History Department Presents “Knowledge is the Beginning”

Dr. Priscilla Starratt, along with six UWS history students, hosted Paul Smaczny’s documentary “Knowledge is the Beginning…” on Tuesday evening, April 9 in Erlenbach Hall for Global Awareness Week.

Nearly 40 people gathered to watch the two-hour documentary, with the majority of attendants being students. As Starratt said, gatherings such as this are intended to instill a sense of appreciation and aid in “learning the value of a liberal arts education.” UWS history student presenter Marshall Hansberry explained that the event was also hosted on this specific day for a reason. It was the 65th anniversary of a massacre of Palestinians in a village called Deir Yassin. “It was a very strategically important position for the Israelis to have during their war for independence,” Hansberry said, “…as well as one of the more notable removals of Palestinians from Israel.”

This documentary illustrates Daniel Barenboim and Edward Sa’id’s efforts to bring Arab and Israeli countries together through music, education, and humanitarianism. Barenboim and Sa’id took the first steps towards this goal in 1999 by creating The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, as well as the Friends music school. This orchestra has caused a stir between the feuding countries because the musicians include about 30 Arabs, 30 Israelis, and 20 individuals from their host, Germany.

The Friends Music School and Orchestra is located in Spain due to the high risk of personal harm to either Arab or Israeli students in other countries. Regardless, with the proper safety precautions, the orchestra has voluntarily traveled to a few outside countries despite the high risks involved. UWS student Gianna Zappa, 19, said,  “I’d be too scared. It’s pretty courageous of these people to do that.”

Many reporters regard Barenboim’s efforts as an attempt for creating peace between Arab and Israeli countries, however that is not the sole purpose of this orchestra. Barenboim is simply a humanitarian and states, “a life without music is impoverished,” though he wouldn’t mind if the two countries could reside in peace for the sake of humanity. UWS student Sarah Petznick, 20, said that overall “it was a good experience…. I learned a lot.”

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