Mid-East Peace Initiative: Plea and Report

Mid-East Peace Initiative: Plea and Report

Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 05:14:39 CST
From: Anna Immanuel conclave@netvision.net.il
Subject: Arnie Lawrence Brings A Band Of Angels To Open The United Nations
General Assembly Special Session On Children

On May 7 Arnie Lawrence's multi-cultural band of "God Bless The Child" will take the stage at the opening reception of the General Assembly which will be attended by over 40 heads of state and 500 delegates.

Our message will be in the true spirit of jazz as the international language of freedom.

Please help us get there. Do you have any ideas what organization might contribute to this event? If you want to make a donation, no matter how small, it wlll be greatly appreciated, we need $10,000 for transportation to bring over the children. If you can place this notice on any web site, chat room, or e-mail list, please do so, especially jazz and/or peace groups.

NBC has edited portions of previous God Bless The Child events throughout Israel for screening during our UN week (other events detailed below).

Everything we have accomplished so far has been through the sheer determination of the musicians who play with Arnie to face violence and despair with beauty and hope, and keep a candle glowing for the children.

All of this is extremely last-minute because final security clearance for our attendance was obtained only a few days ago.

Your assistance will be gratefully and publicly acknowledged, with your permission, at the UN and our four additional events in the vicinity of the UN (St Peter's Lutheran Church Salutes God Bless The Child -- hosted by Pastor Dale Lind, Pastor to the World Jazz community; The New School for Social Research Special God Bless The Child Concert; The Beekman Theatre - a special performance for children of the world here as guests of Defense for Children International; all night jazz vigil at Small's.

With all best wishes,

Anna Immanuel
God Bless The Child Spokeswoman

Arnie Lawrence,
GBC Artistic Director
972 55 250690

The Last Peace Concert Before The War - Perhaps

God Bless The Child: The Second International Artists Conclave, Jerusalem

February 26 - March 1, 2002

Foreword by Arnie Lawrence

September 11 in Jerusalem. The news came through loud and clear. My son Danny called and told me one of the World Trade Center twins was hit by a plane. Sounded like an accident. Shortly afterward Danny called back and sadly said that the second twin was hit by another plane.

This was no accident. And I was supposed to open a real jazz club overlooking the old city of Jerusalem that night.

September 11. The newspapers called and asked if I would really play music tonight.

I replied: I am not controlled by cowards and bullies and, in the tradition of jazz, we celebrate peoples' lives. Pastor John Garcia Genzel of St Peter's, then pastor to the jazz community of the world, taught me that.

That night we prayed and played with a saddened and full heart.

February 11. Only in the land of miracles. Heroes of the New York police department and heroes of the Pentagon visited my jazz club, Arnie's Jazzness(miracle)/cafe and marched downstairs "lematta" led by the strains of "Amazing Grace," played by Camel Aboud, a highland bagpiper of arabic descent, to a second party and prayer celebration exactly five months to the day after the horrendous events in New York and Washington.

You know the jazz mind. An idea came September 11 to do something to protect the innocent -- the children, yes, all the children in danger worldwide! If enough people could put their names down in support of a naive, simple idea like this. Warriors for peace for "God Bless The Child," their weapons respect, fairness, love of liberty, and most of all, love of our kids, and their right to have a world that responsible adults would be proud to give them. A world that they would not have to unravel to give to their children.

Hope, faith, and courage are needed now for all people!

I talked to International Artists Conclave co-founder Anna Immanuel and we met Salmon Natour and suggested our ideas. Salman -- humanitarian and leading writer and journalist for the Arab-Israeli and Israeli press and author of a wonderful and widely respected book published in Ramalah.

The musicians and writers could lead the way, I said, and Salman said: The artists won't make peace. So I suggested that they would be the magnets to attract a wide variety of people who would become the stars.

Salman said, Let's get started.

>From here, hopefully, we will have a million names in support, for terrorism and aggression are concepts, and so would we be a concept.

If a grandmother in Afghanistan would say," I want my grandchild to be a man and not a martyr," and another in Africa would say, "I don't want my child stepping on a landmine," etc., and if a concept, not a country, would declare war, then we as a concept could declare peace, creating a choice, and people, even those of varying opinions, would have something in common -- the children -- and be able to talk out their problems like mature adults.

