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1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus

1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus

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From this formative life experience, Hendler decided to create a choir as a vehicle

for political dialogue between young Israelis and Palestinians between the ages of

14 and 18, from Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Jerusalem Youth Chorus is not the

first multi-lateral peace initiative that works with music in the context of the Middle

East Conflict. For example, in 1999, the late Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim

founded the famous West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a project that brings together

classical musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries (West-Eastern

Divan, 2013). Hendler has drawn inspiration from the work of the West-Eastern

Divan Orchestra, as well as Heartbeat Jerusalem, an initiative that combines rap

music and political dialogue (Heartbeat, 2014).

Working with slightly younger singers than Heartbeat Jerusalem and focusing on

different forms of performed music, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus describes its work

as follows:

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus incorporates proven strategies and considerations in its efforts to

empower through music, promote mutual understanding, and truly create a new community. It is

the only Israeli-Palestinian youth chorus in Jerusalem which combines music and dialogue in this

way. These strategies will allow the Jerusalem Youth Chorus to harness music’s power as a force

for change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the resulting expression of common ground has

the potential to change the public discourse about what is possible in its stead. (The Jerusalem

Youth Chorus, 2013a)



Beyond offering young people the opportunity to study music and train their voices,

the Jerusalem Youth Chorus places strong emphasis on political dialogue. During

rehearsals, the choir convenes for dialogue sessions that are run by external dialogue

facilitators. At the time of my research, Hendler, as the musical director, was not

taking part in these sessions, as he was concerned that this could make him biased

in his interaction with the singers. The interconnection between music and political

dialogue is of central interest here as the acknowledgement of music’s power as a

force for change. It suggests that music might have the potential to express truths

beyond the limits of modern language.

As a first step in my analysis of the choir, it seems important to clarify the level

on which the Jerusalem Youth has to be located in the transrational model. The

choir is an initiative, working with a rather random group of Israeli and Palestinian

high school students from various social backgrounds. The students attend different

schools in Jerusalem. Therefore, this peace initiative has to be placed primarily on a

grassroots level, perhaps with the exception of Micah Hendler, whom as the founder

I would situate on a middle-range leadership level, given his educational background

and the considerable public attention that he has received for his work. At the time

of my research, the choir had just begun its second year of working and it was still in

a process of professionalizing. Its outreach, therefore, was remarkable, considering

the rather short time period the project had existed. However its audiences usually

did not go far beyond the rather small but well visited concert hall at the Jerusalem

YMCA. The number of visitors at the concerts I attended ranged between 40 and

200 people.1

1



By 2015, one and a half years after the initial research, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus appeared on

several large television shows in the United States. Major newspapers, such as the New York Times

and the Washington Post, have written extensively about this peace initiative.



9.1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus



67



In the following sections, I will analyze the Jerusalem Youth Chorus through the

lens of the transrational model. I will begin with the mental-societal layer that I have

already defined as often being at the source of dualistic thinking. Also in the context

of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus this is where the episode of the Middle East Conflict

is strongly rooted.



9.1.1 Mental-Societal Disturbances: Ceci n’est pas une Guitare!

Different understandings of peace, specifically modern and moral notions peace,

shape the reality of the Middle East Conflict. This has been a preliminary theoretical

assumption, when I defined my entry point in the first part of this thesis. During

my research with the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, this preliminary assumption was

solidified, as I will show in this chapter by giving two particularly clear examples.

After I had attended some rehearsals at the beginning of my research about the

Jerusalem Youth Chorus, Micah Hendler invited me to join the group for two concerts. The first was held at the concert hall of the YMCA in West-Jerusalem. It was

perceived well by the audience and seen as a success by the group. We spent the

break in a park nearby and ordered pizza. By now, the singers had started to get used

to my presence and some of them were showing interest in the research that I was

doing and we engaged in lively conversations. As we were sitting in this park, waiting for our pizza, I conducted some rather informal interviews, inquiring about the

primary themes in the singers’ daily experience of conflict. To me it was important

to keep the flow of conversation as ‘natural’ as possible in order to receive responses

that were authentic. Amongst the Israeli singers, the narrative about the conflict almost exclusively started with the primary theme of security, as they were telling me

stories of them evacuating their classrooms and hiding bunkers when the sirens were

sounding over Jerusalem. From their stories, I could tell that such experiences have

functioned as strong unifying moments. The perceived external threat of Palestinian

rockets flying towards Jerusalem created a strong ‘we’ feeling amongst their friends

and classmates and therefore the emotions that were attached to this experience of

insecurity were rather positive.

