18 July 2012 PrizesGulbenkian Prize

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

2012 Calouste Gulbenkian Prize


The orchestra founded by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim in 1999 to bring together Israeli and Palestinian musicians as well as those from other Arabic countries is the winner of the 2012 Calouste Gulbenkian Prize, worth € 250,000. 

The jury, chaired by the former Portuguese president and United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Jorge Sampaio, and with the following members Pedro Pires (former president of Cape Verde), Princess Rym Ali of Jordan (founder of the Jordan Media Institute), Vartan Gregorian (Carnegie Corporation, USA), Paul Brest (Hewlett Foundation, USA), António Sampaio da Nóvoa (Rector of Lisbon University) and Miguel Poiares Maduro (University Institute of Florence and winner of the Gulbenkian Science Prize in 2010), recognise the priceless contribution made by the Orchestra not only to dialogue and approximation in the Middle East but also to the education and development of these two peoples. 

As the Jury president declared: “The choice of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is both opportune and exemplary across various fronts: its celebration of the universal communicative power of music alongside its capacity to transcend divisions and conflicts; its strategic focus on young people and their aptitude for finding new solutions to old problems in addition to representing a constant appeal for attention to a conflict ongoing for decades and with repercussions throughout an entire region. The Orchestra further celebrates the value of intercultural dialogue and its contribution to peace and harmony”. 

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra clearly reflects this intention to foster the means of overcoming the barriers and historical conflicts persisting between Israelis and Palestinians based on a shared passion for music that leads to engagement and a better understanding able to dispel the hatred and mistrust prevailing. The creators behind the Orchestra maintained a unique political conviction about the Middle East conflict: that it shall never be resolved by military means. Believing that the destinies of the two lands would inevitably be bound up down through time, Said and Barenboim sought to demonstrate, through this Orchestra, that the mere building of bridges is able to foster and encourage persons to listen to both sides of the conflict. 

With performances planned for the Royal Albert Hall in July and the Festival of Salzburg in August, the Orchestra is already taking to the great stages around the world. In 2005, the maestro and pianist Daniel Barenboim for the first time ever crossed over into Ramallah, in the West Bank, in what was deemed a “historical concert” in the life of the two peoples. In Lisbon, in August 2007, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra gave a particularly memorable performance in the Grand Auditorium of the Gulbenkian Foundation to commemorate the closure of its State of the World program. 


Contact Manager of the Orchestra: 
Tabaré Perlas +49 30 20607990 / telemóvel :+49 172 176 37 02
Email: [email protected]