It was said I don't have a plan. I do have a serious plan. If anyone would like more details, or to ask questions or offer their name in support of our common goal, they may message us at: Conclave@netvision.Net.Il

Article by Anna Immanuel:

Composing the score of a legend and creating its house band is serious. Especially when a long, distinguished line precedes you.

In the Holy Land, the torch descends from Patriarchs, Prophets, and Kings. Arnie Lawrence adds Queens and Ladies, Dukes and Prez's to the lineage and comes up with his Band of Angels. And the Saints come marching in.

Jazz artists as Warriors for Peace is no new image. Mary Lou Williams, Jazz pianist and teacher of Thelonius Monk, said: "The roots of the tree of jazz is suffering, and the trunk of the tree is the Blues." And in 1986, Jackie Byard told a class at the then-newly-created Jazz & Contemporary Music Program of The New School, "The blues is inspired by 'Silent Night.'"

Two weeks ago, under a hail of machine-gun fire, the Silent Night Blues rang out over Bethlehem and Jerusalem simultaneously from Tantur, the Ecumenical Center that sits on the borderline between the two, with a door opening onto each. Two candles were lit, the first in memory of all children lost to violence since time immemorial, the second in tribute to all babies being born in the world at that moment -- sundown, February 28.

A pair of 17-year-olds, one Palestinian, one Israeli, represented Seeds of Peace, the conflict-resolution program for selected youth from war-torn regions world-wide. Father Michael McGarry, Rector of Tantur, sat alongside Salman Natour, the respected author and essayist whose writing in Arabic and Hebrew is widely read throughout the Middle East. They were joined by Peter Brightman, world culture's unofficial entrepeneur, who flew in from London to sit in.

As people fled, roads were blocked, and fire was exchanged, Mr. Natour accepted with solemn dignity The Second Jerusalem Humanitarian Jazz Award.The first was presented by Jerusalem's Mayor to Max Roach at the Israel Festival after his historic Tour of Peace last spring.

It was day three of the Second International Artists Conclave "God Bless The Child." Arnie lifted his horn to his lips. Outside, the shooting intensified. Inside, the service began.

Or continued.

For they had begun praying earlier in the day. Arnie, and visiting Conclave artists Evelyn Blakey and the Art Blakey Jazz Legacy; His Majesty George V. Johnson Jr. & The No Mo' Hard Times Review; jazz tapper Butterfly; and Blues Sisters were led in "Heivenu Shalom Aleikhem" -- "We Bring Peace To You" -- by a little girl in a wheel-chair, her limbs broken and her body burnt in unaccountable home accidents. She sang into a mike for the first time in her life. She laughed.

A blushing teenager's request for "Blue Moon" brought an intense blue-eyed serenade from Arnie. And in the dialysis ward of The Schneider Children's Medical Center, the largest children's hospital in the Middle East serving and staffed by people of all faiths, it took Butterfly to bring a smile to a wan 14-year-old with a defiant orange brush-cut and too much time spent on pediatric Death Row. Moments before, he had met a singer's inquiry about his taste in music with a look of outrage.

"I don't like music. I don't like anything."

But now he was drawn, with the shy daring of any pubescent boy, to the hypnotic rhythm and black stockinged legs of a lovely woman in a tight, beaded butterfly bodice.

Two days earlier, the Conclave artists were met at Ben Gurion Airport by Arnie playing "When The Saints Go Marching In." I joined them just before sundown in the piano bar of The Mount Zion Hotel.

One hundred and twenty years old, newly restored to its original Turkish architectural glory, it is built around an olive tree whose complicated torso and loam-colored roots are preserved like a time-capsuled vow. Where life is a failure of promises, trees are convenants.

Alongside the quilted leather bar, arched picture windows capture broad swathes of Biblical aquatint. A blazing sun plunges behind the pine groves of the Peace Forest, and in the distance, ribs of flesh-colored desert meet a cobalt sluice of Dead Sea. Further beyond, the Moabite mountains of Jordan are a mirage against the horizon.

In the foreground are the Old City Walls. Above them rise the sillhouettes of King David's Tower, the Dome of The Rock, church spires and minarets.

This is the Castle of the Legend.

We watch as the air, the delicate pink of Jerusalem stone, deepens to dusk. The muezzin call to prayer.

