‘Here there’s peace, not war’: A look inside a Gaza music school
A music school in Gaza City offers an oasis for students in the beleaguered region, providing a creative outlet to distract them from the brutal realities of living in a warzone. RTD follows the teens who have lived through three major crises since 2008.
The school, now housed in a hospital building, was first destroyed by shelling during the Gaza War in 2008-2009, a three-week conflict that resulted in over one thousand Palestinian casualties.
Gaza City residents, even the kids—no longer surprised by bombing—have grown accustomed to living amongst rubble.
“A 10-year-old child doesn’t know a world without a war, because there’ve been combat operations of all kind here since 2001,” said Natalya Abu Obeyde, a trumpet and guitar teacher who has lived in Gaza since 1998.
Students, many of them still children, walk through areas completely destroyed by bombing without batting an eye.
“We used to pray in this mosque,” says Wael Abu Obeyde, a music student, unfazed as he strolls through a neighborhood left in ruins after a bombing— his daily route to music lessons. “But since it was bombed, we’ve been praying at home.”
Traces of the wars are inescapable. The walls of the music school are marked by chipped stucco after a nearby ministry was bombed in 2013, and through the school’s windows, Natalya points to a neighboring building where Palestinians displaced by this summer’s combat operations now live.
The music school gives students a place to forget the horrors of war and focus their energy on creativity.
“It’s not that music brings kids back to life, it’s rather a good distraction from this nightmare,” she explains.
The students tend to agree. While outside the sound of planes and rockets may blare, in the school, guitar, piano, a kanun rendition of Katyusha, a Russian song composed on the eve of World War II, reign supreme as the students prepare for a concert.
“Here’s there’s peace, not war. Music everywhere! This is my place. I love the atmosphere, everything about it,” says music student Donio Ashour. “It feels like my home.”
According to Obeyde, lessons at school are affordable, and kids from all socioeconomic classes have the opportunity to study.
Though electricity outages are not uncommon, teachers continue to conduct lessons in the dark. Teacher, Anas al Najar, refers to music itself as a “candle in the darkness.”
“Music is very important, especially in times of war, or when you’re under siege as we live now,” he told RTD.