Yael Deckelbaum and Miriam Toukan are peace activists, and despite the fact that the conflict they are trying to end is still raging on, together they are a remarkable demonstration that peace is possible between Israelis and Palestinians. Since they met in September 2016, Israeli singer-songwriter Yael and Israeli-Arab singer Miriam have joined hands in lending their voices to the cause of peace. Singing in both Arabic and Hebrew John Lennon’s call to “imagine all the people living life in peace,” Yael and Miriam presented a striking tableau for the group of La Châtaigneraie Secondary School students who met them.
“I realised I was frustrated with the way the world is behaving and how the system is teaching people to be,” said Yael as the reason that pushed her to become more active for change in Israel. Joining fellow activists, she journey across Israel to sing to people and ask them what their dream was for the future. “I came to realise that everyone was having a very hard time dreaming, but that fundamentally everyone wants peace and a safe space for their children to grow up in,” she continued. Explaining that the desire for peace crossed ethnic, linguistic and religious differences, Yael regretted that peace is becoming ever more difficult to attain as the war leads to more desperation and more segregation.
Waging peace through music
Soon after, Yael discovered Women Wage Peace, a movement of Israeli and Palestinian women that collaborates and marches together in an effort to bring about a viable peace agreement in the region. Inspiration struck and she wrote and composed the song “Prayer of the Mothers”, an anthem which was taken up by the movement in their March of Hope. “From the north to the south, from the west to the east,” Ecolint students sang along to the song, which calls for the prayer of the mothers to be heard – a prayer for peace.
“I am lucky to have a mix of Arab, Israeli, Palestinian and Christian,” said Miriam, who explained that she was lucky to be raised in a family that taught her to love others, irrespective of their background. Singing from an early age, Miriam was selected to take part in the Israeli song contest Kokhav Nolad, styled after American Idol, where, being the first to sing in Arabic on the show, she found herself representing a whole society – the Arab Israeli society. “As a musician, I realised I could use music to bring people together,” she said. Starting a band called QuarteToukan, composed of musicians from four different cultures, Miriam aims to bind east and west and take the quartet’s audience through a multicultural journey that shows that diversity is to be cherished rather than rejected.
“Working together with Women Wage Peace, we have seen that people can join forces around what their dreams are, irrespective of their country or religion,” Yael told students. “Yet despite this, efforts must also be made by either side to understand each other’s heritage. In Israel, every child should learn Arabic, just as the Arabs learn Hebrew,” they both agreed, pointing to Ecolint students as a prime example of a multitude of cultures that get along because they learn about each other and therefore respect each other.
Music as a global language
For both Miriam and Yael, one possible solution for peace is to take the example of music. When asked by Ecolint students whether they thought music could change the world, both singers affirmed without a doubt that it could. “While musical roots can be very different, music is a global language that binds people together,” said Yael. “It is a language that communicates feelings,” concluded Miriam, “one that has a healing power over illness, depression and war.”
Singing along to the “Prayer of the Mothers” and meeting Yael and Miriam was a touching and inspiring moment for La Châtaigneraie students who have all been brought up in the multicultural environment that is Ecolint, and educated in accordance with its steadfast commitment to peace, inclusiveness, tolerance and respect. Enriched by this experience, and applying the above values in their daily lives, Ecolint students are, without a doubt, among those who, like John Lennon, imagine that the world will, one day, live as one.