Sunday, 11 January 2009

“Jazz is my Jihad”

I used to be a writer.

Back in London, as an aspiring journalist who basically had no idea what I was doing, I arranged my first interview for a website which no longer exists. I was their art & culture correspondent, and now that I look back, Gilad Atzmon (an Israeli jazz musician) was an interesting choice considering I was writing for Arabia Online.

I have no idea now how I found out about him, but his pro-Palestinian views and my love for jazz music may have had something to do with it. I went to meet him at one of his performances at a jazz club in central London and found a man of great talent, and great power. An Israeli, who was once in the army, who woke up one day, looked around him and decided that Israel was no longer a place he could call home. I went to see him perform several times after that, and each time I was struck by the energy that rushes off of this musician in tsunami waves whilst he performs.

What was said during the interview was controversial to say the least, and although I edited out as much as I could, it still never got published.

The reason Gilad comes to mind now is of course the atrocities that are currently happening in Gaza as I write this, and on which I have failed to find the energy to comment on in this blog -not because I don’t care about the people who are losing their lives needlessly, but because I am truly sick of politics, violence and bloodshed - particularly in the Middle East.

I am sick of both sides of this bullshit feud, and to say I wish they would just live in peace sounds childish and naive to say the least.

I stopped watching the news long ago, but there is no escaping what is happening in Gaza. The fact that I have a child of my own, who I would want to protect from a simple breeze (like they say in Egypt) doesn’t make it any easier. I can’t even begin to imagine what parents are going through at this very moment, wondering whether their children will make it through this horror, and whether they themselves will survive to take care of them, and I don’t want to.

I want to tell you a true story.

Once upon a time, there was a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, just like the millions who are marching through cities all over the world today. To say she hated Israelis is to put it lightly.
She was also a girl looking for her father, just like the thousands who are searching for a lost parent all over the world today, and she found him. With him she found two brothers she never knew she had - and they were raised as orthodox Jews. They had both volunteered in the Israeli army and navy, only a week each, but still. They had lived on kibbutzes and celebrated Hanukkah, and eaten kosher. They were supposed to be her idea of a sworn enemy, yet the first time she laid eyes on them she fell in love.

That’s what life does to you, when you think you are better, or have more rights, or are special in some way. It smashes your well formulated opinions, beliefs and judgments in to the nearest wall.

And you become more human for it; more worth the life you have been given.

Watch Gilad perform here.
Visit his website here.
Watch Jazz is my Jihad here.

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