Peace through music

“When you play music, you can’t offend anyone or hurt people, but you can make people feel your passion,” said Siwar Mansour, an 18-year-old Palestinian violinist and ukulele player in Heartbeat: The Israeli-Palestinian Youth Music Movement.

Consisting of Israeli and Palestinian musicians ages 17 through 21, Heartbeat will be visiting Yale this Sunday on the group’s debut tour in the United States. Avi Salloway, Heartbeat’s global ambassador and tour producer, said the group planned the tour to engage more with the global community and garner support for peace-making efforts in Israel and Palestine. The event is co-hosted by Jews and Muslims at Yale, or JAM, and Yale Hillel.

Mansour explained that she discovered Heartbeat when she was asked to participate in a music video for the group by a Heartbeat leader who had been one of her counselors at Seeds of Peace, a program that educates youth about conflict resolution. Mansour said she has found music to be an effective strategy for fostering understanding among Israeli and Palestinian youth.

“A lot of programs are mostly dialogue, which leads to yelling and being upset. Music does things that words can’t do,” Mansour said. “When I play music, it comes out, and it comes out right.”

Ziv Sobelman-Yamin, an 18-year-old Israeli drummer and pianist in Heartbeat, also said he believes in music’s power to promote understanding. He explained that participating in Heartbeat has helped him realize how much all people have in common. He added that the friends he has made in Heartbeat have drastically changed how he views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“A friend was talking about how his home isn’t exactly home because someone occupied it,” he explained. “It suddenly opened my eyes that I had such a comfortable life in Israel. I hadn’t seen people really suffer, and it really touched me.”

Although both Mansour and Sobelman-Yamin participated in dialogue programs before joining Heartbeat, no more than 5 percent of Israelis and Palestinians have participated in any kind of dialogue program in the past 15 years, according to Heartbeat’s website. The organization is the first to bring together young Jewish and Arab musicians through popular music.

Jessica Saldinger ’15, the co-president of JAM, said Heartbeat contacted her in the fall about performing at Yale on their two-week U.S. tour. Heartbeat is performing at a number of other universities including Brown, Brandeis and the University of Vermont, as well as at music venues and congregations.

Saldinger said JAM typically sponsors events such as interfaith dialogues, social events and interfaith prayer swaps. She added that she hopes Heartbeat will give students a more personalized exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and increase awareness of the peace-making efforts taking place in the region. Yale Hillel is providing the space and helping with advertising for the Heartbeat performance, she said.

Mansour said one of her goals for the tour is to change her audience’s perspectives.

“The next time people see the news, they’ll think of us,” Mansour said.

Sobelman-Yamin said he feels it’s important for him personally to find a constructive way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that he hopes some Americans will begin to think of the conflict as one among real people through Heartbeat’s performances.

Heartbeat will perform at the Slifka Center at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

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