Jubilant Palestinian teenagers greeted pianist Daniel Barenboim on Tuesday before he sat down and played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata at a master class for young musicians in Ramallah.
The event, attended by about 100 students, came nearly six months after the Israeli army refused to grant Barenboim permission for a visit. This time, Barenboim simply ignored the Israeli travel ban and entered the West Bank under German diplomatic escort, AP reported.
Boys and girls dressed in their school uniforms of blue-and-white striped shirts applauded Barenboim, an Argentine-born Jew and Israeli citizen, as he entered a hall at the Friends School.
Barenboim said he wanted to play his part in reducing tensions in the region. "What I can do is play music, play music for you, and maybe this way, in a very small way ... for these few moments, we are able to build down the hatred that is so much in the region," Barenboim said in English. In Arabic, he said: "I am very happy to be here with you."
Barenboim, 59, is musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Staatsoper Berlin.
According to AP, he stated many people have asked him why he was so eager to perform in Ramallah. "I tell them it's very simple," he said. "I'm not a politician, I don't have a plan to end the conflict. But I think the lesson we have to learn from the 20th century is that every human being — small, young as you or older like I — has to think of his responsibility as a human being and not always depend on the politicians and the government."
Tuesday event marked the second time that the Jewish “dove” has announced plans to visit the West Bank. The first visit, planned for March, was cancelled upon the advice of Israeli security forces.
Back then, Barenboim said that even though he trusted his Palestinian escorts, he would not go to Ramallah because he knew he would be turned back immediately at the checkpoint.
Barenboim has made various statements condemning the Israeli army’s operations in the West Bank in the last couple of weeks, and about three weeks ago, he held a concert at the Beir Zeit University, where he has close friendships with several Palestinian musicians.
"It is important for Palestinians to have positive feelings about someone from the other side," said Barenboim, explaining his desire to visit the occupied territories. "I told them that I am not a politician, that I have no solutions and that I have come solely to open hearts."
Barenboim arrived in Israel last week to attend the Fifth International Chamber Music Festival in Jerusalem. On Sunday, Jerusalem police strengthened their presence at the YMCA building in the city, after Barenboim received death threats.
Sources close to the Jewish conductor reported the threats to police authorities, which they said came from ultra-Orthodox quarters.
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