I had not realized, but the group divided itself during the interview session. While

standing in a circle with six or seven Israeli singers, the Palestinians had initiated a

circle and started singing Palestinian heritage songs. They were clapping, dancing

and laughing to the sounds of the darbuka–an Arab drum. After a while, Micah

joined our circle, apologized for interrupting, and asked the Israeli singers to join the

Palestinian group. When I interviewed him about this particular situation the other

day he explained, “This is precisely not what this is supposed to be. This is about

having a dialogue and about forming a group that is transcending the categories,

which usually divide them” (Hendler, personal interview, October 29, 2013). Indeed,

during my time with the choir I observed plenty of situations where ethno-political

differences had disappeared almost completely from the episode of the conflict. This

certainly was the case, when the Jerusalem Youth Chorus was giving concerts and



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also during rehearsals when the shared purpose of the group was standing in the

foreground. Also, in many situations, people resonate with one another on different

layers that are only vaguely connected to the mental-societal layers of conflict, in

which strong categories of belonging are constructed and communities are imagined

(Anderson, 1991; Dietrich, 2015). In this situation, however, there was dissonance.

The Israeli singers were extremely hesitant, when asked to join the Palestinian circle. I asked one of them why they were distancing themselves from their colleagues

so suddenly and she answered, “We cannot resonate to the rhythm of the darbuka

and the sound of their Arab songs. We neither understand their language [Arabic]

nor their music”. This was a key moment in my research. While I was enjoying the

sound of the darbuka, as it reminded me of home, I experienced evidence for more

than one year of theoretical research: What the Palestinian singers and I perceived

as harmonic felt extremely dissonant for many of the Israeli singers. For some, this

dissonance was so strong that they did not only express their dislike for the music

but that they were indeed not able to resonate to its sounds at all. This social barrier

was remarkably strong in that moment and can be seen as a signifier of Norbert

Koppensteiner’s interpretation of Gianni Vattimo’s weak thinking. In this moment, I

started to understand on a deeper level that sound, like truth, indeed has many meanings which are weak, subjective and contextual and heard differently by everyone.

It is difficult to explain in words how I felt in this moment. I wrote in my journal,

“My entire chest was vibrating as I was standing in the midst of the musicians. I

am most grateful for this moment, as reality taught me something that I could not

have understood behind a wall of books in a library.” This spontaneous, improvised

music that carried truths about Palestinian identity was a perfect example of vernacular music and its high potential for elicitive conflict transformation. It conveys

truths that resonate deeply within the singers and the audience alike, as though they

could not be separated in this moment. The strong resistance of the Israeli singers,

which I interpret as the result of a perceived anomie, suggests a deep, transrational

resonance that with modern language alone would be unspeakable. During that vernacular moment, in the midst of this park in Jerusalem it was impossible to hide

one’s truths behind any predetermined lyrics.

After Hendler had intervened in this situation, he asked the group to walk to another spot in the park and they started to rehearse a new song, which was neither

in Arabic nor in Hebrew. With this change of music and environment the dynamics

changed and tensions decreased. The reasons for this sudden outbreak of conflict in

the group are certainly many and it seems pointless to identify random root causes

for it. The fact, however, that the ability to resonate to those sounds depended on

national identity suggests that those categories are so strong that they create divides

among people that can hardly be bridged by an intervention on the mental-societal

layers alone as they are experienced as absolute. In that moment, it seemed impossible to relate to one another any longer, even in the context of the Jerusalem Youth

Chorus, a group in which the people know each other very well.

