The fact that a week has passed since I last posted about the wave of “Palestinian” terrorist attacks against innocent Jewish men, women and children in my country, should lead no-one to the conclusion that things have quieted down. Not a day has gone by without several stabbings, or attempts to ram pedestrians with cars, or combined attacks in which terrorists have first run over pedestrians and then got out of their cars, not to render assistance, but to attempt to finish off their victims with knives or hatchets.
In other attacks, Israeli vehicles have been stoned and forced off the road and then, when the drivers were forced to stop and get out of their cars, they themselves were attacked.
Not only that, but on Saturday evening, one of the victims of the Har Nof massacre, Rabbi Chaim Yechiel Rothman, who has been in a coma since the attack, almost a year ago, succumbed to his wounds, becoming the sixth victim of that particularly brutal “Palestinian” atrocity.
Yet, as I wrote before, life has to go on. We cannot surrender to terror, we cannot shut ourselves up in our homes. If we do that, we might as well pack our bags and go back into Exile.
We all have to find our own way of coping. Some people have demonstratively hung Israeli flags from their balconies and windows, in a public display of defiance, as if to proclaim to those who seek to terrorise us: “You will not scare us away, you will not drive us out, we are here to stay”. Others have resorted to the tried and true method known as Consumer Therapy. I tried that myself, in fact, and it helped, but I needed more.
My refuge is music.
The Friday before last, October 16th, the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir travelled up north to Haifa, to perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, together with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra. This is a joyful selection of verses from various psalms, in three sections, of which the longest is the central section, based around that most famous of all the Psalms of David, Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” But it was another verse, verse 4, which was uppermost in my mind as we sang: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…”
I am sure that the simple faith of the psalmist spoke to many in the audience of several hundred.
Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir took part with several other choirs, including our sister-choir and fellow member of the full Oratorio Choir, the Bel Canto choir, in a special event at the Clal Centre, Jerusalem’s first ever shopping mall, housed in a particularly depressing building in Jaffa Road. Despite the security situation, the nightmarish difficulty of guarding such an event and the likelihood that few people would venture out in such conditions, the organizers refused to cancel the event, intended to rejuvenate a building which has widely been considered a White Elephant, since it was first opened in the early 1970s. And I have to say, they were right. Not only was the concert a huge success, I was astonished to see how full of life the city centre was, in spite of everything. Before the show started, I watched a procession of Bratslav Hassidim, singing and dancing their way down Jaffa Road. And afterwards, walking back through the shuk, I could see no evidence for the claim that, since the latest wave of terrorism began, Jerusalem has been like a ghost-town at night. The restaurants, cafes, and bars were full, and everywhere, there was light and music.
And getting back to music – the acoustics in the Clal Centre are, to put it kindly, not of the best, and Raul, from our bass section, had to set up his video camera quite a distance away, but this should give you an idea of the atmosphere. Kate Belshé conducts the combined Bel Canto and Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choirs in Randall Thompson’s “Glory to God in the Highest”:
And here, Salome Rebello of the Bel Canto Choir, conducts the two choirs in “Tzena U’Re’ena” from Yechezkel Braun’s “Shir Hashirim” (Song of Songs):
The concert ended with a combined performance of all the participating choirs, who were dispersed along the various galleries, singing a Yemenite tune, “Ani Tsameh” (אני צמא – “I thirst”).
As you can imagine, with the conductor down in the centre, and the conductors of the various choirs (placed above her in the galleries, on different levels) attempting to relay her conducting, as not everyone could see her, it was a bit chaotic – but moving, nonetheless.
“I thirst, I thirst, I thirst, I thirst for your waters, Jerusalem.”
This, then, is my way of retaining my sanity amidst all the horror. I can put it no better than Leonard Bernstein:
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”