Last night I attended a very special concert here in Venice. It was a youth program. So what, you say. Well, it was a mixture of Palestinian and Israeli kids! Just two weeks ago, they didnt even know each other. At the tender age of 15, they are now travelling around Italy and playing traditional and contemporary songs from their respective homelands. They played and sang about rain, the star of Bethlehem, guests and lost love. What an amazing event!
After about 40 minutes of music, there was an intermission where the audience was able to ask questions of the kids. "Will you get to continue this music when you return home?" The answer was a resounding 'No'. They said they are not allowed to socialize with each other because of the way things are, but they hope to continue their newly found friendship via email. When asked about their experiences in the last few weeks and what they think it means, one Palestinian boy obviously in the throws of puberty spoke with his squeaky voice. He said he hopes that adults will see that they can get along and that he is one of the future men of his country and will think and strive for peace because of it. An Israeli girl then said, 'it is so complicated but we really are the same'. I dont think I have heard anything more profound than that.
I cried through most of the event and all the way home. I think I was the only person crying bit I was so touched. When it was over, the woman sitting next to me commented how nice it was and it would have been really good if the music was played better. As I stared at her with my pupils dialating in anger, I thought this is how it gets messed up. What goes wrong from the time we are 15 and innocent to the time we are adults and jaded? For 10 fifteen year old kids who just met, they played better than the Philharmonic in North Korea this week. I turned and walked away from this woman before I either slapped her or said something I shouldnt.
These kids gave me hope. They have seen more terror and war and destruction than you and I will probably ever know and that is all they know. Yet, they have the willingness to keep trying. The woman here in Venice that puts this event together said it was a small step toward peace. It may look like that on the outside, but I truly think it is bigger than that.
Peace between these two countries is not going to happen because of politicians and world leaders negotiating with hopes of getting something out of it for themselves. Its not going to happen because of the terrorists and fanatics who claim to be doing for just reasons. Its not going to happen because of the religious leaders of these countries who refuse to accept the better good of their people for the sacrifice of conciliation. And its not going to happen because the media and print refuses to tell anything good or worthy that comes from these countries but yet stubbornly reports only biased, heart bleeding stories to serve their purpose of sales. Instead its going to happen because these kids (and others like them) will go back home and tell their friends and family and classmates that the 'other side' isnt really what we see on TV and what the adults are telling us. They will hopefully start a grass roots movement that will spread as they grow up and maybe in my lifetime, I will see peace and they will live in it.
I have already had a lifetime of experiences in this year and have countless times said I hope I can remember this or that or recreate the feeling of being here or there. But I know that until the day I die, I will never forget the glimmer of hope these kids have and how they were kind enough to share it with others.