Harmony Through Music
Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, a gifted violinist from Nazareth, dreamt of building one of the finest music schools in Israel. In his school, Jewish musicians would teach Arab children. Arabs and Jews would perform together. And any cultural clashes would be muted by the sound of beautiful music.
His dream is now reality. “In music,” says Ashkar, now serving as Director of the Polyphony Conservatory, “they have found the language that they can share.”
Born in Nazareth, an Arab city north of Israel, Ashkar was introduced to the violin at age 7. His parents made great personal sacrifices to give him classical musical training, making the long trips to Tel Aviv for music lessons.
“For music and arts education, Nazareth was like a desert,” he recalls. “I realized there was much I could contribute through music.”
After studying physics and music at Tel Aviv University, Nabeel completed his master’s degree in music in Germany and, in 2006, returned to his hometown to start a music school for Arab children. After just four years, the level of musical performance was so high that 11- and 12-year-old Arab students were competing in Tel Aviv and winning competitions.
Just this March, two of Ashkar’s students were both awarded first place in the prestigious Paul Ben Haim competition for classical music in Jerusalem. This was the first time two first-place winners were named and, more significantly, the musicians broke the cultural barriers that had existed for 64 years by being the first Arabs to ever participate in—and win—this storied competition.
“When you work hard and bring proper education to young people and you guide them, they achieve what seems to be impossible.”