Educating through music: the experience of young Palestinians in Bethlehem

Giacomo Pizzi16 July 2019

Last week, after two years of lessons, a group of 20 Palestinian students and professionals finished the Music Therapy course “You will find me in the sound”. The project was promoted by Association pro Terra Sancta in collaboration with Bethlehem University, the Italian association “Musica Prima”, the center “Service of Psychology of Learning and Education in the Developmental Age” (SPAEE) of the Catholic University of Milan, and the Associazione Francesco Realmonte.

The training course, which started in July 2017, involved a thorough and comprehensive training in the field of music therapy. This discipline is effective in the field of rehabilitation, in support of educational activities and in prevention, and the course offered a timely response to a strong local need. The situation of persistent conflict is in fact today still causing a series of problems related to psychological stress and an increase in the level of violence at home, in schools and more generally at the community level. The resilience of children, adolescents, families and persons in need is often put at risk from the lack of educational and psychological support services.

Music therapy can take care of children before they are born, during pregnancy and their development, especially if the children have problems. In addition, in the rehabilitation and psychiatric fields and for the elderly, music therapy is a very important resource, for both individuals and groups, allowing people to express themselves and feel that they are listened to non-judgmentally.

The project provided a group of professionals and students with an overall training of 280 hours divided into lectures, practice sessions and internships with associated exams and theses. Teachers and university professors, well known both internationally and locally, have guided these students in acquiring the psychological, pedagogical and scientific knowledge related to the use of music therapy techniques.

Dario Benatti, music therapist and professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Science of Education at the Catholic University of Milan has been in charge of managing the general teaching of the course since its beginning. These past weeks he has been in Bethlehem for the final part of the program and has expressed great satisfaction with the work in its final phase: “It has been very interesting to see how the students changed, how they grew, and how step by step they have developed resources. The really nice thing for me was to discover how Arab and Western music can exchange content; I feel that in guiding these students I have also learned a lot from them.”

The professor also stressed how he wanted to create for the students of the course a training program that was well-thought-out, thorough, and of high quality: “It is easy in the music therapy field to confuse music therapy with something that is only capable of entertaining. Music therapy is not this, it creates educational and therapeutic projects which have specific objectives based on the person or group for which it is intended. Now it’s up to the students to bring this discipline in a professional manner to the Palestinian socio-rehabilitative structures, using music to help take care of people in need, to gain experience starting from the knowledge they have acquired during these years.”

Professor Benatti also was able to bring his music with a concert organized with Vincenzo Bellomo, head of ATS pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem, on the evening of Tuesday 9 July at the Guest House “Hosh Al-Syrian Bethlehem” in the Old City. A journey with the guitar within music from Medieval times to the present day. A musical dialogue where the beauty of the structure, the atmosphere of listening to those present, and the exchange of voices about the music allowed a deepening of the themes raised by the professor. At the end of the concert, two girls from the music therapy course performed some traditional Palestinian pieces as a duet. An evening where music was truly the star, where art recounted many stories from the West to the East.