By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)
The Arab-Israeli conflict is as controversial an issue as ever. There are those who think the Jewish people have a historical and Biblical right to the land; there are those who are disgusted by the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and rally for the Palestinian cause; there are those who make their points politically, and others theologically. And then there are some who are seeking to bring peace between Arab and Israelis through music. Meet Orphaned Land.
Orphaned Land is an Israeli progressive folk metal band formed in 1991. Musically and lyrically, they draw much influence from Jewish and Arabian sources. Though none of the band members identify as religious, their lyrics are very religious, promoting a unique blend of tolerance. They sing in Hebrew, Arabic, and English and quote from religious texts in their lyrics. Through their musical style and message they promote their belief that the three Abrahamic religions are essentially the same. Even though they have different stories and traditions, they all worship the same God. Instead of being a cause of war and discord, the three major religions should unite in peace because they are all united in their religion.
With each subsequent album their message of tolerance and peace has become more explicit, culminating in their upcoming release, entitled “All is One.” The cover art for this album features the religious symbols of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity juxtaposed over each other in perfect harmony. Furthermore, this album feature a song entitled “Brother” in which Isaac, representing Judaism, sings a tender song of friendship to Ishmael, representing Islam.
Commenting on this song, lead singer Kobi Farhi said, “An interesting point is that on (sic) the Jewish bible there is a story where Abraham took Itshak (Isaac) to the mountain to sacrifice him to God. Muslims have the same exact story, but on (sic) their version it was Ishmael on the mountain, everyone shape history according to his own version and we have conflicts even on that (sic) oldest stories, just as if we were two kids in a fight. And therefore there is a line in the song says: ‘The lord blessed us both, but we still fight and claim, that kid on the mountain – what was his name.’… Brother is a love song for a forgotten beloved brother who turned to be a blood enemy. …We are not taking any sides as musicians, we just tell a story, and we decided to be the first grown up brother in this story and ask: ‘Forgive me, brother.’ Mainly because being mature and grown up sometime means that you can say you’re sorry, even if it’s not only your fault.”
Though Orphaned Land’s message is not cutting edge in our pluralistic world, it cannot be denied that their music is creating unlikely friends. Though they are an Israeli band, they have a large Arab following. They are unable to perform in these restricted nations because they are Israeli, yet their music has been disseminated via the internet and they have a large following. They were even featured on the cover of Iranian metal magazine, Divan. Furthermore, they have been able to perform in Turkey and in February 2012, they gave the proceeds from their Istanbul show to help the victims of the Van earthquake. Their music and message is not only attractive to the Middle East as well. They have fans worldwide. They just completed a South American tour and will be starting a European tour in August.
Due to the great impact Orphaned Land has had on their fans, there is currently a petition going around to nominate them for a Nobel Peace Prize. The petition currently has 2,627 signatures from people all over the world. A signer from Brazil, Douglas Oliveira, commented on why Orphaned Land should get a Nobel Prize: “For their amazing use of art to mediate conflicts, this group has shown that cultural differences can be solved with culture itself.”
Orphaned Land sees music rather than politics as being the key to peace amidst the conflict. Last week, they posted the following on their Facebook page: “It’s a well known fact that Orphaned Land devotedly speak about the power of music to turn supposed enemies into friends, amongst others by strongly encouraging collaborations with artists from different cultural and religious backgrounds. On the ‘All is One’ tour, for the very first time, you will see bands from Israel, Palestine, Jordan and France all together as one, proving that music is the only voice of hope that can bring people together.”
Regardless of one’s religious or political views, one cannot deny that what Orphaned Land is doing is inspiring. Yet does music have the power to bring change to a whole region? Can a message of pluralism—a message proclaiming that they all worship the same God—bring peace? Though pluralism seeks to be inclusive to everybody, it is actually alienating to those who believe orthodox and fundamental beliefs—to those who believe their religion is exclusively right. As Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have common roots, there is much common ground for dialogue and bridge-building. Yet we must seek to build bridges not only among religious liberals but also with religious conservatives who hold to exclusive religious beliefs. Though I believe full peace will not be achieved until Christ returns, thoughtful interfaith dialogue and friendship that engages religious conservatives as well as liberals and progressives, is needed for a deeper measure of peace.