In their concerts, Israeli folk singer Sara Alexander and Palestinian Imad Saleh symbolically achieve what years of political negotiation have not: the humanization and recognition of the opposition, whether Palestine or Israel. Making their first joint U.S. tour -- which began with Pete Seeger's Hudson River Revival Festival and will end in Arizona -- Alexander and Saleh appear tonight at George Washington University's Marvin Center, singing a program of Israeli and Palestinian folk music.
A guitarist and folk singer by training and profession, Alexander describes herself as "just a singer singing about the problems of the human family." For Saleh, a professor of sociology in France (the adopted home of both Alexander and Saleh), singing enables him "to feel his cultural identity." Together, they transcend the animosity that is their heritage. Says Seeger: "The fact that they can work together, face up to their historic past and find a meeting ground is spectacular." Kamal Bouletta, a lecturer at Georgetown University, an artist and a Palestinian, who will introduce the duo tonight, observes that "to sing to one's enemy, to the people on the other side of the barbed wire, and to listen to the other side" is an act of courage as well as a solution.
Singing in Hebrew, Arabic, French and English, the duo demonstrates the harmony attainable in a diversity of traditions. Alexander, for example, lends her voice and guitar to the lyrics of Palestinian poet and Israeli exile Mahmoud Darwish -- a poignant and artistic melding of two cultural traditions. They blend Hebrew and Arabic within one song; they put Middle Eastern words to a fundamentally Western instrument, the guitar; they stand together on stage -- singing for peace.