Be'er Sheva, Israel
October 12, 2010
Have you ever met a stranger and very soon considered that
person as you would an "old friend" - and by that I mean the kind of friend who
knows what you are thinking; who understands how you see the world and somehow
adds a new sparkle and dimension to your perspective; who has your back? I think if we are lucky we come across
one or two of them in a lifetime.
Even more rare though is to find that person on the other side of the
world in a place you never expected to be.
On our third day of touring in Israel, we headed back to the
Negev desert where we had been so inspired by the students at the Bedouin
schools. Their teacher and our host, Laurie
Ornstein had invited us back for a concert at Multaka-Mifgash in Be'er Sheva, a
community center developed by Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality which was formed
to provide a framework for Jewish-Arab collaborative efforts in the struggle
for civil equality and the advancement of mutual tolerance and coexistence. The
Forum is unique in being the only Arab-Jewish organization established in the
Negev that remains focused solely on the specific problems confronting the
The Center is located in a bomb shelter in the town of Be'er
Sheva. Only 2 years prior, during the Gaza War,
the shelter served it's intended purpose to protect residents from the bombs of
war. It is still in place as such if needed
again, as you can see in some of our photos from the FODfest concert held
As Laurie pulled open the heavy steel door of
the small concrete structure budding up from the earth and led us down the
steep stairwell, I felt a surreal awareness that I was descending into the roots of
a tree. In a way, I was. Beneath the bustling town above, we
entered a small, windowless, simple pair of rooms that emanated a feeling of
peace, love, and abundance. To be
honest, that was not at all the experience I had expected.
After tea and an interview, the performance space began to fill with
people and soon with music. The
shared experience of music, community and friendship nourished this space beneath the ground
into a joyful sacred community.
There was Todd and Laurie with guitars, Bruce on banjo and fiddle, Sharon playing oud,
and Sunita strumming her glorious harp. In turn, each
artist led a song, the others played and sang along, and the audience smiled, tapped,
hummed, and applauded. I was struck, as I so often am, to realize that FODfest is always a magical, powerful experience... whether it
be in a living room, a grand theatre, or a bomb shelter. I once again envisioned the Center as "the roots of a tree" and that each person at each of its events carries the positive energy created and nourished there back up and into to the world as its limbs and leaves.
Laurie Ornstein invited FODfest because of her faith in the power of people and of music as tools for overcoming difficulties and conflict when policies and politics cannot. From the moment I met her, Laurie's energy and her purpose were contageous. Her work with Bedouin students and communities is making a real difference in their lives today and in the future. She moved from the U.S. to Israel about 40 years ago and has obviously found her calling.
In addition to her work in Bedouin schools and communities, Laurie has organized music tours, including Tommy Sands, in Israel and The West Bank paving the way for cross-cultural sharing of music in places where that is a great challenge in itself. Listening to Laurie's CD, Time Flows Backward, it is clear that her heart, mind, and soul are truly invested in creating a more just and peaceful world. It is such an honor and a blessing to know her. We look forward to Laurie's involvement in organizing our next tour in Israel and The West Bank where we will nurture the seeds sown in October 2010.
Video of Laurie Ornstein at Wadi Salame
PEACE + LOVE ~ L