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Juliet Simmons Headshot

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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I've lived through a lot of winters but I don't remember it being quite as dark quite as it is this year. As I get older it feels like there is more black and white, less grey, in the way that people look at world. That sense is heightened for me as the days get shorter and light and colour seem hard to find.

A couple of weeks ago I felt that darkness wrapping itself around me when I went to see the Batsheva Ensemble at Sadler's Wells in London.

When I booked my ticket it was because I wanted to see something beautiful and be taken to a happy place, I wanted to be given an injection of colour. I wasn't making a political statement of any kind. When I got to the theatre Israel and Gaza were making the headlines and I was faced with protesters from both sides, searched as I entered the building and told that the blood of Palestinian babies was on both my tickets and my hands.

I sat in the auditorium about as far away from my happy place as I could possibly be. Tears came to my eyes as I was overwhelmed by the assumptions people were making about me, the performance and the performers: the assumption that because I was Jewish and I was there I must have a particular point of view; the assumption that because the dancers were Israelis they all endorsed a certain political viewpoint: the assumption by the largest security men I've ever seen that there would be trouble, and there was.

Leonard Cohen wrote "There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in" and when I was least expecting it that's what happened that evening, the light came in. As the second half of the performance began the dancers appeared, dressed as religious Jews, (chassidim) and jumped from the stage to the sound of a hip hop version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Each dancer chose a partner from the audience and took them back on to the stage where everyone danced together. That was the moment, where everyone somehow became the same, equal in some way, it was quite beautiful and left the audience with, perhaps, just a little bit of hope.

The way the performance shifted our emotions and moved us is really the true power that art has. In the theatre it brought people together, touched them and perhaps changed perceptions, just a little. Later that same week I saw an art installation created by three women of different faiths at the Urban Dialogues exhibition in Shoreditch. Again I was moved by the beauty of the work and by what could be created when people who come from different backgrounds work together and talk. And just this week reading The Gaza Poetry Roundtable by Tala Abu Rahmeh and Marcela Sulak in the LA Review of books I was again struck by how there is more that unites than divides us.

It is winter and darkness is all pervading and trying its hardest to seep into all that we do. It's easy to forget to let the light in but seeking it out, in people, places and art is what will get us through these dark days - it's out there - we just need to remember that.