When concerts are free and people are less than free:
Piano against the Wall
report by Beate Zilversmidt
just received in the mail from Gush Shalom
The idea of "a protest recital" by pianist Jacob Allegro Wegloop on one of the Friday happenings in Bil'in came about in August, in an Amsterdam cafe: "I would gladly come and offer my music to Palestinians as an expression of my sympathy."
There happened to be already a piano in Bil'in. It had just been donated by the Pollak family. Without it, the whole idea may have evaporated. And Zamir Barlev - activist & piano tuner -had been so kind as to come on Thursday and repair some broken keys.
Friday Sept. 16, a minibus arrived in Bil'in already before dawn. It had been decided to go to the West Bank village straight from the airport - as to arrive before the army would close the access roads - as has become its new practice on Fridays. Gush Shalom had hired a van for the occasion, and Uri Avnery was there, too.
The ground floor of the Abu-Rahme house has been transformed into a kind of youth hostel, with matrasses spread out, and a self service kitchen corner. Apart from the more permanent internationals, it hosts every week a group of Israeli activists who come on Thursday in order to be in Bil'in at the weekly event.
"It's nice to be woken up by piano music, and not by the army megaphone imposing a curfew" said one the guests.
From where all the kids came was not clear, but they surrounded the miracle - the piano had been moved meanwhile into the front guarden. And when Allegro could not decipher the handscribbled notes of the Palestinian anthem - given to him at the spot to be added to the repertoire - the children sang it for him enthusiastically.
Jacob Allegro played and played - melodious pieces of Schubert, and some Chopin - as to force the somewhat stubborn instrument to open itself up. "What is your message" was a question asked by different interviewers who started to appear: "Sympathy for the suffering." "You are a Jew, a holocaust orphan" -- "That did not make me blind to the injustice done to others." "What do you say to the building of the Wall right through the middle of our lands?" "It's a shame! A big shame."
It's not easy to say where the preparations stopped and the concert began. Several times the crowd of the front guarden ran to the street at rumours of army patrols arriving. But the invasion of this day was of TV crews: several Palestinian stations, Al-Jazeera, Reuters, Egyptian TV , the Israeli Second Channel, etc. They had all been invited by Mohamed al-Khatib of the Bil'in Popular Committee to come at 10.30am and shoot pictures inside the village, as it was expected that the army would be far from helpful when a truck, and on it a piano, would arrive to the site where the wall is being prepared.
On Israeli TV the scene appeared after all not on Channel-2, but on the respectable first channel, using Reuters material. It was one more amazing report from Bil'in, from people who now already for months capture the headlines with their imaginative, non-violent ways of protest, undeterred by army violence.
There is still much struggle ahead; there is an appeal on the way to the Supreme Court, which this week created a precedent not without hope in the Qalqilya region. But one achievement already stands and is visible from the faces: this struggle, and the support shown for it is strengening the people in Bil'in in times where one either becomes stronger or sinks down.
I was not there in person, only in spirit, yet I'm gladdened.
I admire those courageous people:
Their gestures tell me that the world is not empty of humanitarian support.
Yet a world in which it takes courage to attend a peacefull, non violent rally, is not a good place.
Oh, my beloved country and region, Wake up.
Enough is Enough.