Art is said to connect people, but that hasn't been proven often enough in the Middle East. Apart from a few flickers here and there, a steady continuity of artistic collaborations between Jews and Arabs has not been preserved.
The 2011 Speaking Arts Conference, which was held in Jerusalem last week, attempted to bring together dozens of Jewish and Palestinian artists involved in performing arts (music, theater and movement). The conference featured open performances, workshops and mater classes held in a variety of auditoriums across the city.
The music workshops were led by musician and composer Sameer Makhoul, and the opening concert at the Masie House Theater Center was presented by Achinoam Nini and Gili Dor, with Arab dancer Mona Mashi'l.
Nini and Dor also hosted a master class, in which they discussed their creation process throughout the years.
"It doesn't happen enough," says Nini, also known by her professional name Noa. "Not just in Israel
but in the world too. It's very hard to hold such events despite the fact that we are artists and that such connections should hover over everything.
"But you know how it is – many times politics interferes in people's considerations, both each person's politics and the political opinions of the macro and micro groups, and then things stop."
Because people are afraid as well.
"Or concerned about their career, their status within their society. It can also reach personal safety and very radical places, especially in our region.
"I have experienced many projects in the world which could have been wonderful but were stopped following pressures and threats, fears on the other side that the umbilical cord they suck on all year will be cut off.
"Personally, I received threats years ago, when I started talking about politics and saying everything clearly and not politically correct. So my life was threatened and my house was guarded."
And you moved on.
"Right. That's not something that would make me stop. I performed in the Eurovision with (Israeli Arab singer) Mira Awad. Times
have changed too. Once one would go to jail for meeting with Palestinians, and today the prime minister meets with Palestinian. Naturally, there are serious differences of opinion, but things can already be said differently.
"Let’s think positive, this conference is happening. We assembled a plan from a wide range of material, and yesterday we saw Mona for the first time. She's an extraordinary story. A 20-year-old medical student, a dancer and an excellent singer. It's a lot of fun."
Several days ago, Nini returned from India with Mira Awad, after the duo received a surprising invitation to perform in an economic conference in Goa.
"Words cannot describe just how amazing it was. People from all over the world, artists. It was very artistic. They found us there through the Internet and asked us to come. We had four concerts in Delhi, together and separately."
So you've opened a new channel.
"Absolutely, and I plan to continue. This year we've been both in India and in China. I told Mira that the next stop may be Antarctica. In the meantime, I have a whole month of Jerusalem."