Israeli musician uses music project to promote peace in the Middle East

The Takeaway

Amid religious and cultural conflict in the Middle East, an Israeli musician has created an international music project he hopes will embrace cultural differences for future collaborations.

The Idan Raichel Project was founded about 10 years ago and has since recorded 95 musicians and singers with diverse cultural backgrounds. The project’s goal is to expose Israelis to the culture from new immigrants to that country, as well as the culture from beyond Israel’s borders in other Middle Eastern, and largely Arab, countries.

Idan Raichel, the Israeli singer-songwriter behind the Idan Raichel Project, says he set out to remind people that Israel is part of one of the most diverse places in the world. 

“Every 10 or 15 years, there is a new immigration that changes the face of the Israeli society,” he said. “This is what makes Israel to be one of the most interesting multicultural nations.

Raichel’s parents immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Many of the musicians he’s recorded have moved from different parts of the world, including Yemen, Ethiopia and South Africa. 

“Our mission in the Idan Raichel Project, is to bring the voices of the minorities to the Israeli mainstream media,” he said.

As conflict continues in Israel’s neighboring countries, Raichel hopes to someday cross the Israeli border to record and play with his neighbors — and be the first to perform in Gaza or Ramallah.

But despite the success of the Idan Raichel Project outside of Israel, Raichel hopes young adults in Israel will take an interest in learning about Palestinian art, the film industry in Lebanon and theater in Syria.

“In Israel, we are working towards a peace agreement. But to make peace is to get to know your neighbor and the nations living across the border,” he said. “And I hope that we will be able to collaborate with musicians across the border as well.”

During the Arab Spring, voices of the people emerged and you could hear the free thoughts of people who wanted simple things, Raichel said. 

“They want to have (a) decent life, to live (with) respect, to get paid and not have all the money go to the government,” he said. “People didn’t fight for something that you think is unbelievable or cannot happen, so I think the Arab spring is something (Israelis) were fascinated by and very happy to see.”

Peace is about simple things, like making people come together. Once music from Syria, Israel, and Lebanon are heard all over the world, listeners will know more about the Middle East, and not just about the conflicts in the region, Raichel says.

“I’m not trying to change the world, I’m trying to do a musical project that maybe will bring us one step toward the mission of just (getting) to know our neighbors,” he said.

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