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This blog was written by Fabienne van Eck, program manager for Bara’em Ghirass in Palestine.

I’m teaching a new song that sounds a bit jazzy. “Do you know jazz?” I ask my nine year old cello student from the Old City of Jerusalem. He looks at me with big eyes and nods his head. “Yes, I know the jazz”.

We are talking in Arabic together, and I realize he misunderstood me. He was not talking about jazz music–he has never heard about jazz music. But the word for ‘jazz’ sounds a lot like another word in Arabic, and so his answer to me was: “Yes, I know the army.”

One week later.  

I’m creating a soundscape with university students in Bethlehem. I explain the activity, where each person will improvise a solo with rhythm sticks. While the group plays a soft rhythm, we wait for the first student to play a solo. Suddenly we hear loud shooting nearby. We all laugh. That was the first solo.

One of the things that worries me is that the violence and destruction of the occupation are so deeply embedded in children’s lives. They were born into the occupation and don’t know a different life. They don’t know what it feels like to grow up in a free country where you can express yourself freely and where there is a safe space to nurture your interests.

Our partner in Palestine, Ghirass Cultural Center, is a rare oasis in the midst of all the chaos of life under occupation. The center breathes an air of calm, nurturing, and inclusion. Musicians Without Borders’ music program Bara’em Ghirass is part of the program they offer children from isolated villages, refugee camps, and Bethlehem. All children are welcome, including children with disabilities.

When we learn and play music together, we connect on a deep level. Moreover, the children get the chance to be what they are supposed to be: children. Children who can learn, discover, develop, support each other, laugh together, create beautiful music, and share life. During the music days, the children build their resilience, self-confidence, and knowledge. This helps them to get through the rest of the week, through the nightly army raids, the shooting, the violent arrests, and the killing.

Is it enough? No. But giving children a place to learn, play, and grow is something we can do, with music.

This month, we’re raising funds to support programs like Bara’em Ghirass in Palestine. Will you help us reach our goal this month? Donate now!

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