The singers of the Jerusalem Youth have grown up in a social space that involves

high levels of state violence. However, along the lines of Munir Fasheh (2011) and

Marc Ellis (2000), I assume that they carry with them different experiences that



9.1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus



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are deeply ingrained on the transrational layers of conflict that arguably remain untouched by modern language. Their narratives about peaces are based on moral and

modern discourses about justice and security. In rational debate, they often do not

meet and everything beyond the mental-societal layers remains untouched by such

discussion. This example of perceived anomie towards Palestinian music can be seen

as a signifier of this insight.

What is remarkable in that example is that the understanding of harmony in the

situation I just described no longer draws on a plurality of truths. Modern peace,

which is drawing on the primary theme of security, is set forth here and causes a shift

on the opposite side of the transrational model. Harmony then becomes an exclusive

category that draws on a singular notion of truth. Such exclusive understandings of

truth discourses either clash, or simply become unspeakable. Such unspeakability

can certainly be found in the case of the Middle East Conflict, which has lasted for

generations and if expressed on the episode of moral and modern peaces, they are

singular as they represent the primary themes of security and justice. It seems that

anomic situations can be experienced when truth discourses happen in parallel.

As we were about to leave the park to go to the next conference venue, a backpacker approached the group. He had heard about the choir and desired to support

the initiative by offering his guitar to the singers as a gift, telling them that he had

too much luggage for his journey home to Germany. Most of the Palestinian singers

seemed to be happy about the gift, while some of the Israelis were getting nervous

and worried because they believed that the guitar could be a bomb. This idea was

very strange to me. For me the item at stake very obviously was a guitar and the idea

of it being a potential threat had not even crossed my mind. After some intense discussion with their Palestinian colleagues they insisted on bringing it to the security

guards and the guitar was not seen again.

As irrational as this situation might sound to somebody who has not been socialized in Israeli society, the feelings and emotions of the singers in this situation were

real. They were not trying to dramatize anything but rather expressing their very

strong truths about the reality, as they perceived it – a reality that was completely

different from mine. In this particular situation, it was clear to me that a long rational

argument about the instrument would probably be counter-productive. While there

certainly was a real chance of the guitar being a bomb, it was, rationally speaking

a very unlikely event, with a probability close to zero, if one calculates the total

number of guitars in Israel and Palestine and compares them against the number of

bombs being concealed as guitars. Reflecting about this situation, Alfred Korzybsky’s quote “[t]he map is not the territory” (Korzybsky, as quoted in Fontan, 2012:

28), which I have already discussed in the theoretical part of this book, came to my

mind. It was an impressive reminder of one of the core assumptions of transrational

peace philosophy: reality always unfolds from the perspective of the beholder. As

much as there are many peaces and not one universal peace (Dietrich, 2012: 2; Dietrich and Săutzl, 2006: 282ff.), there is also not a single definition of what a guitar is

but many. The interpretation of reality is always a result of how we perceive it subjectively and all layers of the persona feed into its perception. Positivist judgments

about reality are not helpful for transrational peace research. Dietrich (2013: 227)



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writes, “Given that external conflicts have internal counterparts, any positivistic survey of a world thought of as objective will remain insufficient.” My interpretation of

the guitar being a guitar here certainly was insufficient and ultimately an impressive

reminder of the need of being aware of my own inner layers, how they have shaped

me and the ways in which I perceive and filter reality and how this differs from

others. In modern state conflicts that so often evolve around the primary theme of

security, the abstraction that leads to perceived insecurity seems to be rooted on the

mental layer. This is where the abstraction of an Other is made, while the feelings

and emotions, which we will rather find on the socio-emotional layers, are feeding

into that reality.



9.1.2 Imagining and Experiencing Home on the Social-Communal

Layers

At the time of my research the Jerusalem Youth Chorus was rehearsing and performing Phillip Phillip’s song Home. A primary reason as to why I decided to focus on

this song in this section is that I found this carefully designed American Idol winning

pop song, to be an example for recorded and universalized music per excellence.

Performed by a choir in the midst of the Middle East Conflict and its very specific

cultural contexts it seems particularly interesting for my inquiry. Introducing such

music to the Middle East Conflict certainly raises critical questions. Particularly,

I wonder why Palestinian and Israeli singers should be singing such universalized

music, where their own cultural contexts are so rich in musical traditions.

