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Working to build bridges and forge peace through music at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

LOWER MERION – As yet another war dominates the news cycle, musicians from different backgrounds are coming together in an effort at bridge-building regarding the long-standing Arab Isreal conflict.

On March 23 at 7:30 p.m., a concert will occur with an Arab and Jewish string quartet at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

The concert will bring together Polyphony of Nazareth with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Polyphony is a world-class classical music conservatory based in Nazareth, Israel. It is made up of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews with the goal of building bridges through music.

“This is a group that is genuinely working toward a democratic, pluralistic, multicultural, multi-ethnic society,” said Rabbi David Straus, senior rabbi at Main Line Reform Temple, a sponsor of the Bryn Mawr event.

Udi Bar-David, a cellist and founder of ARTolerance, is an organization that has a mission “to advance the role of the arts in dialogues, transcend communication boundaries and explore common ground through performances, events, conferences and workshops.”

ARTolerance is also helping to bring the event to the region.

“I am from an Israeli-Jewish background … I grew up with the miracle of Israel,” Bar-David said. “I also understand that it came at the expense of others.”
Through his organization, he hopes the difficult conversations can take place.

The event in Bryn Mawr is part of ARTolerance’s hosting an Arab-Jewish string quartet from Polyphony of Nazareth. The group is coming to the United States as part of a chamber orchestra called the Galilee Chamber Orchestra. They will be having their debut in Carnegie Hall on March 18 and then moving on to Toronto.

After Toronto, a string quartet will come to the Philadelphia area for three events, including the central event at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church on March 23.

Bar-David said the Bryn Mawr event would include some of his colleagues from the Philadelphia Orchestra and a chamber choir from Bryn Mawr Presbyterian.
There will also be an event at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia.

He expects they will go into conversations about the challenges for Arabs and Jews every time they partner in the Middle East.

A concluding concert will also take place at Swarthmore College on Thursday, March 24, sponsored by the Interfaith Center and the Music Department.

According to Bar-David, the local concert events also came about as they formed what he likes to call a coalition for peace on the Main Line with multiple churches and synagogues such as Main Line Reform Temple.

“It is important because we are eager to bring the voices of Arabs and Jews who partner in the Middle East, of Palestinians from the Middle East, so American audiences get an insight into the story, the aspirations, and the challenges because we hope to see a different reality in the future in the Middle East. We do not want the conflict to perpetuate,” he said. 

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