Promise or Disappointment?

April 25th, 2013

Alumni may be interested to know that, in addition to hosting the West-Eastern Divan in January, Brown provided a venue some weeks later for a performance by Heartbeat, a band whose members are 17-to-22-year-old Israelis and Palestinians. (“Bringing Harmony to Discord,” Elms, March/April).

With a mission in many ways comparable to the Divan’s, Heartbeat’s musicians create and perform original rock and rap music. These talented young adults therefore engage in the process of learning to play together and also are empowered to raise their voices not just in song, but in grassroots leadership of the peace movements of their respective peoples. (Among Heartbeat’s musicians is “ambassador” Avi Salloway, whose parents both teach at the Warren Alpert Medical School.) Check out the organization and its music at
May Heartbeat and the Divan go from strength to strength. And may we all live to see a Middle East that needs organizations like these, if only for the fabulous music they make.

Leslie Pollack ’74
Bethany, Conn.



Your musically clever title for this piece promises more than it delivers. I am interested in such programs, as I lived in Jerusalem for seventeen years while working on coexistence projects between Israeli Arabs and Jews. I am disturbed to find yet again that equivalence is absent and ignorance is in abundance.

Conductor Barenboim stated, “We [Divan] are an orchestra against ignorance.” His concert concluded with an event at the Cogut Center for the Humanities at which Miko Peled and Izzeldin Abuelaish were the speakers. One might be forgiven for thinking that presenting an Israeli and a Palestinian on the same podium is education extraordinaire, but when both points of view are similarly critical of Israel, even subliminally, then ignorance takes center stage.

In Jerusalem, I lived in an Arab-Jewish neighborhood. I had friends in both communities, yet my car was burned to the ground in an attack by some of our young Arab neighbors trying to prove their worth to the adults of the same persuasion. With the help of some of my friends, I organized a dialogue group in the neighborhood, and then was told it was unsafe for the Jewish neighbors to attend the meetings. I often cut through the Arab village on my way home, and once was stoned. I lived through intifadas, afraid like everyone else that my bus might be bombed, and wore a gas mask during the Gulf War.

Still I persisted, continuing my work with many people and groups all over the country. I have friends who are liberal and orthodox Muslims, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Druzeim, Eastern Orthodox, and Armenian. Any religion can be openly practiced in Israel. My friends and acquaintances have all had different experiences, but for the most part they share similar dreams, and the dreams do not include wiping Israel off the map.

When I returned to the States, however, I found that the academic left had taken over the American campus, and it seems their only agenda is to excoriate the state of Israel. Obviously, they fear peace and harmony with their hearts and souls and thrive on discord.

Virginia Wyler-Saunders ’57

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Related Issue
May/June 2013