In the Spring of 2009, Jewish American songwriter, Michael Hunter Ochs, visited the Middle East for the first time. On his very first night in Ramallah he met Alaa Alshaham, an award-winning peace activist and songwriter.
This is a story of a most improbable friendship...and of hope and possibility.
In Alaa’s Words:
“Michael and I were brought together by what can only be described as a series of unexpected twists of the universe. How could I ever have imagined meeting a Jewish American songwriter in Ramallah?
Soon after we met, we began an intense creative partnership. Over the next four years we talked constantly and started writing songs together. Although we quickly found harmony in our music and an increasing openness in our conversation, we realized that the majority of people in our communities didn't know each other and therefore didn’t trust each other. It seemed clear to us that In order to break the cycle of stereotypes and prejudice, people needed to meet...find commonalities rather than differences. So we began bringing our music to synagogues, churches, Islamic communities, libraries and schools across the states. We have been on a journey to bring our communities together ever since...and now we invite YOU to join us in this pursuit.”
In Michael’s Words:
“We know this will be a slow process - song by song, heart by heart. But where some see reasons to be pessimistic, we see signs of progress. Already, through more than 100 events, we’ve been engaging with communities across the United States and the West Bank, and chipping away at discrimination, hatred, fear, and misinformation. So many new and meaningful friendships have been realized on our journey. While visiting Ramallah, I bump into Palestinian friends all over the city and I even know where to get the best hummus...and a gluten free burger!
However, it has not been an easy path. We have been called naive, foolish and idealistic. We’ve had to overcome overzealous airport security and missed flights, border closings, tear gas, and shifting political winds. We have disappointed our families. I know Alaa’s daughter misses him everyday he’s touring in the United States. My parents keep reminding me it's about time to get married and settle down. There have been very difficult moments when we have thought about returning to living normal lives.
But instead of quitting we write more music about the challenges and about the opportunities. We visit more communities from Ramallah to Reston, New York to Nablus. We share these songs and stories of our unlikely friendship to inspire others to pursue harmony in their own way."
Where We Are Today
A handful of donors have quietly committed $15,000 so that The Pursuit Of Harmony could get started on our long awaited album. To demonstrate an unwavering commitment to our supporters, and trusting we would find a way to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the project, studio time was booked in Nashville. And we even began recording tracks with a group of incredibly talented musicians in the Gaza Strip...an unprecedented musical collaboration.
Now we are inviting you to stand with us. Together we can finish the album, a music video, a unique songbook (containing never before seen photographs and other documents from our journey), choir arrangements (with lyrics in English, Arabic and Hebrew), and begin a regular podcast. Over the next 30 days we need to raise $21,750 to complete this Kickstarter campaign. Join the pursuit and together let's share far and wide our message of hope and peace and harmony between Jews and Palestinians. And, truly, all people.
Here is the breakdown: Finish the album ($8,000), Music Video ($5,000), Song Transcription and 2 Choir Arrangements ($2,000), Manufacturing CD and Book ($2,750), Photography and Design of CD and Song Book ($2,500), Kickstarter fees ($1,500). Total goal is $21,750.
All funds collected above our goal will enable us to write more songs, create more choir arrangements, film more videos, visit more communities, and put a little more harmony into the world.
Again, our deepest appreciation to everyone, from the West Bank to the West Coast, who has invited us into your communities, your homes, and your hearts. And to new fellow travelers, about to take your first step in The Pursuit Of Harmony...welcome and thank you.
Alaa Alshaham is a widely successful Palestinian songwriter and activist. His music often reflects the concerns of the Palestinian people. “Music is not only a universal language, it’s a language for positive change.” Most recently Alaa has become more involved in civil society with a high level of interest in Palestinian politics and current affairs. His breakthrough video focused on President Obama’s visit to Palestine. The video was a hit on YouTube and featured on Aljazeera, MBC, Palestinian and Israeli TV, and many other media outlets. Alaa was told by staff at the US Consulate to Palestine that Obama himself enjoyed the clip! In November of 2011, Alaa established the Big Dream Initiative Children's Choir. Currently the choir boasts nearly 400 members on its way to one thousand voices singing together for Palestine and for peace. In 2014, Alaa was awarded the prestigious “Children Of The Earth” prize for his work with youth in a conflict zone.
Alaa was born in Jordan and moved to Gaza in 1996 following The Oslo Agreement. He left Gaza for the West bank in 2007 where he still resides.
Michael Hunter Ochs has quietly established himself as one of the more versatile songwriters in America today - with songs appearing on albums with global sales of nearly 20 million units. His song “In Her Eyes” was recorded by international superstar Josh Groban. The soul-filled “On My Knees” was awarded Song Of The Year honors from both the Gospel Music Association (Dove Award) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and spent 14 weeks at #1. Michael’s music is featured in numerous major motion pictures and television soundtracks including Matt Damon’s Downsizing (Christmas, 2017), The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants Trilogy, The Simpsons and True Blood. He frequently travels around the globe to write for various major label recording artists. In addition to his success in contemporary popular music, Ochs is universally recognized as a breakthrough composer in Hebrew/Jewish worship music. On any given Friday evening his music can be heard in synagogues across the United States and around the world. He is often commissioned to write original compositions for a variety of organizations and his song “A New Year” has been viewed over 9 million times.
Risks and challenges
By definition, a project attempting to build avenues of communication and trust between Jews and Palestinians is one giant mess of a challenge! But it is possible and The Pursuit Of Harmony has a track record of bringing these communities together.
There are always obstacles to any recording project. And when recording in Gaza the unpredictability of electric power (something we take for granted in the states) can be particularly tough. But our team of engineers and producers have decades of experience, including grammy winning projects, and millions of albums sold. We will complete this project!
And for those times we need advice on any number of issues that may come our way - we have a wonderful advisory committee to lean on. This group includes notable experts in the field of interfaith relations, a world renown ethicist from the Peace Institute Of Oslo, and a top selling author and journalist.
It's time to put a little more harmony into the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)