of the facets of the richly stratified cultural life which is part and parcel of this part of the world. “We live in a cultural melting pot, and it is good to show that too. Not all of what we have here can be shown in a 90-minute broadcast, but at least some of that should come across to people who are, maybe, not familiar with life in Israel. And I think the fact that it is being broadcast from Jerusalem has some special power to it.”
It is to be hoped, says Karniel, in addition to the positive emotions and the more-than-decent musical fare pumped out of the Jerusalem rooftop on Monday evening, that the less well informed may end up with a slightly better image of goings on over here, rather than exclusively seeing the region as an ongoing battlefield. “People think that there are missiles being fired constantly and people fight in the streets. That is something that permeates the consciousness. That’s what the media pumps out the whole time. At the very least, I hope people will see Jews and Arabs playing music, together or individually. That helps to soften and modify the image, and that’s got to be a good thing.” 
For more information about the globally synchronized event: