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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
29 October 2009

Vanessa Redgrave gives benefit performance to support children in Gaza and southern Israel

By David Koch

NEW YORK, USA, 29 October 2009 – Legendary thespian, tireless advocate for human rights and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Redgrave gave a special benefit performance of ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ this week in New York.

Proceeds from the event were to be donated to UNICEF and UNRWA – the United Nations Relief Works Agency – which has aided Palestinian refugees in the Middle East for 60 years. UNICEF and UNRWA will use the funds to help children in Gaza and southern Israel reclaim their lives and rebuild their communities after recent violence in the region.

The one-woman play is based on Joan Didion’s best-selling memoir about her struggle to make sense of the untimely deaths of both her husband and daughter. The play ran on Broadway in 2007 and London’s West End a year later. Ms. Redgrave earned a Tony nomination for her interpretation.

Peacemakers of tomorrow

The themes of anguish, loss and despair all are too familiar to millions of children and young people around the world. In modern warfare, civilians – including children and women – increasingly bear the brunt of conflict, often caught in the cross-fire.

War violates every right a child has: the right to life, to grow up with a family, to health, to survival and full development, and to be protected and nurtured by others. But children must also be recognized as key actors who can participate in finding ways to bring about peace.

As Ms. Didion writes in her memoir: “I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome.” Rather than seeing this only as “magical thinking,” however, adult leaders and policy-makers have an obligation to let children themselves help “change the outcome” by listening to their voices and respecting their rights.

The power of music

Prior to Ms. Redgrave’s performance, which took place at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra played a string quartet by Czech Romantic composer Antonín Dvoàák.

The orchestra brings together young Israeli and Palestinian musicians, along with young people from other Arab countries. They live and work together, fostering understanding among peoples in the Middle East through music. Founded 10 years ago by Palestinian-American scholar and activist Edward Said and Argentinean-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, the orchestra has played at festivals and prominent venues around the world.

About 1,000 supporters of UNICEF and UNRWA, including luminaries from the worlds of theatre and film, attended the benefit. The event raised more than $200,000, which will be used by UNICEF and UNRWA to provide health, water and sanitation, education, protection and counselling programmes for children whose lives have been shattered by war.

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