Intercultural Journeys was created by Udi Bar-David, an Israeli-born cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Carole Haas Gravagno, a local activist and philanthropist, Sheldon Thompson, former Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Sunoco, Inc., and Majid Alsayegh, an Iraqi-born engineer and their shared passion for bringing people together and bridging cultural divides through music.
In 1998, Mr. Bar-David and Ms. Gravagno led a small group on a tour of Arab, Jewish and Buddhist villages to promote the idea that music and art could provide an avenue for dialogue between people who might not otherwise speak to one another.
The response was extraordinary.
Israeli and Palestinian writers shared poetry and stories of loss with each other. In a small Israeli village, a young woman spoke to an Arabic man for the first time – a life-changing experience. “I never saw you before,” she said. “You were just my enemy.”
Both Mr. Bar-David and Ms. Gravagno saw that there was a clear need - and a desire - for an organization that could promote lightening-rod-moments like the one expressed by the young Israeli woman. Upon returning home, the two of them joined Mr. Thompson and Mr. Alsayegh to form Intercultural Journeys.
Three years later, in 2001, the organization was formally born just a few months after the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. It appeared that the mission and the work of Intercultural Journeys would be more urgent than ever.
Since then, Intercultural Journeys (IJ) has held nearly 150 concerts, partnering with an international roster of artists, including R. Carlos Nakai, Simon Shaheen, Diane Monroe and Jiebing Chen. Through musical and personal dialogues with these artists and others, Intercultural Journeys has been able to spread its message to a diverse audience worldwide.
Intercultural Journeys has also developed relationships with other like-minded organizations including The Philadelphia Orchestra and World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.
The audience for IJ’s powerful and original performances continues to grow. In the past year, nearly 7,500 people attended concerts and dialogues. IJ has enjoyed considerable media attention and has now completed its first strategic plan. Through these efforts, IJ is reaching more people with its message of peace and reconciliation through creative performance and dialogue.