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War, Children and Music

An interesting article from The Daily Beast on how music can shield a child from the horrors of war.

RAMALLAH—The white van, carrying young musicians riding home from a concert in Bethlehem, suddenly came upon a military barrier erected hastily in the road. “halt!” commanded a sign in Arabic and Hebrew. Just beyond, an olive-clad soldier was checking documents.

”Flying checkpoint,” said Rasha Shalalda, 14, a Palestinian flutist, to her sister Alá, 10, and other fellow musicians.  They were students at a Palestinian music school, Al Kamandjati (Arabic for The Violinist).

Flying checkpoints are temporary barriers the Israeli military erects for the stated purpose of catching suspected militants, and those without proper documents, who might try to evade the fixed checkpoints. Also known as random or “surprise” checkpoints, they are among the more than 600 roadblocks, earthen barriers and other obstacles the Israeli military has erected in the West Bank, a land about half the size of Connecticut.

Encounters at checkpoints could be deadly, but mostly, for Alá and Rasha, they were humiliating—dehumanizing reminders of who had control.  The “surprise” checkpoints were so ubiquitous that the sisters were never surprised to encounter them. “It’s normal,” Alá said.

The van slowed and came to a stop. The sisters gazed at the sign. Behind the soldier a military Humvee blocked the road. The soldier beckoned the van forward. He opened the sliding door.

“What’s that?” the soldier asked Alá, pointing to her soft blue instrument case.

“This is a violin,” replied Alá.

The soldier told her to step out of the van.

“Do you know how to play?” he asked.


“Play,” instructed the soldier.

“Don’t play for him!” Rasha yelled in Arabic.

“Play,” repeated the soldier.

Alá frowned, looking into the van uncertainly.

Muntasser Jebrini, a teenaged clarinet player, said softly, “It’s okay. Play, habibti.” Play, my dear.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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