VOA – Music Teacher Works for Peace Through Music
For 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.
“When 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.
“Making 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.”
Younis 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.
In 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.
Colonel Radi Asedeh is the Palestinian police area commander who ordered Younis out of Jenin and told her not to return to the camp.
“Maybe she 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.
“Before 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 student Anwar.
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.