Simply Singing: Interfaith Musical Event in Jerusalem

Hillel-Jerusalem-Yemen-BluesBy Rachel Jaret

Hillel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has worked hard to coordinate an interfaith event unique in its kind. Simply Singing (Pashut Sharim) brings together Israelis from East and West Jerusalem for an evening of song and liturgical poetry. The event, hosted in West Jerusalem, serves as a platform for Arabs and Jews to meet each other in a context that unites rather than divides. Participants in the program come out of an appreciation for the strength of music, which breaks boundaries without speech and dialogue.

Simply Singing saw its launch in 2011. Its first meeting was marked by distinct success and Simply Singing has since become a much-anticipated event that meets four-five times a year. In between the evening musical events, a smaller group of participants convene monthly for various programming, dialogue, and singing.

The program is coordinated by three Hillel leaders two Arabs and one Jew. Coordinators meet throughout the year to develop the schedule and content of the event. The songs and liturgy sung at the event are borrowed from the rich Jewish and Muslim cultures.

The first Simply Singing event of the 2014-2015 academic year took place on November 6 in the center of Jerusalem and hosted more than two thousand participants. The evening included performances in both Hebrew and Arabic by musical groups Yemen Blues and Lubna Salame. Facilitators Yair Seri, Nual Debs and Hila Tam together taught the songs in detail and participants were invited to sing along in both languages. A culinary component complimented the music and Arab chef Elias Mattar and Jewish chef Marcos Gershkovich each demonstrated cuisine from their own kitchens. An after party included DJ performances by both Arab and Israeli DJ’s in several bars in the center of Jerusalem.

The project coordinator, Haggai Hirshman, appreciates that “this project addresses a point that is not so simple in our lives but it is not political and that is what is most beautiful. One act can really be worth more than a thousand words.”

The program is possible through a generous partnership between Hillel Jerusalem, Prat Foundation and the Jerusalem Municipality.