Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Your Memory Shines in Me - Deir Yassin Day 2007

“Your Memory Shines in Me”

Deir Yassin Day 2007
Sunday April 1 2007
St John’s Wood Church, London.

Poorly attended it certainly was. In a venue we are long used to filling, the beautiful old church at St John’s Wood was embarrassingly empty – perhaps 100 out of the 500 places were filled with people dotted here and there. Ghada Karmi was there, Bruce Kent too and Gilad Atzmon arrived early. And of course there was the usual sprinkling of churchgoers and Palestinians – folk with memories far fuller than their diaries. I was there too, but this year simply as just one more attendee. Not in attendance that evening was any representative from the Palestinian General Delegation. They had received and accepted an invitation to attend but, in the event, did not show up. Why did they not come? Who knows?

Why so few? Perhaps it was unease that the commemoration might have anything to do with Deir Yassin Remembered. Perhaps there is an overall weariness of the Deir Yassin message. Perhaps it’s just sheer exhaustion. Or perhaps the organisers hadn’t publicised it sufficiently. Had the PSC properly advertised the event? They had demanded and certainly received assurances that DYR had not been involved in its organization. But again, who knows? And the strain of such a poor attendance showed – in the nervous shuffling of the audience and in the faces of the wonderful Chamber Choir of St John’s Wood Church as they took their places.

The commemoration, as on previous occasions opening with a call to prayer, centered on the story of Dar al Tifl – the House of the Child - the children’s home in Jerusalem founded by Hind Husseini as a refuge for the orphans of Deir Yassin – children she found huddled and shivering, dumped in a Jerusalem alley by the perpetrators and still smeared with the blood of their murdered relatives.

In answer to my request for information, Razanne Carmey DYD Artistic Director writes:

“This year's theme was 'Children of Deir Yassin' all the readings and prayers were selected to reflect the beauty, sanctity and fragility of childhood. 
The verse from the Quran that spoke for the orphans as well as the prayer from Matthew and a reading of Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant were matched by songs and hymns about children…..
What else? ... the vicar's welcome, Deborah's address and the poem from Lina Abu Bakre about the voice of Jacob whose own son was lost to him for many years just like the children of DeirYassin were lost to their home. 
We were also very fortunate to have renowned poet Saadi Youssef who added a note from Iraq and Lebanon, both of them poignant this year. He was in Beirut in 1982 during the invasion and seige by the Israeli army (this year is the 25th anniversary of that invasion) and Youssef wrote his poem "...a candle in the night, a candle on the long road... a candle in my hand" This poem was particularly moving for one man in the audience, Gilad Atzmon, who himself was in Lebanon in 1982 as an 18 year old Israeli conscript and part of the invading army, a turning point for Gilad.
Saadi's poem was accompanied by solo flute - Naii - an original composition especially commissioned from Saadi's long time friend, the Palestinian poet and musician Tareq Alkarmi ... hope this helps tell me if you need to know more, Deborah can tell you about the hymns as she selected them"

Something had happened. The poor attendance seemed to have somehow enhanced rather than diminished the performance. It was as if both performers and audience had become aware that something rather special was occurring which became abundantly clear as the commemoration ended with the achingly beautiful final address to ‘the beautiful Palestinian people’ and closing with the now-traditional farewell – May God bless the Palestinian people.

We used to say that it didn’t matter how many people were at a Deir Yassin commemoration – two people and a candle would do – just so long as Deir Yassin was remembered. Also, I have long given up caring what people think of me or what I have to say, so I will just say this: For me, on the evening of Sunday April 1st 2007 God may well have been present half a mile up the road in the Central London Mosque. He would definitely not have been present in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue half a mile down the road. But…He most definitely was present that night in the church itself. How do I know? I know because I saw Him, there in the faces of the lucky few who were there.

May God bless the Palestinian people 

Paul Eisen
Director (UK)
Deir Yassin Remembered