The sound of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony drowned out the staccato of bullets on Sunday in the conflict-ridden Middle East as world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim dazzled his Ramallah audience with both music and words.
Playing under the theme "Freedom for Palestine," Barenboim and his new West-Eastern Diwan orchestra were able to break all barriers and help an audience fatigued by strife to enjoy two hours of pure music from Beethoven and Mozart.
The interest in the concert was obvious for an hour before it started and for 15 minutes after the final note.
The 1,200-seat auditorium of the Ramallah Cultural Center was packed with a Palestinian, international and even Israeli audience an hour before the baton was scheduled to drop. As the seats filled, hundreds others milled in the hallways and the aisles hoping to get a seat or just to be allowed to stay in standing room and listen to Barenboim and the orchestra.
The same audience stood for 15 minutes, enthusiastically clapping and yelling "bravo" after Barenboim concluded the performance, giving Palestinians in Ramallah a chance to forget the checkpoints, the occupation, the wall and everything that has made their lives void of spirit, as one member of the audience remarked after the concert.
Outside the auditorium, the reality for West Bank residents had not yet changed after the concert, as Barenboim hoping to achieve with his music and orchestra.
A few audience members had to leave early to get home before some checkpoints at entrances to Ramallah closed. Others who waited until the end and headed home after the concert had to stop in long lines of cars waiting at checkpoints to be able to reach their homes. Barenboim realized this reality, and this is why he brought his new orchestra to Ramallah.
"What I want to say to you," Barenboim told the audience after the orchestra finished playing, "I have already said in the music.
"This is an orchestra for peace. This orchestra is not going to bring peace. What it can bring is understanding, patience and courage to listen to the narrative of the other, to hear the version of the other," he said.
"We came with a message of humanity; a message of solidarity for freedom that Palestine needs and the whole region needs. There is no military solution to this conflict. The destiny of these two people [Palestinians and Israelis] is inextricably linked," he said.
"It is the duty of everyone to find a way to live together. We either kill each other or learn to live together. It is this message we come with today," he said.
Barenboim said it took his orchestra members courage to come together and play in Israeli-occupied Ramallah. It was the dream of his close friend, the late Palestinian academic and author, Edward Said, to put the West-Eastern Diwan orchestra together and play for peace between Arabs and Jews.
Said's premature death left the task to Barenboim, who was able to bring musicians from different Arab countries, including Syria and Lebanon, which are at war with Israel, and Israeli musicians to play in occupied Ramallah.
While most of the orchestra members were European, the presence of a few Arab and Israeli musicians playing side by side in Ramallah made Barenboim and Said's dream come true.
The concert in Ramallah was the orchestra's first, and it plans to play in other Arab capitals in the future.
‘GRAVE CONCERN’: A critic of the government died immediately following his complaints of torture at the hands of security forces, a human rights group said Students on Friday clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, as anger mounted at the death of a writer and government critic in a high-security jail. At least 18 police and an unknown number of protesters were injured in the clashes, authorities and witnesses said, amid international demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed. An Agence France-Presse correspondent witnessed police using batons and firing tear gas at students who staged a torchlight march calling for “justice” near the University of Dhaka. At least six students who allegedly attacked security forces with torches were detained, police said. More protests were planned
LEGAL ORDEAL: The heavy caseload involving 47 defendants and the vagaries of a Beijing-imposed security law made it difficult for the court to rule on bail requests Dozens of Hong Kong democracy advocates charged with subversion yesterday returned to court to complete a marathon bail hearing that was adjourned overnight when four defendants were rushed to hospital after hours of legal wrangling. Police on Sunday arrested 47 of the territory’s best-known dissidents for “conspiracy to commit subversion” in the broadest use yet of a sweeping National Security Law that Beijing imposed on the territory last year. The defendants represent a broad cross-section of Hong Kong’s opposition, from veteran former pro-democracy lawmakers to academics, lawyers, social workers and youth advocates. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside a courthouse on Monday for the
China, under growing global pressure over its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is mounting an unprecedented and aggressive campaign to push back, including explicit attacks on women who have made claims of abuse. As allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang mount, with a growing number of Western lawmakers accusing China of genocide, Beijing is focusing on discrediting the female Uighur witnesses behind reports of abuse. Chinese officials have named women, disclosed medical data and information on their fertility, and accused some of having affairs and one of having a sexually transmitted disease. Officials said that the information was evidence of bad character,
The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was beaming. “Today is a day of joy, emotion and hope,” he said. The source of that hope: China — a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged about 500 million doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press (AP). With just four of China’s many