The Western Galilee and the Sounds of its Music

By: Andrea Tovim

Maestro Aaron Kula conducts students from communities across the Galilee as part of a Fulbright Scholarship program to enhance the youth music programs in the region. 

On top of some of the rich green covered hills of Israel’s Western Galilee, just shy of a small, quaint nearby Arab village, stands the Jewish town of Kfar Vradim. Known as the “Village of Roses” in English, it is located near the towns of Ma’alot, Nahariya, and Karmiel. Although it is a small, budding town, Kfar Vradim is bustling with culture and excitement.

One of the centers for culture in town is the Conservatorium, which was established in 1999 by Reuvan Malach, a conductor who sought to find a solution to local schools that lacked a central place to teach the area youth music. The Conservatorium now serves as a home to residents of Kfar Vradim, and musicians of various ethnic backgrounds from nearby schools and towns. It was this unique little corner of Israel’s Galilee that caught the attention of renowned American educator and conductor Aaron Kula that set the stage for a late-May evening concert.

Maestro Kula first arrived in Israel 10 months ago with Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) Arava Task Force Chair Beckie Fischer, but it was during a four-day visit to the Galilee where he met JNF’s Go North Task Force Chair Ken Krupsky that changed everything. Krupsky, a longtime JNF supporter from Chevy Chase, MD introduced Kula to Michal Shiloah, who works closely with Jewish National Fund supporting regional businesses, boutiques, wineries, and tourism providers in Northern Israel.

Kula, the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, initially considered heading to Romania, Poland, or Hungary but decided to stay in the Western Galilee where he felt he was needed most. It was clear to Kula that with Jewish National Fund’s leadership revitalizing Israel’s north, there would also be a need for music educators, and he envisioned how he could help.
During his time in Israel, Kula visited several music schools where he met with educators and students from the various ethnic and religious backgrounds who comprise Israel’s multicultural society. Like many others who believe in the healing and diplomatic effects of music, Kula suggested everyone can be brought together through the transcending power of music. To mark the end of his sabbatical, the region’s four largest music schools all joined together for the first time and under his baton as guest conductor at Kfar Vradim’s Conservatorium.

While Israeli society can be complex and stoical, organizations like Jewish National Fund, in partnership with Western Galilee Now, bridge the gaps among the varying cultures, unifying a shared appreciation of something beyond the superficial. For the communities of the Western Galilee, the sound of music provides a means to come together and let the world hear how this small region has made an example of coming together in symphonic harmony.

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Western Galilee Now Director Michal Shiloah Galnoor (left) with the heads of the music conservatories of the Western Galilee, and Maestro Aaron Kula, American composer and conductor.