Bearing witness.

(for Ali)

  1. December 26th, 2010. Palatine, Illinois.


I am sitting in a church sanctuary,

Looking out onto a winter landscape:

in front, snow covered spruce trees,

along the side, a snowscape of frozen prairie,

a landscaped rock grotto with the dark branches of staghorn sumac.


In the sanctuary

In front of the trees

sits a young man.

This beautiful

Yet strange music comes from an instrument he plays,

A qanun:

It conjures up the Mediterranean,

Sharp blue skies,

Ancient landscapes and history.

The music makes my heart ache,

Makes me want to weep

With joy and sorrow!


The musician.

He is a young man, maybe twenty years old.

A Palestinian.

He goes to the same music school as my son in Boston.

Such a small world!

Musically, the young man is a virtuoso;

He has played around the world.


I hear him first at a prayer service for Peace;

He played such beautiful music,

Between Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers.

Nine years they have been praying for peace in the Middle East at this little church outside of Chicago.



Going home, Jan. 29th, 2010.

Today we get an e-mail:

En route to Ramallah

He is stopped at the checkpoint

by Israeli guards.

He must pay $220 in bribes to get his instrument into the West Bank.

They say:

“It is Syrian (it is, purchased in the West Bank)

He is planning to sell it.”

Proof of a music school in Boston,

Of world tours

Mean nothing.

They hold the instrument up by its delicate neck

Threaten its life….


They pay,

With money earned at the recent Sunday service

And with gifts from friends.




This is how love wins:

We listen to beautiful music,

We pray for Peace,

We support the people who make such beautiful music,

We bear witness to injustice and cruelty

We hope such injustice does not destroy us

or our children

or the music….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s