Israel and Palestine sing from same song sheet

An Israeli-Palestinian girl’s choir will make its first trip to the UK to open the 2012 Three Choirs Festival in Hereford, sponsored by conflict resolution charity Children of Peace

The multicultural, multi-faith Shani Choir comprises Arab, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Muslim teenagers who will perform on 20 July, advocating peace between their war-torn nations. The 13-18 year olds are classically trained at the Jezreel Valley Arts Center, near Galilee.

The choir was established in 2003 when the centre’s head of music, Uri Ben David, decided to unite the school’s Jewish choir with an Arab choir from Mutran School in Nazareth. Today, the Shani Choir has 35 members from three different faiths.

Shani Choir has performed worldwide including at the Vatican for Pope Benedict XVI and at the European Union in Brussels. They have sung with Bill Clinton covering John Lennon’s Imagine, which they have adopted as their signature song. Also in their repertoire are Arabic and Hebrew folk songs as well as Elgar and Bach.

Dame Judi Dench, patron of the Children of Peace, said: “The Shani Choir symbolise hope for the future. Their message of peace and reconciliation comes from the young people from this troubled region.”

Roni Rotem, former singer with the Shani Choir, said: “The girls of the Shani Choir share an outstanding chance of experiencing true peace. Through music we learn to know one another, to open our hearts and be true friends.

“For us, it is so natural that cooperation, understanding and trust are achievable through open and honest conversation, free of prejudice, boundaries and road blocks. While mistrusting one another to start with, we are now friends and colleagues, and doing something special together. Learning about different cultures, customs, and habits, has taught them the importance of respecting other people’s beliefs,” she added.

Sponsorship for the choir is provided by international charity Children of Peace, an organisation that aims to build bridges between communities affected by Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Founded by Hereford resident Richard Martin, the charity works to protect children in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon by supporting multicultural youth projects that provide a chance for Arab and Jewish children to meet. This increases tolerance and appreciation of other cultures and religions, despite the region’s violent history.

The Shani Choir’s plans for the future include a UK television appearance and a performance at the White House.