They say music soothes the most savage beast, but when it comes to the West Bank, most people are at a loss when it comes to figure out what could end the bloodshed and start an eventual process of co-existence. As often in those instances, the most peculiar ideas bring the most happiness, and it is in Gaza City that several rotating music teachers have found their most dedicated students – assieged children and teenagers seeking refuge from Israeli bombshells in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

from the Episcopal Vocational Training Center in Ramallah

from the Episcopal Vocational Training Center in Ramallah

Classical music is certainly not part of their traditional heritage, but it is through their timeless and flawless melodies that aspiring violinists and solo flutists manage to extend their imagination beyond the wall separating them from Israel and from the rest of the world. Living in decaying and destroyed villages next to colonies, or even in refugee camps, the sound of string quartets have started to emerge from the burning ashes of Ramallah or in Gaza City, still recovering from the 22-day war with Israel in January. Reanimating a resemblance of a cultural life might seem superificial when basic needs are not met and the threat of violence is a daily concern, but in the current climate, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still refuses to address the possibility of a Palestinian state despite American and European pressure, attending to one’s musical ambitions is a hope for normality, a call to resistance under the crushing asphyxia. Speaking to the International Herald Tribune, George Diek, an oboe teacher in Bethleem, explains the motivation: “Deep inside, it is to demonstrate that we are alive, that we deserve to be alive and have our own culture.”

Because everything somehow has to be manipulated and instrumentalized, a concert honoring the memory of Holocaust victims was swiftly banned by the Palestinian authorities – under Hamas’  iron fist – under the pretext it “served enemy’s interests”. The very idea of compassion not knowing any borders, legal or imaginary, never crossed the collective minds of respective governments basking in the lights of their mutual ignorance of each other’s lives, histories, customs and practices, even those they might have in common. That attempt at creating a little island of humanity and tolerance within the core of a seemingly endless war might have been aborted, but this will hardly stop music schools from burgeoning all over the West Bank. Wafaa Younis, one of the music teachers behind the project, also in the difficult position of being an Israeli Arab, choose to overlook the decision.  A music festival will also take place in Jerusalem later this month, and a Baroque festival was set up in December.

The Barenboim-Said Foundation, created by Daniel Barenboim (an Israeli conductor and pianist) in collaboration with Edward Said, the late Palestinian historian, is one of the major actors in the setting up of music schools and the possibility for gifted Palestinian children to win scholarships to study abroad. The Foundation itself is a proof that Israelis and Palestinians can indeed not simply coexist, but work together to create something that is of a benefit to both population, in an educative, non-violent and socially progressive way. For now, music schools will have to settle with providing students with an escape, a flowering imagination, and the dream of better, wider landscapes in which death is not a constant and regular guest at the dinner table. Which is already way more than anyone ever gave to Gaza City.