Arabic rhythms and klezmer beats help these musicians understand the other side [video]

“Bukra fil mishmish” is an Arabic expression that roughly means “tomorrow will never come.” With Israeli-Palestinian relations difficult after the recent conflict in Gaza, the expression conveys the belief of some people on both sides that peace is not possible.

A group of young Israeli and Palestinian musicians disagree and are demonstrating their more positive stance through their art.  Their Jerusalem-based group, Heartbeat, was founded in 2007 by 30-year-old Aaron Shneyer through a Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship.

Violence doesn’t keep them apart

During recent violence, the group was on its summer break, but Heartbeat met to allow all of its Israeli and Palestinian musicians to reflect on what has been happening and support each other, Shneyer said in a recent email. The group resumed regular rehearsals in September.

[quote_left]“The impossible has become the possible.”[/quote_left]

“Heartbeat is a space for young Israelis and Palestinians to confront the truth of what’s happening head-on, in a safe, constructive way,” Shneyer said.

The group’s lyrics change the saying “bukra fil mishmish” to make it a song, with one key alteration.  The title is now “bukra fih mishmish,” which means “tomorrow is here.” In other words, through their art, Israelis and Palestinians are already collaborating and sharing friendly relations as equals.

For audiences, seeing Heartbeat can be a real shock. The music combines distinctly Western instruments like electric guitar and bass with Arabic rhythms, driving klezmer beats, loud solos, and rap sequences in Hebrew and Arabic. As one Palestinian member describes the collaboration, “The impossible has become the possible.”

A camp for peace

If you like this story, you might be interested in the Seeds of Peace International Camp, which helps young teenagers from conflict-affected regions to build relationships and promote peace. In the words of Qasim, a former camper from Pakistan, “Camp is a place filled with potential future leaders being exposed to the ‘other side.'”