Wednesday, June 29, 2016
In November 2014, over two thousand young people gathered near downtown Jerusalem to celebrate life. The "Simply Sing" initiative, which began at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, aims at bringing Jews and Arabs together through shared cultural events.
“Simply Sing” is a Jerusalem-based cross-cultural project that has Jews and Arabs meet every few weeks for an evening of musical performances and singing. The project has gained much popularity as well as opposition from both Arabs and Jews during its four and a half years of existence.
Facilitators taught songs and invited participants to sing along in both Hebrew and Arabic. The event was headlined by singer Lubna Salame and the Yemen Blues band, who together created a special joint performance for the event.
Yemen Blues is led by singer Ravid Kahalani, who combines the ancient Jewish melodies of his birthplace in Yemen with West African, funk and mambo influences. Time Out Chicago wrote that Yemen Blues is "one of the most exciting bands in world music right now.”
Lubna Salame, originally from Haifa, is a resident singer with the Nazareth Orchestra. She started her career as a child, singing classical Arabic songs with a church choir, and became an instant star after her first concert at the 2000 Israel Festival.
In addition to the music, poetry and dancing, food played a major role in the evening's success. A food truck featured two chefs, one Arab-Israeli, the other Jewish-Israeli, who worked together to create fusion dishes that reflected both their cultures (gefilte fish with knafeh anyone?). Chef Elias Mattar from the northern Galilee region and Chef Marcus Gershkowitz, co-owner of Jerusalem's famous Angelica restaurant, demonstrated cuisine from their kitchens.
Arab and Jewish DJs performed in a number of downtown bars during the after party, proving once again the power of music to break down boundaries.
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