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David Broza

East Jerusalem West Jerusalem

2015 Film

“He did more for the Middle East peace process in eight days than Secretary of State John Kerry has done in two years. ” – Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair

“The film is hopeful, honest and unexpectedly powerful…” – Jessica Steinberg, Times of Israel

“At a time when Israel and Palestine seem as hopelessly divided as ever, the documentary shows how artistry can wrestle with heavy societal themes to inspire personal, soul-stirring music.” – Zack Sharf, IndieWire

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FE: For reasons that resonate with a great number of socially and politically engaged people, the cultural boycott of Israel has encouraged artists and intellectuals to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” As an Israeli artist, how do you feel about this, and what do you say to those artists who would refuse to perform in Israel for political and humanitarian reasons?


DB: I have an issue with the principle of 'boycott'. I understand the need to support the Palestinian cause as other cases of human rights around the world. I, too, have my opinions and my criticism of the state of affairs in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Perhaps it is easier for me to do something about it being that I live in Israel and am an active civilian and a pro-peace activist for the past 37 years. However, I think that by disengaging from the intellectuals and by boycotting any engagement between academics and free thinkers, the world is once again acting in a way that reminds me of fascist dogma and dictatorial methods. Therefore, even if there was a chance to build a bridge and create a common ground between Israeli and Palestinian artists and thinkers through which a message would be sent out to the people and thus to the politicians, boycotts would render it a lost cause. The international world should support and encourage the intellectuals and embrace them - not boycott them.


FE: You’ve been singing “Yihye Tov,” (“Things Will Get Better”) since 1977. I confess it doesn't often feel as if things are getting better in the Middle East. Are you ever tempted to throw in the towel or to lose faith in the power of art?


DB: It's strange how the first song I ever wrote and recorded, Yihye Tov, has become one of the most meaningful and popular songs of my career. The sing never fails to uplift the audience and I find myself seeking hope in it every time I sing it. Music has that power. So I would never stop!


FE: Your album, “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” was recorded in a Palestinian studio in East Jerusalem. What was hardest about bringing together both Israeli and Arab musicians, and how did you transcend the inherent difficulties in such a collaboration?


DB" The preparations for the recording and thus filming of the album "East Jerusalem West Jerusalem" had a complex psychological aspect to it. On one hand, the Israeli musicians were reluctant to come to East Jerusalem, saying they feel unsafe. On the other hand, the Palestinian musicians had to deal with the boycott. I was very grateful when Steve Earle offered to come without preconditions. I was determined to get working and the end result was that everyone attended and took part and we managed to enjoy 8 days of a utopian heavenly reality, disconnected from the harsh outside world and reality.


FE: A new documentary (also called “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem”) just screened in New York and Miami. What was it like seeing a film about your collaboration? 


DB: The presentation of the film on its first screening ever, which took place at the Woodstock Film Festival on October 15th this year, was a big surprise to me. It was sold out and the audience clapped after every song and gave it a standing ovation for a long time. It was a moving experience. This film shows another aspect of the work and the atmosphere in the studio and the refugee camp. It is a very sobering and humble documentary , allowing the audience to hear the voices of some of the participants - Israeli, Palestinian and American.


FE: What do you say to artists who want to engage in the politics of peace but who hesitate for fear of the backlash?

DB: From my personal experience, when you speak out on subjects that you really care about and are important to you, the public respects you for it. So I just say, only get involved if you believe in it and really care. Otherwise you might be hurt by it.

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