Amid the despair that pervades Gaza these days, Gaza Music School coordinator Ibrahim Al Najaar sounds an optimistic note: “Music restores hope and joy for a nation not accustomed to happiness.” As the student orchestra starts rehearsals, Ibrahim adds, “The music school supports students who want to play music and make their voices heard in the world.”

Some 200 young musicians meet at the school in Gaza City most evenings from 5 to 8 pm to rehearse and take lessons from 14 teachers there. Ibrahim Al Najaar describes the school as a refuge for many students who are designing their future through their talent and need an outlet for their creativity. “No matter the size of the hands or fingers, music is about sensation, and they do a great job expressing their emotions,” he adds.

New Violins & Scholarships for Gaza Music Students

Gaza Music School Firas playing qanoun

Firas is one of the best musicians in his class. He plays qanoun and uses it to express peace and serenity.

Ibrahim says the school is even more important in the aftermath of the traumatic 2014 war in Gaza. Sixth-grader Firas El-Shirafy is studying the qanoun, an ancient Arab instrument similar to a zither. While playing his favorite pieces from the world-famous singers Om-Kolthoom and Fayrouz, Firas pauses to talk about his classmate Naim. Naim had borrowed the school’s violin just a few days before the Gaza war broke out last summer, to practice at home.

“The first day I saw him coming to school, he was sobbing. He couldn’t talk to us,” says Firas. Naim’s apartment was in one of Gaza’s tall buildings that was bombed in the war. “He lost all his belongings and his violin,” explains Firas. “When we got back after the war, we didn’t talk, we just played in our team orchestra and it felt good to be doing something positive rather than opening old wounds.”

A few months later, ANERA provided the Gaza Music School a $15,000 grant to purchase six new violins and provide tuition for 80 students to study the musical instrument of their choice. The violins replaced what was lost and will give more students an opportunity to play the string instrument.  In 2010, ANERA delivered two pianos to Gaza’s only music school.

Seventh grader Evet El-Turk, is delighted with the new violins and is determined to master her technique.  She says music is a way to show a different side of Gaza. “We do have destruction everywhere, that’s true, but it is important to play our cultural songs to reflect our Palestinian traditions,” she said.

Pointing to the new violin, Evet proudly states her dream is to travel worldwide and perform before an audience of thousands. “With a lot of practice, I know I could perform confidently on stage.”

gaza music school evet elturk playing violin

Evet El-Turk takes her music seriously, and is very grateful for the violins.

Young Firas prefers the qanoun. He says he chose the qanoun because it is sophisticated. Thanks to ANERA’s scholarships, he has been able to continue studying and playing traditional Arabic melodies.

Firas says the secret of his success is the support of his parents and grandparents. “My passion began when I saw the qanoun played once on TV and I thought this is exactly what I want to do,” he smiles. Firas is considered one of the best students in his music class. His teacher says his musical abilities are well beyond his years. “He definitely has a musical ear,” explains Ibrahim Al Najaar.

Firas has no doubts about what he wants to be when he finishes school, “I want to be a musician. I am sure about that.”

His teachers also see how Firas expresses his fear, anger and sorrow through music.  “You know I lived through three wars already,” explains young Firas. “So for me, music is a message for peace and serenity.”

What is the Gaza Music School?

The Gaza Music School was founded in 2008 as a project funded by A. M. Qattan Foundation. It started with five teachers and 25 students but quickly expanded. Today there are 14 teachers. It is the only music school in Gaza. In 2012, the school joined the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music to become the conservatory’s fifth branch (other branches are in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah). The school offers eight years of study with a basic certificate and intermediate certificate, which qualify students to pursue music at international universities.

View slideshow to see more photos:

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gaza music school teacher and student
gaza music school students in classroom
gaza music school girl playing cello
gaza music school girl holding violin
gaza music school girl closeup
Gaza music school Evet ElTurk portrait

Students at the Gaza Music School play an array of string instruments. New violins give more students the chance to practice.

A younger student practices on a new violin with the help of one of her teachers.

A more advanced cello student practices while her teacher looks on.

Some of the teaching takes place inside the classroom, where the students come together to learn more about their passion.

A young student with great ambition focuses on her music as she plays.

Students use the instruments and their talents to express emotions.

Learning an instrument takes a lot of determination. Students at the Gaza Music School have what it takes.

Evet El-Turk, an aspiring violinist, poses with one of the new violins ANERA delivered.

