“No pictures! No pictures!”
Although there is not a single camera in the room, her comment brings me back to reality: some of the 14 women are afraid to be recognized, others are paranoid that the pictures will be used for dark practices. I’m in Bethlehem’s psychiatric hospital in the department for acute psychiatric patients, all participants are female, age 25 years to 60 years old. Although I expected that most of them would probably be too tired or apathetic from the drugs to participate, I find 14 women ready to join me in a circle. And then the unexpected happens… the women laugh, dance, clap, laugh, smile, and laugh again.
“Is this music good for us?” asks one of them.
“I believe it’s good for me, for you, and actually for everyone!” I answer.
She looks at me and adds: “Yes, you are right, but it’s especially good for us.”
The other women nod.
I didn’t plan a feedback session after we finish, but the women spontaneously take a lead in expressing one by one how they experienced the music, and how much it made them feel good to sing and play rhythms.
After we finish, Musicians without Borders’ trainee Nadia, a nurse in the hospital, offers me coffee, when the relative calm is suddenly disturbed by knocks on the locked door. A new patient just arrived and Nadia needs to tend to her.
I leave the building, wondering what will happen to these women. For this short time, we were a group, we were making music together, and we were all laughing and smiling. Nadia will stay with them and repeat the music activities, but soon they will leave the hospital, and return to their communities, without the support and safe environment they receive here.
Nadia’s supervisor told me the hospital has only one music activity: turning on the music channel of the television in the hall. She expressed the need for music therapists to support her patients. Fortunately, more and more Palestinians are studying music therapy and hopefully soon one of them can join their team. Until then, Nadia, trained by Musicians without Borders, will do her best to incorporate more music activities in her daily work.
— Fabienne van Eck