Jewish orchestra embraces Arab musicians to promote peace

Yamen Saadi, 17, a violinist who is Arab and Muslim, will be performing alongside Israeli Jewish musicians in Polyphony, an orchestra that promotes friendship through music. The orchestra will perform May 5 at the Episcopal School of Dallas.

Two of the remarkable 17-year-olds heading here are violinist Yamen Saadi, a Muslim Arab from Nazareth (being hugged in this picture by his Jewish friend Raz Zimour, who won’t be on this trip) and cellist Hagit Bar Sella, a Jewish Israeli from Harduf, a small kibbutz in the north of Israel.

The Polyphony Foundation sent Hagit to the United States with the Galilee Youth Quartet last year and will serve in the IDF’s Outstanding Musican Program next year. Yamen, who studies at Polyphony’s Nazareth Conservatory, previously traveled to the U.S. as part of Polyphony’s Youth Orchestra.

Each of them cherish the opportunity both for music and for friendship.

“Polyphony gives me the opportunity to make beautiful music with amazing people,” Hagit writes in an email. “These Arabs are what the media calls my enemy. They are not my enemy. They are some of my best friends. The music creates an environment for our relationships to flourish and communities to join together in a positive way.”

Yamen adds in an email: “Polyphony is my home and these musicians are my second family. I feel responsible to spread the message of hope, tolerance, and coexistence because of what I’ve learned here.”