Today begins at the more respectable hour of 10 o’clock and our first meeting of the day is with Miri Ziv of the Israeli Cancer Association at the Eretz Israel Museum Coffee Shop in Tel Aviv. Shlomo drives us to the meeting and we spend a lunchtime connecting with Miri and hear all about the marvellous work conducted in Israel by the ICA. Dr. Amal and Prof. Brautbar both spoke very highly of Miri’s work and acknowledged that she organised some of the initial funding used to set up the Arab Donor Registry. We speak of ways that we can all benefit from working together in the coming months as we prepare a fund-raising event here in the Holy Land. From Tel Aviv, we head back to Jerusalem. Israel is a small country and you cannot really drive for more than three hours in any one direction without coming to the sea or a border. It is barely one hour between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by car. To us it is nothing but to the locals it is the equivalent of travelling from London to Edinburgh or from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are two very different cities indeed. Tel Aviv is modern and alive with youth, technology and modern architecture. Jerusalem is steeped in history almost as old as the world itself. Upon arrival, we rendezvous with American Film maker Russ Kendall and cameraman Brendan Christensen who will be joining Jules and I for the rest of our mission. We meet on a street near the heart of the city just outside the location for the Western Wall aka The Wailing Wall. It is here, on the Temple Mount, that the religions of the world converge, all emanating in their own different ways from the same foundation stone and born of the same father. It is a fascinating and divine place to visit. To enter we have to separate and walk in via both male only and female only entrance points. I am not allowed to bring my guitar into the Western Wall although the security guard offers to look after it for me, along with the Arabic donor drive poster that I have in the guitar case which I am definitely not allowed to bring with me. I hear voices and accents from all over the world here, American, British, Australian, Polish and Japanese. It is a Friday and there are many Jewish men and women saying prayers at the wall. Again, Jules and I have to go to the wall separately as it is one side for men and another for women. I have to cover my head with a yarmulke and as I get close to the wall I hear the sounds of wailing from individuals lost in prayer, other men rock and forth in religious ecstasy and others write prayers onto pieces of paper and stuff them into the cracks of the ancient walls. I catch a glimpse of Jules on the other side of the divide in the women’s section and above her the Dome of The Rock, (which is as sacred to the m]Muslims as the wall is to the Jews), stands tall. What an experience.
From the Western Wall, we gather up my guitar and head into the Jewish Quarter of the old city and from there we travel through narrow stone streets and alleyways with shops quarried into the stones on either side and soon find ourselves in the Muslim Quarter. From there we walk to the Christian Quarter. It is fascinating and intellectually challenging as you walk in the proximity of so much visible faith in something so strong, yet divided by the interpretation of human beings who live so close yet so far away from each other. You have to see it to believe it and always the feeling that leaves you with less answers and more and more questions.
I receive a text from a very famous and important Israeli artist / musician named Aviv Geffen who has arranged a recording session for me back in Tel Aviv at Bardo studios for 8 o’clock so we must leave soon. Russ wants to take Jules and I to the Mount of Olives to se the view of the city. We drive with our facilitator and driver Lior Sabban high up above Jerusalem looking back into the sun that beats down on the ancient buildings. Russ takes us to the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies which overlooks the Golden City through giant windows. It is run by members of the Mormon faith, and students from all over the world come here to study the gospel stories and teachings of the Bible. It is prayer time in the city and the sound of the call to prayer echoes above the cities rooftops. It’s a fascinating noise. The study center itself takes a neutral position on all things middle eastern and in their own words, there to help “create light not heat”, which is a wonderful phrase to sum up our own Love Hope Strength – Mission to Israel.
From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is not long by car and we are soon outside Bardo studios meeting with Jonathan Kossov the recording engineer. I explain what I want to do and I am soon all mic’d up and ready to rock and roll. The red recording light goes on and I count myself in to the performance of ‘Peace Agreement’ (which I get in the first take which is always a good sign).
At the playback, I am joined by Hillel Wachs from 2BVibes music. Hillel is an Israeli music promoter and imparts to me a lot of wisdom about the stance some artists have taken over performing in the Middle East which basically means that some do and some don’t. All my experiences are telling me that the situation here is not as black and white as it appears in the news media.. There is so much positive energy, and a willingness for peace that is being generated by people on all sides that is just not coming across from a media, generally obsessed with clashes and conflict. I am more convinced than ever that our mission to help save lives by supporting the Hadassah Registry can only serve to amplify the positive that is there for all to see. Especially to those who come here and are prepared to look.
The session is made complete with one final vocal overdub from our grouping of individuals united by the cause to save lives. This is our mission.
Mike Peters 2013