Overcoming Anti-Semitism With Music

Interview With the Davka Project

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ROME, JUNE 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- One way of educating and informing the public about Israel, Judaism and the threat of anti-Semitism is through music, according to the Davka Project.

Begun by two young Roman musicians, Maurizio di Veroli and Uri Baranes, the project is a musical group that performs in cultural centers, bars and local parishes.

ZENIT met with the performing duo at the entrance of the Synagogue of Rome, one of the oldest in Europe, to get to know them. Here their answers were culled.

Q: You have just given a recital in the Russian Ecumenical Center and the church of St. Anastasia, both in Rome. Do you feel accepted in Christian environments?

A: Indeed, we do, and we are often invited to oratories, parishes and churches. We realize that there is growing interest in the Jewish world, and in the Jewish community also; we perceive greater receptivity when explaining who we are.

Sometimes, if we are invited to a church’s parish premises, we are requested that the repertoire be exclusively religious, and we adapt ourselves. Our proposal, anyway, is precisely the combination between religious and profane music, in order to make Israel understood as much as possible.

Q: Do you think that with your musical proposal you will be able to overcome prejudices about Israel?

A: We hope so. We are sincerely worried by the increase of anti-Semitism, which is clothed in anti-Zionism, but which for us is not that different.

We began to reflect on what we could do to transmit greater knowledge about Israel, and as we are musicians, we decided on musical language.

There is a lot of misinformation about Israel and Jews in general, and this can generate feelings of hatred and repulsion. We have seen it for ourselves here in Rome, and it worries us.

We want our families and the people of Israel to know that there are individuals in the world who are trying to present Israel in a positive way.

Q: “From the Psalms to pop music” reads the posters for your recitals. Is it easy to jump from a biblical piece to a pop song in a few minutes?

A: For us, Israel is a mixture of religion, daily routine and history, and we want to have it perceived through music. Our recital is called “Tra Sacro e Profano” [Between the Sacred and the Profane], because we illustrate the reciprocal influence between Western and Jewish culture.

We have heard talk of the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe. Well, we are convinced about them, as well as about the influence of Europe in Israel, which we show through music.

Each piece is introduced with an explanation, and we give the public the transliteration of the texts (they are in Hebrew). We especially like to show how elements of the Middle Eastern tradition — “mizrachi” — coexist peacefully in the music of Israel, as in the piece “Le Orech ha Yam.”

We have inserted a piece, “Gam Gam,” taken from the Psalms, which became a success in its discotheque version. We like to insert pieces such as “Adon Olam,” a Sabbath Psalm, with folk pieces like “Yerushalaim Shel Zaav,” re-written after the Six-Day War. Our intention is to overcome mistrust through music, and we will go wherever there is a need.

[For more information, send a message to mdiveroli@mail.tim.it]

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