Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rap Across the Wall

“I'm Mohamad from Silwan.”
“??? We never saw you in Silwan!”
“I'm Mohamad from al-Azzeh refugee camp.”
“I'm Mohamad from Dheisheh refugee camp.”
“You know what, I'm Mohamad from Palestine!”

Mohamad shows the teenagers that it is not important from which camp or neighborhood you are. "We are all Palestinians. Unity makes us strong."

Every week, 15 teenagers from Silwan, East-Jerusalem, go with a bus through the Bethlehem checkpoint to al-Azzeh camp to follow rap workshops. Here they meet with other teenagers from the al-Azzeh and Dheisheh refugee camp. In the end of the project, they will perform together their own-written rap songs in Bethlehem and hopefully in Silwan.
The teenagers learn to write text, rhyme, rap, beat-box and practice leadership and communication skills. The workshops are led by rappers trained by MwB (Ahmad, Hisham, Mohamad and Saud) and a nonviolence trainer from HLT (Ahmad al'Azzeh). The project is sponsored by Prelude Foundation.

This week the 4th workshop took place. The group listened to kollon 3endon dababaat from the British/Palestinian female rapper Shadia Mansour. Together they analyzed and discussed the song, after which they were divided into four groups. Every group is made up of teenagers from both Silwan and the refugee camps and will perform their own-written songs in the final shows.
Each group chose a subject for a song and started to write the refrain. These are the subjects they chose:
  1. Palestine
  2. The wall
  3. Palestinian prisoners
  4. House demolitions
Rowan presenting the text of her group

Ali presenting the text of his group

Yazeed presenting the text of his group

Yazan presenting the text of his group
Why do we take the effort to arrange a bus, to take the Silwan kids all the way through a checkpoint? Because we believe it is important for the children from Silwan and the refugee camps to meet each other, to learn about each others' lives and to work together. The rappers are not allowed to travel to Silwan or Jerusalem, so Silwan will come to them.

Hidaya, Na'ma, Sundus and Rowan on their way back to Silwan
During the coming weeks, they will continue to write their rap songs together and to develop themselves as voices of their communities!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Special Rappers

As every Wednesday, I enter the room where six teenagers with special needs are waiting for their music workshop. But today I'm not alone! Saud from Bethlehem and Ahmad from Dheisheh refugee camp join me. Because they can offer the kids something I can not....
Rap and beat-box!

Saud taught us the basic beat-box sounds, while Ahmad showed us how to rap a simple text about our daily lives. When they performed a rap song together, Haneen and Ra'fat immediately reacted by laughing loudly and Salem put up his thumb.

Even Issa, the youngest one and easily distracted, was drawn into their music and did not move his wheel chair for a moment.
Thank you Saud and Ahmad, for showing us how we can express ourselves and make music just with using our voices.

And please come again....because it will be hard to tell the kids this was just a one-time-only event!


Thank you Catherine for making the pictures!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Generation of Hope

Jeel al-Amal (Generation of Hope) is the name of an orphanage in al-Azariyeh (Bethany) for around 100 boys.Together with 250 girls and boys from poor families they receive education in the school building next to the orphanage.

Najwa Sayegh-Sahhar, daughter of the founders, invited us to give two music workshops to 65 boys, age 4-14. 
When the younger children enter the room, the older ones help them to feel comfortable and to find a chair. It is touching to see how the teenagers care for the little ones.
When everyone has a place, the older boys leave us alone with the kids and we start our activities. We dance, sing, play rhythms with sticks, but most of all....we laugh! After a full hour we finish the workshop and prepare for the second workshop with the older boys.
We do a different program, adjusted to the age difference. The boys are very creative, making up movements with a song, singing with loud voices and again, laughing a lot. 

Zeinab, the other workshop leader, and I drive back through Wadi Nar, the terrible road between Ramallah and Bethlehem. But we don't care. The sun shines, we still hear the laughter of the boys and softly we hum the songs we sang with them.

Jeel al-Amal is a wonderful place for these children. To be able to continue their beautiful work, they are dependent on donations. Please have a look at their website to learn more about the project and to find ways to support them!

All pictures are taken by Palestine's Next Top Photographer: Yousef Younis Shaour (one of the boys from the orphanage)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Photo Impression of Training Week

In February 2011, Hanno Tomassen and Otto de Jong visited Bethlehem to give a full week of music training to the MwB trainees. It was a week full of singing, drumming, improvising and most of all: music making!
Twelve young women received a certificate from MwB and HLT and will continue to use the many skills they learned. For the coming weeks, many music workshops are planned, including rap workshops for children from Silwan and the refugee camps around Bethlehem, music workshops for blind children, and for orphaned children.
Thank you Hanno and Otto for sharing this week with us!

Visit to HLT

Part of the MwB training is a series of six workshops in nonviolence by trainers from Holy Land Trust.
During these workshops, the participants discover and discuss the meaning of (non)violence, communication techniques, deeper listening skills, body language and leadership.
The fifth workshop was about change: why or when do we want to change, what do we want to change and what are the challenges we face?

We decided to change the sixth and last workshop, and take the group outside to plant olive trees next to Aida refugee camp. Everyone was very excited about this planned trip so we were all disappointed that due to the rain the tree planting event was canceled.

Ahmad Al'Azzeh, one of the nonviolence trainers, came up with an alternative plan: we made a visit to the wonderful meeting room of HLT, had a breakfast together and spent our time discussing and presenting three interesting and important issues:

1. How can music be integrated in nonviolence?
2. How can music workshop leaders deal with difficult cases? (a child that dies, a mixed group of children with special needs, etc.)
3. How can the most vulnerable women in the society be reached? (and who are the most vulnerable women?)

The different questions were discussed in small groups and later presented to each other. We all learned a lot from this workshop, hearing the different opinions and helping each other to find alternatives of dealing with difficulties during the music workshops.