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Khairyah looking at camera

Help for Diabetes Patients in Lebanon

April 22nd, 2015 by ANERA

“When I was 40 years old, I was diagnosed with diabetes, and because I didn’t receive the proper treatment, doctors started amputating my toes one by one till I lost both of my legs,” says 75-year-old Khairiyah, who has been living at Dar Al Ajaza, an elderly home in Beirut, Lebanon for five years now.

Her son decided it was time for his mother to rest in a place where she could receive good medical attention. Despite her health issues, Khairiyah used to care for  her sick husband and three children, two of whom were also ill. But, Khairiyah lacked proper care herself. She started to lose her eyesight and, facing amputation, she could no longer move around without help.

ANERA delivered a one-year supply of life-saving diabetes medicine to Dar Al Ajaza.

Khairiyah misses her home and children but says she has found a new family at the elderly home among other diabetes patients in Lebanon. “My son only visits me once a month because he is so busy with his children, but here I found a new family and they are watching over me.”

Fortunately for Khairiyah and other patients living with diabetes, ANERA has supplied the Dar Al Ajaza with a large quantity of Pioglitazone, which treats chronic diabetes. The medicines were generously donated by AmeriCares, a long-time partner of ANERA’s In-Kind program.

pharamacist lebanon clinic

Razan, a pharmacist at Dar Al Ajaza, is relieved to get the medicine.

Director Azzam Houri  explains that Dar Al Ajaza welcomes some 600 geriatric patients, coordinating with the Lebanese Ministry of Health to cover 40% of the medical costs. The organization relies on donations of medical supplies to provide its patients with proper medical care.

“I cannot thank AmeriCares enough for their generous donation of medicines that we need every day for our patients to treat their chronic illnesses. The medicines are too expensive for us to purchase and hard to find in Lebanon,” Houri says.

Pharmacist Razan Doumiati says the free one-year supply of Pioglitazone means their resources can be used to provide Khairiyah and 15 other diabetes patients with better food and a proper diet for people with diabetes.

“We strive every day to improve the quality of life for our patients, thanks to our network of valued partners,” adds Lina Atat, ANERA pharmacist in Beirut.


You can donate to ANERA today to make a huge difference in the lives of impoverished families in Lebanon and Palestine.

“A grain of soil equals the entire world to me.”

That is how West Bank farmer Imad Musleh describes his deep-rooted love for the land that has nurtured, fed and clothed him, his siblings and children.

Imad is a diligent farmer who grows an array of crops and rain-fed fodder. His crops include cucumber, tomato, zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper. Relying on irrigated crops has drained his budget, which has pushed him to try different, more cost-effective types of irrigation.

In 2014, Imad was selected to receive a share of recycled water through ANERA’s latest agriculture project. The Jenin Water Reuse Project is funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and ANERA’s community of donors.

The program utilizes recycled water from the Jenin wastewater treatment facility to benefit 240 farming families in need of better irrigation methods for their land. It also introduces new fodder crops like alfalfa to help keep communities self-sufficient, ending their dependence on imported fodder.

To make sure the water is handled and utilized safely and distributed equitably, ANERA helped farmers like Imad establish the very first farmers cooperative to focus on wastewater irrigation in the West Bank. The growing membership receives training and awareness sessions organized by ANERA. Additionally, ANERA has provided the cooperative with needed equipment, water tank, and seeds.

Fifteen selected farmers had their first training session in Jordan, in coordination with the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture and the National Center for Agriculture Research and Extention (NCARE). They went on a four-day educational tour through farms and wastewater treatment facilities, learning about the process and new crops to try. The training now continues in Jenin.

Mohammad and Huthayfa

Mohammad is Imad’s worker on the farm. He’s pictured here with his son, Huthayfa.

Farming in Palestine Combines Tradition and Innovation

Like most farmers in the District of Jenin, Imad is a farmer by inheritance and inclination. As a child, he always loved accompanying his father to his farm. There, he spent the majority of his childhood, playing around and learning how to take care of the land and crops.

“Helping with the land brought joy to me. I enjoyed my time and I also loved the freedom that it entailed, as my father was his own manager,” recollected Imad with a wide smile.

Now 40 years old and a father of four young children, Imad tries to cultivate a genuine love for the land in the hearts of his children. Like any proud father, he would like to see his children well-educated, and also invested in the land as they grow up. To him, farming and getting an education can go hand-in-hand, which is something he tries to teach his children.

“I want my children to be educated enough to run the land efficiently and competently, and find ways to develop it,” he explains. “I want them to have the best of both worlds.”

Imad shares a 25-acre piece of land with his older brother with one artesian well. He is also a sharecropper of another 50 acres of land with two artesian wells.