At the piano Igor, a religious devotee of the five o' clock cocktail, brushes the keys. Vocalist Jane Blackstone shows me her CD: Natural Habitat NYC. Arrangements include: "Mystics"; "The Human Touch"; "In the Art of Survival."

"Dangerous? No. Brooklyn is more dangerous. Jerusalem is the city of peace."

Evelyn Blakey agrees with manager A. Lord Allah: Here is the landscape that gave birth to the Bible.

"A message must come out from this place. We feel privileged to be the ones chosen at this particular time in history to make a plea on behalf of all children endangered by societies that have lost control. Jerusalem is a place with a special light. Its spirit of illumination must not be dimmed."

Johnson Jr. sings a bluesy song he wrote about saving the children. Evelyn, her hand raised with the authority of a mother who has had about enough, testifies:

"My daddy was 17 and my mama 15 when I came into this world, and there were eight more born after me. I've been an old, old lady for a long long time. And it wasn't easy. It's still not easy.

"Well, the rich get rich and the poor ones fade. We have to share the responsibility. And teach those we are responsible for to share. It's all about sharing. Sharing is the key."

And she sings the blues Arnie composed for her a month earlier:

"My patience, my patience, my patience -- my patience is only so long."

"For it was said 'Let there be light,' says the Lord."

"My patience, my patience, my patience -- my patience is only so long -- "

A young hotel security guard offers his opinion: "Peace is made only after war, not before. So why not take a pass on war and make peace first?"

"My patience, my patience, my patience -- my patience is only -- "

"Shouldn't we all be looking to protect our children and preserve our planet?"

" -- so long."

Half an hour later, as the sun sets, the Second International Artists Conclave, Jerusalem, is officially underway. We have relocated the few meters from the Piano Bar to the terrace of Arnie's jazz club next door, The Jazzness/Cafe. Ness is Hebrew for Miracle.

Arnie begins the Sunset Service on this mild Tuesday, February 26th, with a consecration of the Jerusalem Valley of Gai Ben Hinnum, which his terrace overhangs. This is the Biblical site of child-sacrifice, its name forming the root of the contemporary Hebrew word for Hell, Gaihinnum.

"This was in Biblical times a place where children were sacrificed. May it now and forevermore be a place where all children sing and dance and rejoice," Arnie says.

He leans into his horn and its pure notes rise over the Valley: "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."

The Conclave artists join in, along with assembled guests, including The United Nations' Child Defense International Regional Director Dr. Phillip Veerman and his family; the young Seeds of Peace representatives; and nine-year old Jerusalemites Maya and Bar, who have brought their wooden flutes for the occasion.

A star appears, and the full, brass-rubbed face of the moon.

"Band of Angels Plays in Valley of Hell," reads the Associated Press headline.

Five and half months earlier, Arnie went ahead with the Club's scheduled opening date of September 11, offering a night of prayer, in which The Sh'ma and "Silent Night" wove through New York City blues.

"I'm not going to be stopped by cowards and bullies," he said. "And in the jazz tradition we celebrate life."

And five months to the hour later, the heroes of NYPD and the Pentagon descended the five flights of stairs to Jazzness, by then internationally known as the world's only Kosher Jazz club overlooking Hell. They were led by a young bagpiper from the Galillee named Camal Aboud playing "Amazing Grace.

The officers responded emotionally to the heroes' welcome, and with self-deprecation.

"We are not the heroes," a New York Police Officer told the packed club. "We are just the survivors. The real heroes are the ones who died."

It was a replay of the original all-night vigil of September 11, in the presence of those who had fought the Inferno. Taking part were Shai Zalman and Elias Habib on drum-kit and daf, and Wafa Younis, Director of the New Conservatory serving children of the Wadi Ara and Nazareth regions, on violin. She played an original composition in the tradition of the Arabic toxim, or prayer, then held her bow aloft:

"The people want peace," she said.

It was in the spirit of this message that two weeks later America's jazz messengers of hope, peace, and courage arrived.