Certainly, the concept of home is particularly contested in the city of Jerusalem,

as many Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Jews are claiming the city as

their home. Other reasons why I have decided to discuss Phillip Phillip’s song Home

in depth are, first because its sounds resonated deeply with me when I first listened

to them. Having lived a nomadic life as a scholar of Peace and Conflict Studies

for a rather long period of time and having found myself confronted with personal

identity conflicts throughout my life, I can relate to the question of where and what

home was and is. Another reason for selecting that specific song is because I find

the question of home as central to transrational peace and conflict research more

broadly. It certainly touches on several layers of the transrational model However,

before I go into any further interpretations of the song, I invite you to not only read

the following lines but to listen to Audio Track 1: Home (old version)2 :



2



Audio Tracks 1-4 can be found online at http://adhamhamed.com/books.



9.1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus



71



Hold on to me as we go

As we roll down this unfamiliar road

And although this wave keeps stringing us along

Know you’re not alone

‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.

Settle down, it’ll all be clear

Don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear

Trouble it might drag you down

If you get lost you can always be found

Know you’re not alone

’Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.

(The Jerusalem Youth Chorus, 2013b)

What meaning do you give to these words as a reader and listener to this sounds?

Which lines of the lyrics and which tunes resonate with you? Certainly your interpretation of and experience listening to the song will differ from mine. This audio

record is not more than a reflection of a long-gone past, a snapshot of a momentary

social embeddedness of some musicians repeating the lyrics of an American idol

winning artist, in that case Phillip Phllips, in the context of a long lasting, yet constantly changing, conflict. It is a record of performed music and an attempt to make

sound universally available. Yet, it does not fully reflect the reality as the musicians

of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus and their audience experienced it at the moment the

song was recorded.

Microphones that were positioned in a very specific constellation in a space captured the sounds. A different formation of the recording devices may have changed

the quality of the record. Hence, the perspective of the modern audience is determined by the frame of the static positioning of the microphones, by the quality and

editing of the recording and finally by the quality of the audio device that you are

using as you are listening to this audio track. While in a live concert the listener is

relatively free to move and position him-/herself in the room, recorded music takes

this element of self-agency away from the modern consumer. As you are listening

to this piece of music you cannot get more than a static glimpse of a long gone past,

yet again each time you play it, it is the absolute reference point for creating reality anew. At this point the element of self-agency kicks back in. While the spiritual

dimension of the moment in the past might get lost in recorded music, the audio

device of course can facilitate new spiritual experiences that are connected with this

recorded moments in the past.3 Each time one listens to the record a new reality in

its full complexity can unfold itself to the beholder, penetrating all layers of conflict.

This demonstrates how recorded music can be universalized but never universal. It

is always subject to the beholders interpretation, hence one’s own embeddedness

in a social system as a conflicting actor. Paradoxically the modern achievement of

3



For plenty of examples see Dietrich (2013: 54ff.) The use of evocative music in the elicitive method

of Holotropic Breathwork gives an interesting example for how recorded music can facilitate spiritual

experiences. For further reading also see Walch (2009: 11ff.).



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recorded music breaks away from linear understandings of social time by connecting

the complexity of the ‘here and now’ to what has long gone by making a recorded

frequency from the past available in all moments anew. In her book bilder ohne

wirklichket4 Daniela Ingruber (2011: 55ff.) follows a similar line of argumentation

when focusing on the realities that are constructed and conveyed through different

forms of photography.

Depending on who one is at a given moment, the sounds will resonate differently.

