There is still hope

2013-03-24 10:00

As he played his last note of the sonata, Yossi Reshef reflects on the hurt he feels for those who came to see him.

The evening of March 12 2013 is one I will never forget.

Never before as an international artist have I ever felt the need to fight evil and ignorance; but here I was forced to confront the face of ugliness and chaos armed only with Beethoven’s beautiful “Tempest” sonata. Sadly, the music stopped and chaos prevailed.

A classical pianist schedules performances months (sometimes years) in advance. My tour in South Africa was planned a long time ago after hard work by both myself and my hosts. Contrary to uninformed claims, the role of the Israeli embassy was merely one of facilitation while “Tararam”, The South Africa/Israel Culture Fund, assisted solely with the funding of my airfare.

While I felt that it was important to reveal another side of Israel – that of culture – which is seldom portrayed in the media, I was warned that there might be protests. At no point, however, was an “Israel Apartheid Week” (a ridiculous idea in itself, as Israel is one of the world’s finest democracies), ever mentioned. At no point was it ever suggested to me by any anti-Israel organisation that I postpone or cancel my performances.

This alone proves that my concerts were simply a platform on which to enact this barbaric display of violence.

I am a musician, not a politician. I am also a very proud Israeli, born and bred. But this does not make me a representative of my country’s policies.

The fact that it is clearly stated that I live in Germany (where I am very happily making music) seems to have no relevance. Had I been living in Tel Aviv would that have justified any of these protests?

It is also quite obvious that these perpetrators are quite unaware of my activities which support dialogue and the peace process in the Middle East; among them my eight-year coaching of Israeli and Arab Students (Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian) in the “Playing for Peace” project organised by the Apple Hill Chamber Center, New Hampshire, US and my concerts with an Egyptian pianist that are part of the European Mozart Academy. But clearly this would have made no difference to those bent on disrupting my performances simply because I originate from Israel.

My life’s mission, as I see it, is to deal with beauty. I spend most of my waking hours in trying to decipher the meaning and content of the great masterpieces, their technical solutions, and their metaphysical realm. Interrupting with the sound of vuvuzelas at the very end of a Beethoven sonata, one of humanity’s greatest treasures, together with the violence and hatred forthcoming from these perpetrators, was no less than a barbaric clash of cultures and something I will never forget.

I feel more hurt for the many people who came to the concert than for myself. An artist can earn no greater honour than the people who display their appreciation by coming to listen to him. For this, as well as for all the support I received during this tour, I am truly thankful. I am grateful to the universities that courageously stood against the pressure to cancel my concerts and for demonstrating a true devotion to academic freedom and the spirit of dialogue.

I am inspired by the freedom South Africa has achieved and the message it has offered the world, but I am disturbed to witness the intolerant manner in which this message is voiced. However, I want nothing more than to return once again to play my music.

Following my experience at Wits I travelled to Cape Town to perform at a fundraising concert for Save a Child’s Heart. This Israeli organisation has done tremendous work in operating on children with heart disease, most of them Palestinian. Thankfully, no demonstration occurred at this concert.

I also had the chance to give four master classes to students at the universities. The level of playing, as well as the amount of talent, was overwhelming.

My concerts at Rhodes and Stellenbosch were accompanied by heavy security and took place without interruption. I feel there is still hope.

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