Drummer Dena Tauriello of Antigone RisingHey, MD readers! This is Dena Tauriello from Antigone Rising, checking in from Jerusalem. We had the most amazing opportunity to travel to Israel and the West Bank as Arts Envoys, a cultural initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. During the trip, from February 19 to 28, Antigone Rising performed in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and other regional cities, leading community outreach workshops and making music with Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

We have had some incredible workshops with children at cultural centers, community centers, and schools. I even conducted a Drums and Disabilities (DAD) therapy session at Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana. Our first performance was for Arab (Bedouin) and Jewish students from local high schools, at a cultural center. We were approached by a girl at the end, saying—in perfect English—that she found us so empowering and inspiring. This is a girl who lost her mom several months ago, and who wants to pursue science and technology, but she can’t because she must now help take care of her five siblings.

Last night in Ramallah, the Palestinian boys were shouting, “We love you!” throughout the show. We have needed security to handle the mobs of people trying to get photos and autographs. This is largely because no one comes here to play—they’re afraid. It’s heartbreaking on one hand, and heartwarming on the other, as the people here have been so incredibly nice and hospitable. It is as mind-blowing to see their reaction to our music, our culture, and us as it is to learn about their cultures, history, and stories. We’ve done a lot of crying this week. I guess you’ll have this in girl bands from time to time, but I’m pretty sure most people would have been equally moved.

We’ve been so blessed to have had this opportunity, to learn so much about life in this region, and to be educated first-hand, when we more often get a very skewed or misrepresented version of the real story. It would have been so easy to get scared and cancel the tour, as many artists frequently do, after listening to details of mandatory security directives handed out to all Embassy personnel and sitting through security briefings regarding details about what to do when we hear “the code word.” That could be a bit overwhelming and off-putting, to say the least. But juxtapose this with what we are learning, what they are learning, how various portions of the community are coming together through music in ways they rarely, if ever, do, and that they are developing tolerance and understanding of each other and beginning to find some common ground. It truly has been an opportunity of a lifetime.

For more on Dena Tauriello and Antigone Rising, go to www.denatauriello.com.