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Arab and Jewish teen choristers harmonize in Jerusalem, by Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)

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Apr. 5, 2017

One by one, Micah Hendler gives hello hugs to 30 teenagers from across the capital city as they arrive for choir practice at the International YMCA on King David Street. Jewish, Muslim and Christian, the girls and boys don’t appear to have much in common until Hendler starts the vocal warmup and a unified harmony fills the room. Established in 2012, the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus sings in English, Hebrew and Arabic, in Israel and abroad. The carefully chosen songs — hip-hop to chant, Middle Eastern to global pop — are weighted with words like “kulanu,” Hebrew for “all of us,” and phrases like “I love you and I need you to survive.” Every weekly rehearsal concludes with a professionally facilitated, simultaneously translated dialogue that doesn’t aim for perfect harmony but for greater understanding. “We go beyond simply singing together, delving deeper into one another’s identities, life experiences, communal narratives, religious traditions and national histories through dialogue, all within the safe space of the musical ensemble and the strong personal bonds and community it creates,” says Hendler. “I live in Israel, I’m an Arab, there’s Jewish people … that’s what I know,” said choir member Samia. “But I never talked to them, I never knew them, I never knew their opinion. After joining this choir it changed my life. It made me know what they think. It made them know what I think.”

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  • Published: 4 years ago on April 7, 2017
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  • Last Modified: April 7, 2017 @ 4:52 pm
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