Lesson 11: Israelis and Palestinians

We end our tour of West Asia and the Middle East in the most complex and conflict-ridden part of a complex and conflict-ridden region–Israel. Or, because we want to explore both Jewish and Arab music and culture in and around the nation of Israel, should we say, “Israel and the Occupied Territories?” Or, is “Occupied Territories” the appropriate term? The United Nation uses “Occupied Palestinian Territories” when discussing the West Bank, Gaza and the contested parts of East Jerusalem. Is that right? Or, should we say, “Israel and Palestine,” even though “Palestine” doesn’t technically exist as a sovereign state. So maybe we should say “Palestinian Territories…?” But what of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank? And what of the highly contested parts of East Jerusalem…? See, we haven’t even survived a paragraph without twisting ourselves in uncomfortable knots. Our task at hand is to look beyond the many, many things that separate people in the region and focus on the many things that unify them. Can we do that? We’ll see.

OVERVIEW: “Before we even start, let’s give up. In the past some of these All Around This World featured-country background posts have been ambitious enough to approach a complicated global conflict with on single, challenging question…. “Huh…?”

MUSIC: Traditional Palestinian music is vibrant and always at the heart of family and communal celebrations. During parties and special events, singers, who are usually members of the family or close friends rather than professionals, will improvise lyrics in accordance with themes and musical styles that have existed for generations in that particular village….

LANGUAGE: On the surface the answer to the question, “What are the main languages in Israel?” seems to be simple: Hebrew for the Jews, Arabic for the Arabs, and English as a common colonial tongue. Below the surface…we know things in this part of the world are never simple…

WHEN YOU GO THERE: In a way, Israel is a traveler’s dream. The land itself shocks with its diversity and beauty–there are deserts and lakes and mountains and the sea–the cities are engaging and easy to reach–Israel is an unexpectedly tiny country–and the infrastructure works as well as it does in any European nation….

— “DANCING IN CIRCLES“: The primary Palestinian folk dance is the dabke, which is centuries old. No one really knows the dabke’s origins, though one tradition explains that the dance began in a region where houses were built of stone walls but had roofs made of wood, straw and dirt…..

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