21 February 2023
Read the original version of the story workshopped by James McCreet in the May 2023 issue of Writing Magazine
THE LOVE OF MUSIC ORIGINAL STORY
By Alan Brett
Only the footsteps in the sand remained, one set near a settlement on
the Occupied West Bank. The others were on the outskirts of a village in
the Negev, Israel’s flourishing desert lands. Both sets of footprints marked
the beginning of a wonderful relationship and tragically the end of family
ties as those who left the footprints were driven in the direction of
forbidden love through music.
Thanks to the dedication and insight of a famous Canadian Jewish
conductor, a number of young members representing two sides of an
enduring conflict were brought together in peace and harmony while most
of the remaining two communities were stuck in mutual hatred and mortal
combat. They had been divided principally by competing claims for
territory, and by the divisive propensity of their religions, despite both
claiming descent from Abraham. But what was it that brought the few
young people from each side into peace and understanding? It was, of
course, the formation of a unity orchestra and a love of classical music.
Benjamin Sopel, whose footsteps remained on the sands of the
Negev, was principal clarinettist, the clarinet being an instrument favoured
especially by the Polish Jewish Hassidic people, forebears of Benjamin.
He was only nominally religious in order to conform within the family
and keep the peace but was essentially a secularist. He was quite
handsome young man, early twenties, wavy hair as black as jet, cleft chin
and slightly aquiline nose. Unmistakably Jewish in appearance.
Next to Benjamin in the woodwind section was a very beautiful
young Palestinian, Leila Hakeem. It was Leila who left her footsteps in the
sand of her father's barren field. She learned the oboe at school and played
it with a technique that elicited the naturally doleful tones of that
instrument that would bring tears to the eyes of an angel. Her face, her
dark brown eyes and full lips were framed by a headscarf worn in
deference to her family, but also, inclined to be a secularist, she rebelled
against the full hijab.
The Jewish conductor was persuasive with the authorities to obtain
the necessary permits to perform and visas to tour abroad. But their music
was out of this world, such perfection with all their music, from Baroque
to everything else the great composers had to offer. The Muses were
spellbound in the land of the gods from where they listened.
Their proximity in the orchestra afforded ample opportunity for Leila
and Benjamin to converse in the breaks. They had both learned English at
school so that was the medium they used. Their personalities were very
similar as were their preferred composers. It was inevitable that they
would be drawn together and fall in love. But their problem was that only
while on tour abroad could they be together. Eventually they each
declared to their families their intention to marry. Even the tempting
smells of garlic and coriander simmering in the kitchens of both families
could not assuage the fury.
“Vot you say, have an Arab for a vife? You vill not be famly
anymore!” Benjamin's mother screamed out. His father simply
left the room. Leila had to face an even angrier response, being told that
she would be punished by Allah, and anyway, the Israelies wouldn't let her
live in Israel and if Benjamin lived on the West Bank he would be an
outcast among the Palestinians. The divide was so entrenched within both
While on tour Leila and Benjamin had to make a decision.
“Do you think we might be able to migrate to a friendly
country, perhaps Canada if our conductor can exercise some influence, maybe work in his resident orchestra?” Benjamin suggested. Leila, so wounded by her family's reaction was quick to agree.
“Yes, we can have a civil marriage, forget about the hatred between our families and start a new family of our own,” said Benjamin.
“My darling, our children will be born with music in their ears and don't worry about my family, girls are not as valued as boys in my culture,” Leila reassured him.
So plans were laid, residency permits secured as they had jobs to go to with the help of their conductor. They were able to remain in Canada as that was the last country on their coming world tour. The conductor regretted losing two members of his unity orchestra but was grateful that he was able to keep the two such accomplished musicians in his resident orchestra, and he offered to supply the music for the wedding.
“What music shall we ask for?” Leila enquired.
“Morricone's Gabriel's Oboe” Benjamin unhesitatingly replied.
“And Crusell's Clarinet concerto No.1” Leila responded.
Theirs was a marriage with a spiritual bond, and music was their catalyst. No doubt their children would be born with an affinity for music, too. As for the families back home, there was no reconciliation. Only the footsteps in the sand remained.
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