Still A Dream
In the year 1998 I found in the Downers Grove’s public library a book that was being discarded. I bought it for 50 cents. Its title was “My shalom, my peace. Paintings and poems by Jewish and Arab children.” Originally published in Hebrew in Israel in 1974 it was then translated into English and published by Sabra Books, Tel Aviv, in 1975. The book, which was distributed in the USA by the McGraw-Hill Book Company, is no longer in print.
Immediately captivated by the honesty and simplicity of the poetry, and the realism of the drawings, I decided to bring into the work the only thing that in my opinion was missing: music. Soon I had set to music a couple of poems, and I have continued to compose ever since. That same year, 1998, I visited Palestine/Israel and this brought a human face to the book. In 2005, seven years into the project, I decided to record a CD and use the proceeds to create scholarships for deprived Palestinian and Jewish children in the Middle East. With this in mind, I began to enlist family members and friends to whom this sort of endeavor was appealing. Today, after almost two years, the dream has become a reality. I am deeply thankful to all those who have cooperated in this project. The children of the Chicago Temple need to receive a special thanks and congratulations for the wonderful artwork that illustrates the CD cover. Their creativity, together with that of the authors of the poems, also children, has inspired and blessed me.
In the year 2009 I started to record a second CD. This time, in addition to the poems of Jewish and Arab children, I included poems of Argentine children living in extreme poverty in one of the shanty towns of Buenos Aires. “La Ciudad Oculta,” (The Hidden City), or “La Oculta,” as it has come to be known, is a place where drug addiction, prostitution, extreme poverty, and domestic violence have for years now marked the lives of thousands of people from Argentina and the surrounding countries. These people are part of the one hundred million in Latin America who live under the poverty line. Out of this environment of negativity and hopelessness I collected a few poems written by children in which they express poignantly their desperate situation as well as their hope for a better tomorrow. Together with the children of Israel and Palestine these kids remind us all of the work that still remains to be done in order to make the world a better place for all of us but especially for children. I released this album in October of 2010 and titled it Beyond the Gate - an idea that I found again in one of the poems- as a way of pointing at that unrealized future.
The motivation behind this music is not a romantic and misguided admiration of children’s innocence and humility but the increasing awareness of the need to work for peace and justice in the world in general and in the Middle East and Latin America in particular, something that is as relevant today as it was in 1974.
For additional information on the project please check out the following interview:
Osvaldo D. Vena