Huh… it took me longer to sit down and write a second post than I thought it would. What can I say? I guess I have some commitment issues. 😛
So Saturday I went to a benefit concert which was raising money to encourage literacy in Gaza. I tagged along with my sister and two of her friends, both of whom have roots in the Gaza strip, where education (among other things…) has been struggling as a result of the blockade imposed on the coastal enclave since June 2007. For almost three years, Israel and Egypt have been keeping the area cut-off from neighboring countries, making it hard for even much-needed donations to get in. There was actually a story in the Jordan Times on Sunday about an aid shipment that was sent back at Rafah, so I’m a bit pessimistic about the money raised at the concert reaching its destination. Maybe monetary donations are easier to get in? I hope?
The event was organized under the name “Exit to… School,” which was meant to reference the fact that while most school children around the world would love to cut class and miss school, kids in Gaza are more concerned with finding a way there around the barrier wall set up by Israel. We arrived about 40 minutes late (parking was a bitch) and the place was packed. People were crammed together like sardines around the entrance, and it literally took about 30 minutes of standing around trying not to accidentally inappropriately brush up against strangers before we could even see the stage. Standing in “line” (more like a huddled, sweaty mass), it occurred to me that everyone there was also, ironically, struggling to get into a school, a place where we would usually have absolutely no reason to go. But, as I overheard the couple pressed up on my right discussing, people love Gaza. The chance to help Gazans out even a little? It draws a crowd.
I was too late for the dabkeh by Hanouneh and most of the performance by members of Sharq, but all of the musicians I did see were terrific. There were the slow, very passionate songs of Sahar Khalifeh (accompanied by a violinst and, I think, a lute player from Signs of Thyme). They put me in a very Arab mood, if that makes sense. Then there was some Arabic rap. I didn’t catch most of the lyrics, but the rappers were pretty good. First there was Nicholas, or Psycho, as he’s known by his intolerable fans. They were this bunch of poser gangster guys huddled up against the stage chanting his name and generally freaking out before and after his performances. I expected him to be cut from the same “trying and failing to be gangsta” cloth, but he was actually really good and a seemingly normal guy who likes to rap. It just goes to show that you really shouldn’t judge an entertainer based on their fans. I liked him.
Then there was Sami, another Arabic rapper who I didn’t understand but liked, and THEN! there was Murab3 (which unfortunately translates to Square), who I had never heard of before Saturday and am now completely in love with. I’d never really given Arabic rock a chance, but these guys were INCREDIBLE. Not only was the music amazing, the lyrics (which were slow enough for me to follow) were really beautiful. I was completely captivated by these guys. If anyone is reading this… what? Someone could be reading this! If you know where I can find their music online, please tell me!
Anyway, we had to take off before Autostrad, another rock group, but it was a great evening. According to the Jordan Times, the event more than 4,200 JDs were raised over two days. It may not be enough to completely solve any of Gazas problems, but at the very least it proved that people still care. It’s been over a year since Israel’s offensive on Gaza, and since then, it’s been easy to put Gaza out of our minds. In reality, things haven’t really improved. More than a year on, people have been unable to rebuild their homes because they still can’t get supplies. It’s important to keep them in our minds and in our thoughts. It’s the least (literally, the least) we can do. The sad thing is that it often feels like that’s also the most we can do… Events like this are a great first step.