Waafa Younis, a Palestinian musician, has for years been showing
Palestinian children who live with violence and fear in the West Bank's
Jenin refugee camp a different way, through music. Younis started an
orchestra called the Strings of Freedom that is creating a bit of
harmony in a conflicted land.
13-year-old Anwar, this violin is a key to escape from the misery of
the Jenin Refugee Camp where she has lived all of her life.
She remembers how, at the age of six, Israeli soldiers came to her house.
they took us out of the house, they forced us to sit in front of the
house, and brought the tanks up to our faces. We were very
frightened. We were screaming with fear. I was very young," she said.
The lyrics speak of a prayer for peace.
Opening the door to the world of music for her and many other Palestinian youngsters is music teacher Wafaa Younis.
quietness, making happiness, making smiles. This is what music does
with a person," she said. "When a child plays music, he becomes beautiful. He
becomes lovely, with a big heart, full of love, full of flowers."
started a music school and has dedicated her life to giving hope and
joy to Palestinian children through music, steering them away from a
culture of death.
Her work has been here at the Jenin refugee
camp in the West Bank, where violence under the Israeli occupation, and
death, are part of life for children.
"They see soldiers all
the time. They hear shooting all the time. They feel afraid. When I
started my project, I saw them smiling, loving, dancing, playing
music," explained Younis.
Her efforts have not been welcomed by all.
March, Palestinian authorities banned Younis from the camp after she
took a group of young musicians, including Anwar, to perform at a
concert whose audience included Jewish Holocaust survivors.
Playing to Israeli Jews, many Palestinians said, was bowing to the enemy.
Radi Asedeh is the Palestinian police area commander who ordered Younis
out of Jenin and told her not to return to the camp.
made an unintentional mistake. This was a mistake of using boys and
girls in issues, political issues, that are irrelevant to them. She
did it with humanitarian purposes, but this kind of action made people
in Jenin and the refugee camp want to threaten her," said Asedeh.
Despite the criticism, Waafa Younis has made a difference in the lives of youngsters like Anwar.
I learned music, I hated listening to music. When I learned how to play
it, I really loved it and I now enjoy playing music," said music
Wafaa Younis is undeterred in her mission to bring joy, hope, and an end to conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
"Government after government, no solution," she said. "But if you ask me, 'What is the solution?' I will tell you."
By teaching music, Waafa Younis pushes on with her dream of bringing harmony to a land of discord.