“In addition to the expense incurred from the water I buy, the water I get from the wells drains me financially because it takes money to extract and transport the water and pay for the maintenance of the wells,” explains Imad. It costs farmers like Imad between 50 cents and one dollar to draw one cubic meter (264 gallons) of water. He is confident that the new project will relieve him from most of his financial burden, allowing him to expand and develop.

His message to other Palestinian farmers is straight forward: “Take chances and learn from others’ successes. Whatever you give to your land, make from your heart, and rest assured that it will pay you back in folds.”

View slideshow:

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Palestinian farmers daughter
Mohammad and son farming
Iman Palestinian farmer in field

Huthayfa enjoys a ripe tomato from the farm!

Mohammad's daughter sits on a blanket while her father works.

Mohammad and his family will also benefit from the new wastewater treatment project and co-op.

Imad is a hardworking and innovative farmer. He wants to pass on his love of the land to his children.

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Dr. Sameer Abu Jayaab stands in front of the rubble of what was once an outpatient pharmacy at the Society of the Physically Handicapped People in Gaza. It was destroyed in the 2014 war.

“Every time a crisis happens, we have to put our lives back together. We are always thinking about our patients who need us and benefit greatly from the society. You have to remember that patients with disabilities are at greater risk because they aren’t able to evacuate as fast as others.”

Since joining the society in 2004, Dr. Jayaab has devoted his efforts to its development and growth. So did other staff members, who themselves have different types of disabilities. Thanks to help from ANERA, among others, the society was able to function again after the Gaza war of 2014, despite severe damage to the building itself.

“We woke up to realize that our limited stock of medicine had burned. There was nothing left and yet the number of patients had soared. After October 2014, we received an additional 576 cases over and above the 8,000 patients we previously saw each year ,” he said.

Gaza patients well-served with new medical supplies

In response to the 2014 Gaza war, ANERA and IHP partnered to send five shipments worth over $1.5 million to help hospitals and clinics facing shortages of essential medicines and supplies.

Inside, Mahmoud Al Shorafa has come for his regular check-up, grateful that the society managed to resume its regular work so quickly after the war. The 52-year-old has been diagnosed with cardiac asthma, acute joint pain and stomach ulcers. Also, he has lived with infantile paralysis (polio) since the age of five.

But Mahmoud insists he is not depressed, despite his ailments: “I come here weekly and I’ve gotten plenty of care and support.” Still Mahmoud does worry because he cannot afford the high cost of medications. Those worries have been eased, thanks to ANERA’s delivery of donated medicines from International Health Partners UK (IHP), including Lansoprazole and Piroxicam, which Mahmoud needs for his treatment. Lansoprazole is used to treat and prevent stomach and intestinal ulcers while Piroxicam is a painkiller to ease swollen joint paint.

Mahmoud is grateful for the free medicine and for the society’s care. “The community in general does not support people with disabilities. We are falling through the cracks. No jobs are available to us.” Mahmoud describes the society as the only refuge where he can find personalized medical care.

Gaza society two young men

These two young men are recipients of support and medicine from the society.

Vitamins for students of all ages

12-year-old Abu has cerebral palsy. The vitamins help him grow strong and healthy to deal with his disability.

12-year-old Abu has cerebral palsy. The vitamins help him grow strong and healthy to deal with his disability.

In addition to medicine, the shipment from IHP also included much-needed vitamins. Sixth-grader Abd Al Aziz El-Bilbesi is benefiting from the shipment. The society provides children attending its Shams Al Amal School for Handicapped Children with a daily tablet at school, in front of their teachers, to ensure that bottles are not being shared at home and tablets are being taken on a daily basis for maximum benefit.

The 12-year-old has cerebral palsy as a result of a lack of oxygen at birth. It has left him unable to control his movements. Abd is the only one among his six siblings with a disability but he says he has the full support of his whole family to face his challenges. He is persistent and determined to succeed in school and his progress has surprised his teachers and his parents.

Like many impoverished families in Gaza, Abd’s parents cannot afford to buy or grow nutritious foods to help promote the health and development of their children. “Not getting nutritious foods can be another challenge for children with disabilities because their bodies need essential minerals and other substances to help them grow and develop the strength to deal with their disabilities,” explained pharmacist Maha El-Jarousha. “These vitamins help build their strength and bolster their capacities.”

ANERA has been working with IHP since 2010 to send vital medical supplies to Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.

Sulaima Bethlehem Govt Preschool

My Dream for Palestine Preschools

April 14th, 2015 by ANERA

By Sulaima Abu el Haj | Ramallah
ANERA ECD Program Coordinator and In-House Teacher Trainer

When I joined ANERA four years ago, I never imagined it would turn out to be one of the richest and most gratifying jobs of my career!

