TEL AVIV, Israel – How symbolic could this rehearsal be?
Standing next to one another on stage in Tel Aviv – dancing together and singing in perfect harmony – were the Dar Fur Stars, a band made up of Muslim refugees, and the Jewish group Aharit Hayamim (Redemption).
Ending their practice with both bands playing the theme music from "Schindler's List," The Dar Fur Stars were preparing to join the Israelis in their celebration of Passover, which begins on Saturday at sundown and commemorates the biblical exodus from Egyptian slavery.
|VIDEO: Musicians from the Dar Fur Stars and Aharit Hayamim have a jam session|
The unique pairing marks the end of a harrowing journey, which began when the twelve narrowly escaped the horrors of genocide in Darfur and eventually snuck through the Egyptian-Israeli border. An Israeli patrol picked them up and imprisoned them for three months.
It turned out that music was the answer to the boredom and misery. Bushra Musa, 34, found himself and his fellow inmates picking up sticks and using old pots as drums. Every night, he recalled, they would gather and play for hours. The seeds of the Dar Fur Stars were planted.
Shmuel Kau, a member of Aharit Hayamim, recalls that he saw a short story about the Dar Fur Stars on TV and it gave him the idea of inviting them to play together so that they could help the refugees reach a bigger audience.
"We Jews suffered so much," he said, "and this way we can help our brothers from Africa."
The stage at the Koltura nightclub was bursting with energy – and it was only 11 a.m. – as the bands were practiced together in anticipation of their upcoming concert.
Making time for the rehearsal was not easy for the refugees, who are all restaurant and hotel workers now and were missing out on important income. But the tee-shirts some of them are wearing, with the slogan "Darfur Genocide," indicate that their cause is more important than money.
Musa became choked up with tears as he tried to tell me about his family. After a long pause he related how his mother was too old to make the journey and is still in Sudan. And he is awaiting the release of his wife, who is still in the Israeli jail.
But at the same time, he is very happy to be in Israel, where he is free to play music forbidden in his homeland. (In Sudan, the government insists everyone should only sing in the Arabic language, which is not his traditional African tongue.)
And now Kau's dream is to take the Dar Fur Stars on a world road trip and show how coexistence can work.