by Samia Khoury, Jerusalem
Friday, February 20, 2016 was a memorable occasion as many people from Ramallah and Jerusalem gathered at the Naseeb Shaheen Auditorium at Birzeit University to attend a concert. We were sorry that Naseeb had passed away before seeing this great achievement completed. In fact the auditorium is the fourth building on the campus contributed by the Shaheen family.
The young musicians of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music were privileged to join the Palestine National Orchestra and a few guests from the Geneva Conservatory of Music in the last of three performances under the baton of the Swiss and Australian conductor Elena Schwarz. They had already been in Bethlehem, and in Nablus at Al-Najah University. The program included a composition by Salvador Arnita, a Palestinian who had taught at Birzeit when it was a high school before 1948 (Images of Palestine, from Suite no. 4 “Oriental Sketches.” It also included “Wedding,” composed by the renowned Syrian composer Kinan Azmeh, who was the first Arab to win the top prize at the Nocolay Rubinstein International Competition in Moscow in 1997.
Dima Bawwab a young Jordanian Soprano excelled in Puccini’s Quando m’en vo, from “La Bohème,” and O mio babbino cara from “Gianni Schicchi.” She also sang Agustin Lara’s Grenada which was beautiful and lively, especially with the accompanying percussions.
As I was listening and watching the bright faces of those young musicians, while enjoying the comfortable seat in this beautiful and newly inaugurated auditorium, I tried to forget for a moment all about the occupation outside this small haven. Yet I could not help but wonder. Will this nightmare ever come to an end? Despite what we have gone through, we have been able to establish universities and institutions and hold on with our “Sumud” trying to provide our youth with a glimpse of hope for a better future. Will that day ever come? Don’t we deserve a better life? Don’t all those young people languishing in Israeli jails have a right to freedom. I kept hoping this concert will be a celebration for the freedom of Mohamed Al-Qiq, a graduate of Birzeit University who has been wrestling for his life after a long hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention without charge or trial.
On the way to the car I was sharing my thoughts with Leen, the ten-year old granddaughter of my sister. She held on my hand and said: I think we should do something about it! With the wisdom of children, I rest my case.