As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tries to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together on a framework peace agreement, a group of young Israelis and Palestinians is already working in harmony. They are the musicians of Heartbeat
, a social movement using the power of music to transform conflict.
The young musicians performed at a Congressional office building in Washington to raise awareness of their vision of a better future for the Middle East.
Since 2007, Heartbeat has brought Palestinian and Israeli high school students and young adults together to talk, listen and make music. The songs they write weave traditional and modern Eastern and Western styles.
The lyrics, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, reflect dialogue that takes place among group members and the often tense society they live in.
“We have this song which asks, ‘What’s the Wall good for?'" said Israeli Guy Gefen, 22, who has been with Heartbeat from the start. “I think when people are afraid, they put those walls. They put those physical and psychological walls and it makes it that much easier to be afraid; it makes it that much easier to hate. And I say there’s no need for that. You don’t need to be afraid, you don’t need to hate.”
Moody Kablawi, a Palestinian hip-hop artist from Haifa, joined Heartbeat in 2011.
“If I go back home and tell the guys ‘I’m working for peace, man, I’m a peace-maker,’ they would probably tell me, ‘Bukra Fil Mishmish,” which is similar to the English expression, ‘When pigs fly,’" he said.
But his friendship with the other Heartbeat musicians inspired Kablawi to change that expression to something more hopeful, in one of the group’s most popular songs.
“So we said, ‘Bukra Fi Mishmish,' without 'L' which is similar to the expression, ‘Pigs are flying,’" Kablawi said. "So it just shows our hopes and our dreams that we want to make the future now, which is bringing peace now, bringing that trust and understanding.”
American musician Aaron Shneyer founded Heartbeat with the goal of building trust between young people from both communities, and, he says, to amplify their voices.
“We believe that the silent majority of Israelis and Palestinians desperately wants the same thing yet has almost no opportunity to be heard and we understand that music is an incredibly powerful tool to amplify the voices of the silent majority,” Shneyer said.
Heartbeat musicians use that tool in performances at schools, community centers and music venues, and in workshops and camps - presenting living proof that peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians is possible.