ONE OF OUR GREATEST SUCCESS STORIES of all time is finally being remembered properly.
For more than 700 years, Jews, Muslims and Christians thrived, flowered, and excelled while living well together in Spain. Al Andalus is the Arabic name for Andalusia—Southern Spain—during the many centuries of Moorish rule (711-1492 CE). There was legendary sharing of knowledge and cultures, leaps forward in sciences, math, philosophy and the arts, as well as relative peace among Muslims, Christians and Jews. This extraordinary, free exchange of culture set the stage for the European Renaissance.
It was the mid-1950s.
“Then moonlit Granada will live again, the glory of yesterday,” was the prophecy of the hit song “Grenada” sung by Frankie Lane then Frank Sinatra on records, and radio and television broadcasts worldwide.
Then 50 years later—November, 2005—diverse U.S. citizens at The Center for Muslim-Christian-Jewish Understanding created a stunning, exemplary two-week tribute - The Spirit of Andalusia - to shared culture and cooperation through history.
The creators said: “It was a place where the people of three great religions— Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—managed to live together in harmony, and it can perhaps serve as a model for us today.”
Today, more Muslim, Christian and Jewish relationship builders are returning to Andalusia—the place and the story.
1. West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (symphony preparation)
2. JITLI (leadership training)
3. AL ANDALUS: The Legend (musical creation)
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West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (symphony preparation)
In Andalusia, Spain, since 2002 several weeks each summer young Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jordan and Egyptian musicians gather to create a superb 100-piece orchestra and build relationships.
“This is indeed an orchestra against ignorance,” concluded the New York Times music critic.
The West-Eastern Divan Workshop then concludes, and the concert tour of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra starts. These Arab and Jewish musicians received many honors including the Prize Príncipe de Asturias of the Concorde in 2002 for co-creators Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, the Premium Imperiale awarded by the Japan Arts Association as well as an Emmy International award for its DVD—KNOWLEDGE IS THE BEGINNING.
KNOWLEDGE IS THE BEGINNING is a beautiful, inspiring 93 minute-documentary of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. This ensemble began in 1999 with the relationship between the Argentinian-Israeli conductor, Daniel Barenboim, and the late Palestinian-American academic, Edward Said. In 2002, the workshop was finally established in Seville, Spain.
This work was one of Edward Said’s great loves when he died in 2003.
In 2004, the Barenboim-Said Foundation was established by the Regional Ministry of Culture of the Autonomous Regional Government of Andalusia. This also established Seville as home for the Workshop, with its aims:
1. To promote the spirit of peace, dialogue and reconciliation, primarily through music. In this spirit, the history of the peaceful coexistence of different cultures over the centuries in Andalusia is a central feature.
2. To promote music education based on the principle that music cannot be isolated from society.
3. To prepare and promote music education projects in Andalusia, Israel, Palestine and the Arab countries.
Last December, 2006, the inspiring Jewish-Arab symphony crossed the Atlantic to perform in Providence, Rhode Island.
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JITLI (leadership training)
In Andalusia, Spain, each summer JITLI brings Arab and Jewish teenagers together for part of their communication and leadership training.
Created in 2000, the San Diego, Calif.-based JITLI creates partnership between the communities of San Diego, Sha’ar Hanegev, Segev Shalom and Lakiya, while breaking down stereotypes and building lasting relationships leading to a vibrant and meaningful co-existence.
JITLI is dedicated to education and leadership development of young people in the context of interaction with other cultures. Participants begin to appreciate their similarities, acknowledge their differences and understand each other’s cultures. Young women and men—Muslims, Christians, Jews—get experiences and tools to affect their own futures and those of their peers and communities.
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AL ANDALUS: The Legend (musical creation)
AL ANDALUS! The Legend is a theatrical, multi-disciplinary dance epic created in August, 2007, in Houston, Texas USA. The first performance featured singers, actors, nearly twenty dancers, live music and video.
Next year in Houston, this grassroots creation will culminate in live, vastly-expanded performances of AL ANDALUS! The Legend on May 22 & 23, 2008 in Zilkha Hall of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The creators come, in part, from the two-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue in Houston. (See photos of the first performance, hear a radio interview of the principle creators, with some of the music.)
AL ANDALUS: The Legend reveals a fictional but classic tale of inter-ethnic love featuring characters that are based on historical figures. The stage is populated with pilgrims, troubadours, mystics, and other colorful characters. Historic and original instrumental and vocal music and modern choreography is influenced by traditional dance styles to enchant. Narration in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew is woven into this spectacle
In 2007, it is time to remember what we were—who we are, at our highest. And what we can be together—neighbors forever.
“The true nature of anything is the highest it can become.”