Their itinerary included: the Valley Consecration Ceremony; a visit to Arnie's International Center for Creative Music, Jerusalem, and the Lebanon Restaurant next door to it in Ein Karem, the site of the Visitation; a special Deadhead Peace Concert in Tribute to Jerry Garcia (Merl Saunders is the Conclave's Honorary Chairman) at the Jerusalem YMCA Large Hall, children admitted free; appearances at the Children's Medical Center the next morning, and at the sundown service at Tantur; three late-night performances at the Jazzness/Cafe; an open jazz tap session with young tap students in the Mount Zion Piano Bar; and, on the last afternoon of the Conclave, Friday, March 1, a special free Children's Concert and Tap and Blues Master Class in the Theatre of Beit Hagefen, the International Center for Creative Music's Haifa Annex and Israel's oldest Arab-Jewish Co-existence Center.

Then they headed for the Galilee, and the final God Bless The Child Concert: Olivewoodstock.

Their van sped through miles of darkened countryside. It climbed the rustic roads of the Galilean foothills, headlights alert for the wild boars native to the region. At last they arrived at the glass-walled Concert Hall in the Chalet of Hemdat Yamim.

It stands alone, perched on the highest peak of Mount Meron, where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent seven years in a cave receiving the Kabballah seven hundred years ago; and overlooks the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked, commanding a 360 degree vista of Nazareth, Jordan, the Golan Heights, and the Gulf of Haifa Bay where it merges with the Lake of Kinneret.

The audience inside the packed concert hall sat riveted as the Conclave musicians, joined by the most talented young instrumentalists of the region on oud, darbouka, concert grand and electric keyboard, snare-drum, electric guitar, double-bass, and horn section, fused Arabic tacksim with jazz, blues, and Hebrew prayer.

In the darkened countryside below them, the roadblocks and terror continued.

One week later, a suicide-bomber would enter a bus in nearby Wadi Ara, murdering, maiming, and traumatizing, among many other victims, a very young violinist, one of Wafa's students in Kashcul, a new co-existence band of Arnie's IC Creative Music, Jerusalem, Center in co-operation with Beit Hagefen.

She, the thousands of innocent children already victimized, and the numberless others at risk, are the ones to whom "God Bless The Child" is dedicated. "Save the Children!" the Blues Sisters and His Majesty chanted, as Butterfly and belly-dancer Najat played the rhythms with their bodies, and Arnie and his saxophone led his Angels -- master percussionist Salam Darawish and sons Adam and Darawish on oud, darbouka, bass and electric keyboard; pianist Maya Dunitz; Itamar on darbouka; bassist Tal Ronen, and Jonathan OLayskey on drums, with special guest percussionist Conclave chairman Peter Brightman.

The cry "Save The Children!" charged the sounds and rhythms. Its current was still alive, the Concert's last words -- " God Is -- All Ways and Forever " -- rebounding through the hall, long after the last guest had departed. A week later there were too many new deaths and mutilations to count. For the Conclave artists back in New York, and those who had seen and heard them, the legend they had taken part in was just beginning to reveal itself. Alone in a Jerusalem editing room, Arnie labeled the Conclave videotapes for NBC. His pen hovered over the spine of the final cassette, the video of Hemdat Yamim. Then, quickly, he wrote: The Last Peace Concert Before The War -- Perhaps.

April, 2002

The Founders, Artistic Director, and Chairman of the International Artists Conclave, Jerusalem, God Bless The Child, wish to thank artists Evelyn Blakey, Butterfly, Jane Blackstone, George V. Johnson Jr, and Manager A. Lord Allah for donating their time and great artistry to all the children in the cause of peace.

Our gratitude also to the Department of Culture of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, the Arts & Culture Departments of the Jerusalem Municipality, and the many friends who helped God Bless The Child.

Future "God Bless The Child" conclaves: - week of May 6, 2002: God Bless The Child has been invited by Child Defense International to appear as guests of the United Nations in a series of registered side-event performances throughout New York City before 70 heads of state and the representatives of all the world's nations that have signed the Child Defense International charter.

- Week of May 21, 2002: God Bless The Child presents "Bright Moments"- the Alternative Israel Festival.

- First week of July 2002: God Bless The Child is invited to a forum on democracy: the Alps.

- Date to be announced: the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London has been secured by International Conclave chairman Peter Brightman for a major God Bless The Child peace concert co-elation featuring mega-artists.

To voice your support for God Bless The Child , please send your name to: conclave@netvision.Net.Il.

We ask for no donations other than your name, and those of your friends, towards the accumulation of a miles-long roster in support today. We must outnumber the functionaries of terror. For the sake of the children.

And ask your local radio station to play "God Bless The Child." Thank you.