On April 20, 2015, Israeli singer-songwriter and musician Idan Raichel came to George Mason University Hillel for an intimate performance and conversation with students and community members. Below, student Jillian Gogel reflects on the experience.
You can't deny the powerful influence music has on our humanity. Whichever way we pick our poison, we are drawn to some underlying, unspoken truths that rest behind the rhythm and melody of a song in a fairly consistent way. You also can't deny that some musicians reach out in more profound ways than others, often seeking to engage listeners in important conversations on important topics or causes. What's most spectacular about the music scene, however, is the unconditional manner in which beautiful people of all shapes, sizes, attitudes, backgrounds, and cultures come together under the umbrella of the sounds, and how inequalities are unnecessary to produce masterpieces.
All music has the potential to create this united human force, but one musician in particular who I've seen reach great lengths in unifying a particularly conflicted collection of diverse peoples is Israeli singer Idan Raichel. With The Idan Raichel Project, the last 12 years have seen his rise to success and, more importantly in my opinion, a rise in the visibility of Israeli diversity. Not only are his songs enchanting, spiritual, and engaging, but they employ a wide range of cultures, represented in the lyrics, instrumentation, and Project members themselves. And why is this so spectacular? The hotly contested region of Israel & Palestine is home to a myriad of peoples both native to the land and resituated for various reasons from various countries, not all of whom always see eye to eye. While regional differences account for relational differences between different ethnic groups and peoples, it is likely that in any given part of the national region, some individuals will have problems with others. Idan and his Project have begun, ever since 2003, to break down some of these barriers and demonstrate time and time again the community and harmony that can be fostered from people originating from what otherwise might be vastly different lands. Idan's music is a living testimony to the unity of humanity even in dark times.
Idan Raichel poses with Mason Hillel students after the show.
Mason Hillel Executive Director Ross Diamond chats with Idan. Photos by MC Photography.
Considering his legacy throughout Israel, it was with great excitement that I attended Idan's intimate performance on Monday, April 20th in Corner Pocket. Although the venue was certainly no Masada, I was beyond thrilled when Ross Diamond, GMU's FANTASTIC Hillel director invited myself and two other friends to sit front row for what was still clearly going to be an incredible evening. I was not at all disappointed. As the experience progressed, Idan took time to give his audience very thoughtful answers to a series of questions both personal and professional...then of course rounded things out with a few of his most beloved songs. The performance may not have been one of his legendary Project's in its full 10-member glory, but I think most of those who were fortunate enough to attend that evening would still consider it to be something significant. I can only speak for myself, but given the nature of Idan's typical trajectory, I think that, even in that short hour, he managed to create a sense of unity among that ragtag group of GMU students, staff, and community members, well outside of the unusual dimensions. I think Idan continues to act as an ambassador of hope and a champion of diversity for a country of many perspectives, but I think that at the end of the day, through his powerful message, we all just head back to our amazingly simple human roots.
Jillian Gogel is a student at George Mason University.