Your perceived harmony might be my perceived dissonance and vice-versa. Resonances are always an integral part of one’s ongoing process of becoming, forming

personae time and again anew. One cannot hear the same sound twice. I mean that

both in a physical and in a social sense; however, the latter is of relevance for the interest of this study. Depending on who you were a couple of moments ago, you will

have perceived this piece of music in a certain way. The sounds will have resonated

in you, hence transformed you, in some way. There is no way not to resonate and if

you have the feeling that this music has not done anything with you then also that in

itself is ‘something’. For example, with the transrational model, I would suggest that

it perhaps has caused resonances on layers of your persona that you are currently not

conscious of. If you push the play button once more now and listen to the song again

you will resonate differently. As a sound body and a conflicting actor in the Middle

East Conflict, no matter how far away the Middle East might be for you, both geographically and socially, these sounds from Jerusalem necessarily will have changed

you. From the perspective of ECM, these changes find their correspondences in political realities on inter-personal layers as well (UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies,

2014d).

During my research, I had the chance to be part of some rehearsals and concerts

of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus. The sounds of the choir have become part of my

becoming as a resonating, hence transforming, sound body. I had the privilege to

not only listen to a modern record of the chorus but also fully be part of a vibrant

and conflictive space. When I first had the chance to listen to the sounds of Home I

was attending a rehearsal at the YMCA in West-Jerusalem. I was sitting in a corner

of the room, silently taking notes about the choir. I had just met the director Micah

Hendler for the first time, after he had invited me to visit the rehearsal. As the singers

were warming up their voices, Micah was talking to the group in English and Arabic, “Do whatever feels natural to you. Really enjoy it!” In his facilitation Micah

was permanently skipping from one language to the other. At first that seemed to be

a bit confusing, however, soon I understood that this was not only a sign of appreciation for the Palestinian singers but indeed a communicative necessity, as a part of

the group only spoke Arabic. When I interviewed him after the rehearsal, Micah explained to me that it was important to him that the singers convey the messages that

concern them, their truths - whatever they might be – through their singing (Hendler,

personal interview, October 29, 2013).

So what is the significance of the lyrics of Home in the context of the Jerusalem

Youth Chorus? Asked about his interpretation Hendler told me that for him the

4



pictures without reality (my own translation)



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meaning is twofold. On the one hand it can be Jerusalem, on the other hand it can

be the choir. While the citizens of Jerusalem at best constitute an imagined community (Anderson, 1991), the Jerusalem Youth Chorus is a very real community,

in which all members actually know each other on a personal level. Beyond knowing each other, they resonate with each other very directly and physically when they

sing together. It seems that the act of singing together, in a city where encounters between different ethno-political groups are few, carries a potential of breaking with

the modern dichotomies that are constructed through imagined communities. It is

one of the main ideas of his project to envision how Jerusalem, a city that has been

a contested home for so many decades and centuries could be different, from within

the micro-cosmos he has created together with his singers, in the midst of Jerusalem

and in the midst of violent conflict (Hendler, personal interview, October 29, 2013).

As Othering happens on the mental-societal layers, it makes sense from a transrational perspective to create spaces where community can be discovered also beyond

the mental-societal layers and where the perceived Other gets a voice, a story and

a narrative. If indeed it is possible to create a home, or in the words of John Paul

and Angela Jill Lederach a container, there seems to lay a considerable potential for

conflict transformation. Lederach and Lederach write,

safety is not only finding a way to assure physical security but also expresses the search to find

a way to feel at home in the world, to feel once again a sense of being surrounded by love and

acceptance, such that it is possible to trust oneself, one’s immediate family, others and the wider

social landscape. [...] Security as feeling at home suggests spatial metaphors of feeling comfortably surrounded, having a container in which one feels a sense of belonging and trust. SAFETY

IS CONTAINER suggests the idea of feeling surrounded by acceptance and protection, a space

where it is possible to be oneself, devoid of threat and to get on with living life without fear. These

spatial metaphors point towards a notion of being encircled in the sense of being held, pointing

towards notions of container as community and family. (Lederach and Lederach, 2010: 64)



From this perspective, Hendler’s intervention on the socio-emotional level seems

wise and according to the principles of ECM logical: If it is possible to create a

feeling of safety in a micro-cosmos, in the midst of Jerusalem, then there is good

reason to assume that such may find a correspondence in the larger reality, the city

of Jerusalem and ultimately the Middle East Conflict.

