(JTA) — One of Britain’s premiere choirs is being prevented from performing in Bethlehem following a Palestinian protest over its scheduled performance in Israel.
The choir of Clare College, Cambridge, will sing Bach’s "Christmas Oratorio" with the Israel Camerata Orchestra, but may not visit and perform in St George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where it was invited to sing by the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, according to Tim Frank’s Jerusalem Diary published Monday by the BBC.
The choir is being stymied in its efforts to visit areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority following a letter from the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign asking the choir to cancel its trip to Israel, saying it would "appear indifferent to Palestinian suffering."
The Palestinian Authority then asked the bishop of Jerusalem to withdraw the choir’s invitation to sing in eastern Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and informed the choir that its members would not be welcome in Bethlehem as part of the bishop’s pilgrimage.
"It was important to me that my students go through the roadblocks in the West Bank and come up against the separation wall and become aware of the Palestinians’ difficulties — and sing with them," conductor Tim Brown told Haaretz. "And it was also important to me that they meet the Russian immigrants of the Camerata Orchestra, some of whom may have immigrated to Israel because they had no alternative.
"The encounter with forms of displacement and immigration, with the tragic side of the world, is important — and altogether I believe in connection between people, not boycott. I believe in music’s ability to make the world more beautiful, and that with its help we can love one another. This is what makes people human. And if we were to have boycotted, would anything have changed? Would the walls really have tumbled down?"