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by Laurie Ornstein

I'd like to share with you this time, an especially moving summer experience which took place in Rostrevor, Co. Down, N. Ireland where I was participating in Fiddler's Green Festival. I've always believed that music reaches out and sometimes crosses even barbed-wire borders; this proved to be true when one festival morning I met, sang and danced with a group of teenagers from Palestine and Ireland. The Irish Catholic and Protestant teenagers were from Dublin and Belfast. The Palestinian youth were from a Christian village near Jenin. These young adults were taking part in a workshop at the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation.

A field trip took them out of the classroom and onto the road. They'd traveled to Rostrevor to meet with Tommy Sands and his family. Tommy Sands is a singer, songwriter and peacemaker who has traveled long and far to perform in areas of conflict, including Israel and Palestine. I'd been invited to join them in Kilbroney Park for what turned out to be a most memorable morning.

In the park I encountered a "happening" on the hill, singing and dancing, drumming in different rhythms - a group of teens, from different backgrounds, enjoying a day out and having fun together. The Sands and I, and a few other festivalers, joined the gathering. Tommy spoke briefly with them before breaking into song with his troubadour family. Song led to song. We were also treated to some traditional Palestinian folksongs. And then I was asked up to the "stage" to sing a chorus and verse in Hebrew of "Sailing through the Sky". A while back I'd taken up Tommy's challenge to translate one of his songs; I was also introduced as an Israeli. Needless to say, the Palestinian kids were taken by surprise.

Afterwards, when we were all sung and danced out and before they boarded their bus, Father Fadi, the Palestinian minister and group leader, gathered his village teens into a circle where I sat and talked with them. We spoke mostly in English with some help from a translator. They told me a little about themselves and where they were from. I told them where I lived and what I do. We all agreed to try and meet again back "home". I knew this would be difficult but I was determined to make it happen.

It's September now and I'm home in the Negev. They are back home in their village in the northern West Bank. Barbed wire and a wall between us. Today I spoke with Father Fadi on the phone. The Palestinian youth cannot cross into Israel now. Neither can I travel to their village. However, at Christmas time, the Palestinians are freer to cross the border and travel and if all goes well, we'll meet and sing together then. Father Fadi and I are both keen to make that happen. Keep posted.

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