Common Ground: Israeli and Palestinian girls create a common beat.
At an altitude of 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, a group of girls, aged 15-17, with contrary beliefs gather at a camp to "co-exist". They've never been this close to one another because as Israeli and Palestinian youth, they are trapped in a world of war. As the drums arrive in the building, some girls pick them up and show off an Arabic rhythm while others pretend to belly dance. Still more groups form as girls play loudly and some sing. It sounds like a fight. You can hear, through the musical image their initial playing has created, the problems they have listening to one another and being heard.
After some drumming warm-ups and icebreakers, I ask what they would name their drums. Some say, "my best friend", because I can let my anger go to the drum. Others say, "the military". Anger becomes a unifying theme. So we challenge the group to express their anger while staying together in the rhythm with one-another. I begin a slow, steady beat. The group imitates my suggested rhythm but begins a rapid acceleration. Suddenly, someone begins to slow it down, and others follow. Somehow a new beat emerges. The heads come up as they all look around. They finally stop together with one loud beat on my cue. You can see and sense the goose-bumps on their skin, the tears in their eyes, the relief off their chests. One girl breaks the long silence, saying, "this is the most I have felt like we can then work together so far at the camp. I felt like we were one."
The girls have experienced community. They have expressed their anger in a unified, supportive way through the drumming exercise. In the silence, you can sense the transformation of this previously divergent community. The drum circle becomes more than a metaphor. It is proof of the potential to find a common rhythm and connect at the most basic human level. It is evidence that music is a social elixir, a universal language, and a powerful magnet to draw together even the most conflicted groups.
One girl starts a contagious Arabic rhythm and the entire group joins in, Palestinian and Israeli alike, this time listening and playing together. Soon we're all dancing and playing until they finish together with one powerful loud beat.