Tibetan Monks Chant Prayers of Peace in Jerusalem
The sounds of Tibetan monks chanting, an Iranian playing the santoor, western African style music, reggae beats, Israeli rock music: all of these musical genres could recently be heard pulsating from Jerusalem’s Tower of David in the Old City.
The international and local rhythms were part of the second annual Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival. The Festival was part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture; musical venues were located in different parts of the city, including the YMCA, Tzidkiyahu’s Cave, and Hebrew University.
The three day festival (August 20-23) attracted at least 1,000 visitors per night to the Tower of David, according to director Eilat Lieber. “It was very important for me to bring this unique festival to the Tower of David,” Lieber told Tazpit News Agency.
“This has been an important opportunity to hear not only great music but to experience the respect that exists between different religions and cultures across this city and in the world,” Lieber said.
“This kind of mutual respect is not entirely obvious [because] division and conflict are often the only themes portrayed in media coverage of Jerusalem,” added Tower of David spokeswoman Caroline Shapiro.
One of the musical performers, Alan Kushan, an Iranian living in the U.S., had positive remarks about the capital of Israel.
“Jerusalem is a wonderful city to perform in,” the Iranian santoor player told Tazpit News Agency. “It’s not only an honor to play in the city of King David and his son King Solomon. I think it’s a duty that I should come and play music. As an artist, my message to other fellow Iranian musicians is not to be afraid of visiting this city,” said Kushan.
The exiled order of Tibetan Buddhists, known as the Tashi Lhunpo Monks, could also be seen walking around the ancient stones of the Tower of David, dressed in their traditional maroon robes. The monks, exiled from Tibet and now living in South India, chanted Tibetan prayers, accompanied by cymbals, gongs, bells, and ceremonial dancing during their night performance.
It was the Tibetan monks’ first visit to Jerusalem, having spent the year touring across Europe and raising funds to continue their way of life at the South Indian monastery. “The monks cannot study in Tibet in freedom because the Chinese regime forbids them from doing so,” explained Jane Rasch, a spokeswoman for the group. “There is much understanding and sympathy between Israelis and these second-generation exiled monks living in India.”
At the Tower of David, the monks also created their signature mandala of peace (Yamantaka Mandela), made of colorful crushed marble from Southern India, as Israeli onlookers watched in fascination.
Kachen Lobzang Tuskhor, the leader of the visiting group of monks, told Tazpit News Agency, that Jerusalem was a special city, but more crowded than he anticipated. Lobzang, who speaks Tibetan, Hindi, and a little English, explained with a laugh that he learned two words in Hebrew during his visit: shalom and sababa.