Druze army refuser and musician to tour England

In 2013, Omar Saad, a Druze teenager and talented viola player from the village of Meghar in the Galilee, made headlines when he refused to serve in the Israeli army.

Now, Saad will be visiting England to play a series of music concerts, his first public performances since being released from prison earlier this year. He has served a number of jail sentences since 2013 for his refusal to be conscripted.

On the seven-date tour, Omar Saad will be joined by his brothers Mostafa and Ghandi on violin and sister Tibah on cello. Collectively, they perform as The Galilee Quartet, while Omar and Mostafa both played in the orchestra led by world-famous violinist Nigel Kennedy at the 2013 London Proms. The concerts will take place in Cambridge, Evesham, Reading, Worcester, Brighton, Sutton and London between 30 September and 8 October. Most are free but require reservations.

The Galilee Quartet will play a range of music, ranging from pieces from the Western classical canon such as Bach and Mozart, via film scores from Pirates of the Caribbean and Scent of a Woman, to works by major Arabic names such as Lebanese performers Fairouz and Wadih el-Safi.

You can watch Omar Saad and his brothers and sister performing — before he entered military jail — in the video above.

Mostafa Saad has now been called up by the Israeli military as well, and also faces jail terms as a conscientious objector.


Like other Druze born within the State of Israel, Omar Saad was subject to conscription into the Israeli forces at the age of eighteen. And, like an increasing number of Druze youth, he refused, declaring in an Israeli television interview that he couldn’t see himself standing at Qalandiya checkpoint (near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank) and demanding identity documents from his Palestinian friends living under occupation.

In the video posted above, Saad talks about his decision to refuse conscription in the Israeli military.

He also said in an Amnesty International press release that “I am a musician. I play for peace and justice. How could I carry a gun rather than my viola?”

During a series of jail terms for refusing to be conscripted, Saad was supported by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, particularly after he contracted a liver infection, and became the subject of a widespread campaign.

He told Amnesty at the time that prison was: “very hard,” adding that “As a musician it’s very hard, to be away from my viola for four months … normally I would play the viola [several] times a day … It’s hard but this time has given me a lot in experience … what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.