“The greater challenge” – Interview with Yael Deckelbaum

Yael Deckelbaum is an Israeli singer, songwriter and activist who brings a message of healing and peace. On 2nd April Yael Deckelbaum stops for the first time in Lugano, at Studio Foce.
9 March 2023
by Silvia Onorato
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Yael Deckelbaum
© Muperphoto

Yael Deckelbaum is an Israeli singer, songwriter and activist. She has been one of the best-known musicians in Israel for many years; founder of the trio Habanot Nechama – first in the charts in Israel with the single “So far” -, Yael Deckelbaum recorded three solo albums and over the years collaborated with many Israeli artists.
Yael Deckelbaum is also an activist for peace between Israel and Palestine. She is a front-line exponent of Women Wage Peace, a pacifist movement born in 2014 that sees women – both Jewish and Arab – lead the way for peace. Yael then created a project, “Yael & the Mothers“, with which she promotes peace and women’s rights. “What About the Women” is the album that Yael takes on tour in Switzerland: in addition to Zurich, Yael stops for the first time in Geneva and Lugano. Her concert, organised by Universal Sounds Ticino, is on 2nd April at Studio Foce.

How did you first become interested in music?
I grew up in a musical home. My father was part of a country band. He was a Banjo player – and a dentist. He soon recognised my voice and brought me on stage to sing with his band. I have been performing from a very young age. And it was always clear to me that music is my path in life.

How did music and activism come together for you?
I have a very good friend called Daphni Leef. She is a well-known activist in Israel, who lead a huge nation-wide protest in 2011. When we became friends, we initiated a musical social journey through Israel. In this journey I learnt the role that music can play in changing the collective field: opening people’s hearts and making it able to talk to each other in another level. A year later I joined Women Wage Peace in their journey. I meat Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, and it changed my life. I became a true believer in the power of women to lead to positive change.

What is Women Wage Peace? How did you become involved?
“Women Wage Peace” arose on summer 2014 during the escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and the military operation “protective edge”. The movement is non-partisan and does not support any one specific solution to the conflict. Instead, it empowers women from diverse communities to build trust across divides, leading in turn to a unified demand for diplomatic negotiation, with full representation of women, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I heard about the movement from a friend and made contact with them. A few days later we sat together as they told me about the march they were planning. I told them, “I am here to give my music for this cause”. During the preparations, I wrote “Prayer of the Mothers”’ that became the anthem of the march. Thousands of women marched from the north of Israel to Jerusalem in a call for peace. A call that reached its peak on October 19th, in a march of at least 4’000 women – half of them Palestinian, and Half Israeli – in Qasr el Yahud (on the northern Dead Sea). The very same evening 15’000 women protested in front of the prime minister’s house in Jerusalem. The marches were joined by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who lead to the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, by the joint force of women. I was there, and it changed my life.

You promote a message of peace – taken in its broadest sense. How can we help a world that seems full of conflict? 
After years of putting myself out there for the greater good, I become tired. I came to the conclusion, that there are things within me that I have been neglecting in the while working to inspire and convince people to see what I see. During Covid, I had the chance to focus inward, and realised that the most important thing I can do to help heal the world, is to heal myself. Our society is built of people, and while the particles that build the society are unhappy, the system will not know how to generate a society that supports happiness, healing and thrive from within. I believe that there is a lot we can do outwards in support of a better world, but creating this world from within, is the greater challenge. This is where I am now, I don’t know where else my journey will take me.

This is the first time you play in Lugano. What will you play?
Yes it is! I’m really excited to come 🙂
I will sing songs from all times. From the days in the women’s movement, and some new more personal songs. I am looking. forward to share my story and music with you.

Yael Deckelbaum plays at Studio Foce on 02.04.
More information: foce.ch

Translation performed

with Google Translate.

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