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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
July 19, 2012 •• Palestine Community Music
Music with deaf, talented children
Yesterday night I tried to arrange a bus to bring 16 deaf children and their supervisors from Hebron to Bethlehem. I called my friend from a village nearby Hebron, and he asked me why I wanted to spend money on bringing the kids all the way to Bethlehem in this heatwave. Why didn’t we, the music workshop leaders, travel to Hebron to give the workshop there? Although our initial plan was to arrange a trip for the kids I started to doubt if it was a good idea to let the children come during one of the hottest days of the summer. But as soon as I arrived, I knew we had made the right choice! Somehow the hall in the new building of HLT was filled with a very positive energy, and for two hours every single person in the hall seemed to radiate with happiness and love. Except for the bus driver maybe, since he spent most of the time sleeping in a corner.

Halimeh explains in sign language to the children what we will do today in the music workshop. Halimeh is deaf herself and followed the HLT/MwB training to become a music workshop leader. Her sister Magedah translated the full training into sign language. For the children,  Halimeh and two of her deaf sisters were great role models. They showed the kids that being deaf doesn’t have to be an obstacle to become anything you want in life!
When we did movements and rhythms, I had to review my preconceptions towards deaf children: these kids  played rhythms together as if they had followed music training for weeks!
Every child showed us his or her name, which was repeated by the whole group. Deaf people  have often two names: a name spelled with letters, and a name made by a movement that is different for every person. 
Magedah, a professional sign language translator and also trained by HLT/MwB, explained the “fruit game” in sign language. Her movements were translated by the teacher of the children, because most of these children don’t know the official Palestinian sign language. Instead they know a specific ‘dialect’, a sign language developed in their school in Hebron, a city south of Bethlehem. Magedah showed the kids the official signs for apple, orange, banana, and grapes, so we would understand each other during the “fruit game”.
Halimeh shows every child which fruit he or she is. Here she is showing little Mohammad that he will be an orange.
The leader in the game showed the children that all the oranges had to change places! Little Mohammad is running to catch a free chair, but he won’t be fast enough….
Mohammad didn’t make it to a free chair, so now it is his turn to be the leader and call for a fruit. He is making the orange movement in this picture…
But again he didn’t make it to a free chair! This time he tries it with  the  sign for banana.
After Mohammad managed to get a chair, another girl became the leader.
Although I was doubting to use the sticks in this workshop, Halimeh convinced me to use them. She told me she had really enjoyed playing the sticks during the training and was sure that the kids would like it as well. She was right! I was so impressed by their concentration, their capability to play together, to play soft and loud, slow and fast, and to combine different movements.
Some of the children were shy at the beginning of the workshop, but soon the ice broke and no one was embarrassed to make silly movements. 
In this variation, where one stick is hit by the other, children often have problems holding the stick from the top and instead hold the sticks at the bottom. But not this group! They all managed to play the rhythm with one hand while holding the stick from up with the other hand.
One by one the children took turn in being the leader, showing the rest of the group which movements and rhythms to make. 
During this exercise, it became clear that the children didn’t get the chance often to show their creativity. Many of them copied the others and were not motivated to make a new movement. But even when they would do the same movements over and over again, they would still have a big proud smile on their face when it was their turn to be the leader.
During the second half of the workshop, Fadi, also trained by HLT/MwB joined  the group. I had not planned to do anything with recorded music, but Fadi had a different approach…he did the ‘water drop dance’ as if the kids could hear all the music. And to tell the truth…it really looked as if they did!
The bus driver in the meantime became very tired and fell asleep in the back of the room. Although I had put the music quite loud he didn’t have a problem to sleep through it.
Who said that deaf children don’t like to dance?
While the bus driver was still sleeping, the children could release their energies on the parachute, donated by our dear friend from England. Thank you so much!
The ball in the middle was supposed to stay on the parachute, but soon the game changed into smashing the ball anywhere except of inside the parachute!
During the last dance, the children invented movements, followed by three claps, which was the sign for the next child to create a movement for the group. I’m still not sure how they managed to clap together and to understand the structure of the dance so fast.
A final picture was taken in front of the beautiful new HLT building in the center of Bethlehem. Thank you Magedah, Halimeh, Nadiah, Amineh, Fadi, the caretakers from Hebron, and of course the talented children!

Thank you Prelude Foundation for the transportation and Kareema for the pictures!