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By Mick Krever, CNN
The greatest compliment conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim ever got was from a young man in the Gaza Strip.
“‘We feel the world has forgotten us,’” Barenboim recounted a man from Gaza telling him. “‘Some people remember us and they send food and medicines – but then, you would do that for animals, too. But you came and played music, made us feel like human beings again.’"
Barenboim is an Israeli, and at 10 years old stepped onto the world stage as a child-prodigy pianist.
Now, the world-famous conductor brings together bitter enemies to share music stands and the orchestra pit.
His aim, he has said, is to find out whether “music really is the universal language.”
When Barenboim mentored a young Palestinian boy, Karim, in the late 1990s, the divide was starkly evident.
“Israelis to me were something that - something that's not human even,” Karim later recounted. “And for me to actually meet people who have the same interests as me and lead relatively similar lives, it changes my view of what a human being is almost.”
When a Syrian cellist and an Israeli cellist sit down in his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Barenboim said, supposed enemies are playing the same notes, with the same intensity, with the same goal.
“After you've done that for six hours,” Barenboim said, “you look at this monster a little bit different because you see that he also has some of the same preoccupations - not political - that you have.”
But he is realistic about how much the diversity will change his musicians.
“We don't look for a political consensus in the orchestra, not at all,” he said. “The consensus on Beethoven is more than enough for me.”
CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced this piece for television.