I feel truly privileged to have the opportunity to be part of a professional team that is implementing one of the most important holistic early childhood development (ECD) programs in Palestine. The program is highly needed, fast growing, realistic in its aims, and practical in its implementation.

Training teachers to become even better

Sulaima trains teachers in Bethlehem

Training teachers in modern classroom techniques is an important part of Sulaima’s job.

I plan and conduct teacher training sessions in early childhood core curriculum for preschool teachers, their principals and supervisors. Their experiences vary. Some have received university degrees, others rely on their years of experience, and the rest have neither.

This versatile group of women challenges me as I plan each training course. I always consider their training needs and the uniqueness of each geographic area. They do have a lot in common: most come from simple, low socio-economic backgrounds, with dreams of success and a dignified life. What brings them to the ECD sector in particular is their love for children.

The training sessions I conduct and facilitate allow these teachers to explore and study concepts, methodologies, theories, and so much more. But the real challenge lies in implementing these ideas in their preschool classrooms.

Mentorship

Mentorship is a major component of my work and the part I enjoy the most. Watching and observing teachers as they work and interact with children in their preschool classes forms the base and backbone of any successful ECD practitioner.

As teachers plan and implement activities with the children in their care, my role is to provide them guidance and support. It is a delicate balance of guiding and stepping back, which is important for the women as they develop their skills, confidence and full potential at their own pace.

Sulaima at Qalandia Preschool

At Qalandia Preschool, Sulaima helps teachers and students engage in active learning.

Fareeda and Razan are two teachers who run the Far’aata preschool in Qalqilia. They had little previous mentorships and no training so they were very eager to attend our ECD in-service training program, commuting all the way from Qalqilia to Salfit for each session.

When Fareeda and Razan began applying their newly acquired skills, I could see they needed support. So, I helped them by increasing my visits to their preschool and intensifying my mentorship. It was great to see how ecstatic they were as they played, read stories and danced with the children.

Seeing these young adults enjoy their work with the preschoolers was so beautiful and a joy for me. The warmth with which they planned and managed their preschool—providing a feeling of being at home for the young preschoolers—was simply great.

Sadly, it is a rare scene in most local Palestine preschools.

Active learning

I remember the first time Najwa, the head teacher at the New Askar Preschool, provided paint and brushes to her group of five-year-olds. As one girl began painting with the brush—for the first time in her life—she suddenly stopped, looking in wonder at the colors on the paper hanging on the easel in front of her. She exclaimed: “Look ‘khalto’ (children in Nablus often refer to their teachers as ‘auntie’) look what I made!”

AlAskar PAINTING

A preschooler in Al Askar shows off her painting.

Holding the brush in mid-air she was trying to figure out what had caused these colorful shapes. She was so excited that she started laughing and painting circles and strokes, unable to verbally express herself. She kept looking at her teacher, then at the colors exploding in front of her.

Later, during “circle time” as the children were recalling the day’s activities, she was one of the first to show off her work to the rest of the class, timidly but with a beaming face.

How can I not treasure moments like these?

At Maasha preschool in Salfit, as teacher Wijdan prepared homemade finger paint with a group of young children, five-year-old Muhammad could not hold back his excitement as he spread the warm paint with his fingers in wide circles. He was discovering the sticky material, looking curiously at his hands, now covered with bright yellow paint. Smiling, Muhammad quickly and diligently worked with the paint, making patterns of flowers and geometrical shapes.

What Muhammad and the other children were experiencing was a mixture of emotions and active learning; the excitement from possibly their first time of being “allowed” by an observing adult to play with something as messy as paint or finger paint and to use materials rarely considered essential educational media by traditional schools or local communities.

And, I must add that it was not only the children experiencing the joy of learning all the new concepts from this extremely tactile, soothing experience. It was a beautiful moment for me and their teachers too.

Making FINGERPAINTS in preschool class

Wijdan shows her class how to make colorful finger paints.

Laying foundations for a better future

Seeing all Palestinian children, especially the underprivileged and the poor, access, attend and enjoy playing and learning in quality preschools has been a dream of mine since a very young age. As a child, I remember how lucky and happy I used to feel, attending one of the warmest, most inviting and beautiful Palestine preschools in Haifa, my hometown.

Now, as I drive down the narrow streets of New Askar refugee camp or along meandering, rugged roads in remote, marginalized villages of Hebron, in the southern West Bank, or north in Tubas on my way to a preschool or training session, I see my long-cherished dream coming true.