Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society


A young woman screaming uncontrollably while isolated on a black background
A young woman screaming uncontrollably while isolated on a black background

(14/11/18 -Upon awaking I hear that a “truce is declared.” This brings little relief from the “imponderables.” The following was written amidst violence in the South.)

13/11/18 — Today I am paralyzed.  The situation down South calls us to solidarity (as A.B. Yehoshua said so succinctly “we are called to solidarity from newscast to newscast’).  But now it is different.  While I live in relative calm, there are others who are are living tenuous lives from minute to minute, certainly not in “freedom”.

As Nero fiddled Rome burned.

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As I stand on a galley deck, whistling to the stars, the slaves row incessantly, sweat pouring from their aching bodies.  What gives me the right to be so comfortable when others some kilometers away are being bombarded? (while I reflect on Camus’ wrenching essay about challenges of creating art in our times: “Create Dangerously”)

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I read David Horovitz’s comments in TOI, November 12, 2018.( Hamas will never change. Sooner or later, it must be faced down ). I basically agree with him.  A long protracted war with, heaven forbid. many casualties will not erase the seeds of bitterness trapped inside Gaza’s youth. Even if all the radical pro-activists, soldiers, terrorists were expelled from Gaza soil, the young people’s bitterness would live on.  The solution is much, much deeper.  Many have talked about a “Marshall Plan” for Gaza, and certainly one could envision something blossoming.  Is this a “pipe dream”, as Eugene O’Neil christened it?

The uncertainty of our lives is unbearable.  Even if, on the surface, we sunbathe while others run for cover, our tans will soon peal.  Even if we have our peaceful leisurely morning coffee while others settle for a quick “shluch” (gulp), we are bound to get indigestion.

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The trauma of our children is irreversible as are THEIR seeds of hatred.

The endless circle needs to be broken. Perhaps an economic “Manhattan  Project” can be established, with NEW experts and concerned leaders coming to the table, to put an end to the conflict.  But this too seems like a “pipe dream”.

I ramble.  I feel helpless.  I am overwhelmed with sadness and non-action.  Even if I were to travel to Sderot and play in the shelters (no doubt bringing some joy), or play to the stars amidst the violence, I would then return home, feeling even more despondent of my/our “stuckness”.   I cry for generations who have lost hope.   I cannot bear the thought.  I cannot bear my morning coffee.  My restlessness eclipses the desire to create music.  I am like a “patient etherized on  a table”.  Who will lead us out of this morass? Who and how?

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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