The music of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus falls under the category of performed

music. In many ways, one can argue, that this is prescriptive and limits the potentials for conflict transformation as opposed to vernacular music. This concern is

fair. However, if music is understood as a means to create spaces and facilitate dialogue between different parties, who often meet the Other for the first time and if

communication skills are being trained through music, performed music seems to

carry a considerable amount of potential for conflict transformation. Also Hendler

expressed that he hopes to slowly integrate more and more vernacular elements into

his work yet believes that a solid musical training of his singers is foundational before doing so.

The disturbances on the mental-societal layers and the clear facilitation effort that

explicitly focuses on the socio-emotional layers are rather obvious. Beyond that it is

important to also consider the sexual-family and the spiritual-policitary layers and



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how they have an impact on the episode and their potential for conflict transformation. This will be subject to the following two sections.

At the first rehearsal I attended, I was still trying to find my place in the rehearsal

room when I realized that there were clear disturbances in the group that made it difficult for the singers to focus on the music. I particularly took notice of a Palestinian

boy and three Israeli girls. Instead of focusing on the rehearsal they were giggling,

whispering and trying to establish eye contact with one another. The reasons for this

disturbance on the episode of course could be many. Certainly it is not my intention

to fall into a psychoanalytical trap of ‘expert’ analysis here. I am not a psychoanalyst, nor do I believe that the potential for implicit violence of Freudian analysis is in

any way helpful for elicitive conflict transformation. However, the singer’s behavior

reminded me of my own years as a teenager, therefore I felt that I could personally

relate to the group dynamics. The singers are between 14 and 18 years old. This is

a phase in life when sexuality appears a lot on the episode of a youth becoming an

adult’s reality and I certainly was not an exception to that when I was in a similar

age. Hence, I felt like I was able to relate to the unrests in the group and I interpreted them as flirts and the expression of burning sexual energy that was boiling

right underneath the surface of the episode of this group. I would dare to suggest

that even though the Jerusalem Youth Chorus is not explicitly facilitating spaces

on the sexual-family layers there might be a particularly high potential for conflict

transformation. Certainly, in the context of a group of such young people, this is a

potential that has to be dealt with extremely carefully by the facilitator, keeping in

mind that it can manifest itself either way, constructively or destructively (UNESCO

Chair for Peace Studies, 2014g). The social environment in a city that is a meltingpot of the three large monotheistic religions and is shaped by the strong truths of

rather strict moral codes of conduct, certainly raises serious ethical questions about

how to provide a framework that allows this potential to manifest itself–or not. On

the facilitator’s side this would certainly require a strong awareness about his own

sexual and familiar layers of conflict. While the facilitator necessarily has sexual

phantasies it is key to provide a space in which the singers can safely discover new

courses of action, meaning that selective authenticity is key (Cohn and Schonbar,

1966).

From my observations, it seems difficult to make a general judgment about the

potential for conflict transformation on the inter-personal family layer. From my interviews with Hendler, I would argue that particularly in cases, in which singers

come from dysfunctional family systems the choir could potentially function as a

family in a social sense. However, the main transformative potential certainly remains on the socio-emotional layer.



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9.1.3 Sexual Energy: An Implicit Potential for Conflict

Transformation

At the first rehearsal I attended, I was still trying to find my place in the rehearsal

room when I realized that there were clear disturbances in the group that made it difficult for the singers to focus on the music. I particularly took notice of a Palestinian

boy and three Israeli girls. Instead of focusing on the rehearsal they were giggling,

whispering and trying to establish eye contact with one another. The reasons for this

disturbance on the episode of course could be many. Certainly it is not my intention

to fall into a psychoanalytical trap of ‘expert’ analysis here. I am not a psychoanalyst, nor do I believe that the potential for implicit violence of Freudian analysis is in

any way helpful for elicitive conflict transformation. However, the singer’s behavior

reminded me of my own years as a teenager, therefore I felt that I could personally

relate to the group dynamics. The singers are between 14 and 18 years old. This is

a phase in life when sexuality appears a lot on the episode of a youth becoming an

adult’s reality and I certainly was not an exception to that when I was in a similar

age. Hence, I felt like I was able to relate to the unrests in the group and I interpreted them as flirts and the expression of burning sexual energy that was boiling

right underneath the surface of the episode of this group. I would dare to suggest

that even though the Jerusalem Youth Chorus is not explicitly facilitating spaces

on the sexual-family layers there might be a particularly high potential for conflict

transformation.5 Certainly, in the context of a group of such young people, this is a

potential that has to be dealt with extremely carefully by the facilitator, keeping in

mind that it can manifest itself either way, constructively or destructively (UNESCO

