Even during the tensest days of the intifada, the four Jewish and four Arab musicians of the SheshBesh ensemble performed before mixed -- and appreciative -- audiences.
The ensemble's fusion of western and Asian music and instruments can be heard Sunday, June 26, at Temple Israel of Hollywood, as part of the temple's Nimoy Concert Series.
"This unique group of classical artists from the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), and their equally skilled colleagues from the Arab musical tradition, reflect the best of multicultural Israel today," said actor Leonard Nimoy, who with his wife, Susan, is sponsoring the series.
Percussionist Bishara Naddaf has been with the ensemble since its beginning six years ago. His instrument is the deff, which looks like a tambour drum, and, in the hands of a master like Naddaf, can sound like an entire percussion section.
"I am a Christian Arab and my father did work on a kibbutz," Naddaf said. "During the school year, we visit schools throughout Israel and perform for the students."
When asked about attitudes among Arab and Jewishmembers of SheshBesh, which takes its name from a game similar to backgammon, Nadaff was effusive.
"We're first of all musicians and human beings, and in that there's no difference between Arab and Jew," he said. "We love each other and we embrace each other."
When it comes to discussing politics, "We talk a little among ourselves, but never in front of audiences," he said.
Nadaff's oldest friend on the ensemble is Peter Marck, who has been the IPO's principal double bass since 1979 and helped found its educational outreach program to schools. Other musicians are Yossi Arnheim, the IPO's principal flutist, violinist Wisam Gibran, Russian-born violinist Eugenia Oren-Malkovski and vocalist Haya Samir, a Jerusalemnite of Egyptian heritage.
Two masters of oriental instruments are Alfred Hajjar, who specializes on the flute-like ney, and Ramsis Kasis, who plays on and composes for the oud, the ancestor of the guitar and lute.
The concert by SheshBesh: The Arab-Jewish Ensemble, begins at 3 p.m., Sunday, June 26 at Temple Israel, 7300 Hollywood Blvd. Tickets range from $10-$25 for adults, and $8-$20 for children and seniors. For more information, call (213) 805-4261.