A week and a half after Students for Justice in Palestine withdrew from a film screening meant to foster dialogue with pro-Israel student groups, the Jewish and Muslim Chaplaincies held Amplified Voices, a concert aiming to increase dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis through music, in Gaston Hall on Sunday.
Presented as a joint effort by the Jewish Chaplaincy, the Muslim Chaplaincy and the department of government’s master’s program in conflict resolution, the concert attracted Jewish and Arab residents, with approximately 500 attendees.
Not all students involved in last week’s screening through SJP, the Georgetown Israel Alliance or J Street U, a group that advocates for a two-state solution, were involved in the planning of this concert, despite the two events’ similar goals.
J Street U Treasurer Elijah Jatovsky (SFS ’16), however, did marketing for the concert and was also responsible for planning last Wednesday’s screening of “The Other Son,” a French film about a Palestinian and Israeli switched at birth, which saw the withdrawal of official sponsorship from J Street U and the Georgetown Israel Alliance in solidarity with SJP. The screening continued without official sponsorship from any Israeli or Palestinian group.
“[The concert] really was a very important event in that it played to a lot of similar themes and goals … that we believe the movie event was ultimately successful in achieving in terms of kicking off this dialogue,” he said.
He also attributed success to the formats of both events, noting the eschewal of explicit politics, despite the fact that SJP withdrew because of reluctance to appear in opposition to their organization’s national stance, which sees Israelis as oppressors and Palestinians as the oppressed.
The SJP said that treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict purely through a cultural lens contributed to the normalization of the issue to which they are opposed.
“This kind of an event stresses these two cultures that haven’t been getting along … can come together,” SJP President Albert Doumar (SFS ’15) said. “This is the kind of idea that SJP rejects because of what it implies about the occupation. When you have an event that’s just cultural or mutual understanding, you imply that those sides have long-running grievances against the other side and those need to be solved.”
Peacebuilding Connections, a group that uses art for cross-cultural initiatives, helped plan Sunday’s concert.
“This event is here to bring together people who believe that we need to act collectively in order to solve our problems, and that peace will only come when that is the first desire on both sides,” concert producer Bob Schlehuber said.
The concert’s first act, “Heartbeat,” usually consists of more than 25 artists funded by the Israeli-Palestinian Youth Music Project. Only five of these musicians performed at this particular concert, but they had the audience on its feet for much of the time and sang in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
“I’ve grown up with this barrier wall around my country, Israel. I’ve always been afraid of the people on the other side that would hurt us if there was no wall,” Heartbeat guitarist Guy Gefen said to the audience. “But now I know that our two peoples can truly be brothers, if we wish to.”
Recording artist David Broza played part of his new album via Skype with vocalist Muhammad Mughrabi, a Palestinian rapper and East Jerusalem resident.
Broza, an Israeli, recorded his entire album in the Palestinian sector of the city and collaborated with Palestinian artists on the project, which stresses the need for peace and understanding. Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean will also appear on the album.
Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American peace advocate who announced his candidacy for mayor of D.C. on Nov. 8, served as the event’s emcee.
“There has to be a place for peaceful dialogue in music and in politics,” Shallal said. “And that place should be front and center, because it is what the silent majority of Palestinians and Israelis really want – peace.”
Jordanian vocalist Faraj Siraj took the stage after Shallal’s speech, singing traditional Arab folk songs in Arabic, English and Spanish.
Director of Jewish Chaplaincy Rabbi Rachel Gartner spoke briefly following Siraj’s performance and cited the Muslim holy text.
“The Quran says that God made [Jews and Muslims] different not so that we will hate one another, but so that we may come to know and see each other in brotherhood,” Gartner said.
Soon after, folksinger and political peace activist Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary took the stage with his guitar to perform with his daughter Bethany, who sang with cellist Rufus Cappadocia.
Students saw these performances as a sign of the concert’s success in promoting its message.
“I think the fact that it interested these famous musicians is all the more testament for the recognition of the need to improve dialogue around campus and the creation of peaceful resolution between these two groups,” Jatovsky said.
After the concert, attendees browsed booths in Healy Hall with information about the performers and other groups involved in advocating for peace through music, including the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus and the Voices of Peace Choir.
“Many people have become cynical as a result of how long the peace process is taking. But hope is free, anyone can have it, and if both sides work together to accept each other and move toward peace, then we can really accomplish something,” Schlehuber said.  

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