Chair for Peace Studies, 2014g). The social environment in a city that is a meltingpot of the three large monotheistic religions and is shaped by the strong truths of

rather strict moral codes of conduct, certainly raises serious ethical questions about

how to provide a framework that allows this potential to manifest itself - or not. On

the facilitator’s side this would certainly require a strong awareness about his own

sexual and familiar layers of conflict. While the facilitator necessarily has sexual

phantasies it is key to provide a space in which the singers can safely discover new

courses of action, meaning that selective authenticity is key (Cohn and Schonbar,

1966).

From my observations, it seems difficult to make a general judgment about the

potential for conflict transformation on the inter-personal family layer. From my interviews with Hendler, I would argue that particularly in cases, in which singers

come from dysfunctional family systems the choir could potentially function as a

family in a social sense. However, the main transformative potential certainly remains on the socio-emotional layer.



5



For several examples about the potential of sexuality in elicitive conflict transformation see Dietrich

(2015: 155ff.).



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9.1.4 Another Level of Dialogue: Vernacular Moments and

Spiritual Potential

While at the time of research the Jerusalem Youth Chorus was largely working with

performed music, Hendler was also sometimes experimenting with vernacular elements. My research about the Jerusalem Youth Chorus has not demonstrated a path

for how spiritual potentials can be elicited. However, the rare vernacular moments

that I have witnessed during the work of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus suggest that

vernacular music carries a particularly strong potential for transcending the borders

of the personal self. One such moment was when the choir was standing in a circle

and singing individual sounds as a warm-up exercise. While they were singing, they

were listening intensely to their own and their fellow singers’ voices. As they were

singing they were also slowly moving their bodies and their many voices formed one,

larger, sound that filled the entire rehearsal room and that in a way was enclosing the

group. For me this exemplified the notion of the ‘care of the self’. This seems particularly important as a bodily awareness and discovery of the qualities of one’s own

resonances is key if music shall carry the potentiality to elicit unspeakable truths.

The above-mentioned vernacular moment, when the Palestinians were singing

Palestinian heritage songs to the rhythm of the darbuka, is of particular interest

here, due to the feeling of anomie that was triggered in some of their fellow Israeli singers. Hendler, for his very own good reasons, decided to intervene in this

situation and shifted the topic by singing another song at another spot in the park.

However, at least from a theoretical perspective, it would have been highly interesting to inquire deeper into that strong dissonance and uncover the layers on which a

resonance is possible. For example, this could have happened through inviting the

Israeli singers to sing their own vernacular songs and to listen into the tension and

work with the ‘elephant in the room’ in the moment the dissonance expresses itself.

I would suggest that this vernacular music then would carry a potential for conflict

transformation. Certainly this requires a lot from the facilitator and also not every

place and moment is right for that.

At the time of my research, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus explicitly distinguished

between music and dialogue sessions. While Hendler, as the founder and director of

the choir, was responsible of the overall organization and the artistic quality as the

main facilitator, external dialogue facilitators joined the group explicitly for these

sessions once a week, yet they usually did not attend the rehearsals. When conflicts came up during the week the singers were asked to raise them in the dialogue

sessions. From a perspective of elicitive conflict transformation it makes sense to

have such an explicit dialogue framework. Certainly political dialogue is crucial but

rather as an addition to the music framework as I have argued above, with Brenner,

Dietrich and Said, that all music carries the potential of being political. Therefore,

from an elicitive perspective, this separation raises doubts also because the potential

to convey unspeakable truths lays precisely in artistic forms of expression, in our

case music.



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1 Where Strong Truths Crack: The Jerusalem Youth Chorus

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