Sandy Tolan in Salon:
Excerpted from “Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land,” Sandy Tolan’s book about the dream of one young musician to build a music school in the occupied West Bank. The founder, French-trained violist Ramzi Aburedwan, once a stone-throwing child of the first Palestinian intifada, opened Al Kamandjati (Arabic for “The Violinist”) in large part to “protect Palestinian children from the soldiers.” Every year Al Kamandjati serves hundreds of Palestinian children, who use music to help them navigate checkpoints and military incursions while maintaining hope for an independent state of their own.
Near Hebron, West Bank
Rasha Shalalda, the young Palestinian flutist, smiled at her visitors from an open doorway, quickly beckoning them forward and up the stairs of her house in the family’s ancestral village of Sa’ir. Upstairs she directed the visitors to an overstuffed gold couch tossed with embroidered Palestinian pillows, beneath framed quotations from the Qur’an and a framed inscription in Arabic: “The heart of a mom is a flower that never dies.” She brought juice and cookies, then pulled out a photo album. Rasha flipped through pictures of her parents, of Shehada, Alá, and their sisters in younger days, and of her grand wedding in Sa’ir three years earlier. In one picture Rasha and her groom stood under a flowered arch covered with shining leaves. love story, read the caption, in English. As she turned the pages, Rasha’s son, Amir, two years old, picked up a blue toy car, dropped it, and began to stomp on it, sending bits of plastic flying across the tile floor. Rasha paused at photos from Italy. “I want to go back there,” she said wistfully. “The two important things in Italy were respect and freedom. Then coming back here, and looking at how things are, I wish I hadn’t gone.”