Sunday, October 17, 2010

Young musician from Gaza

Mahmoud Kohail, eight, has studied the qanoon for just under a year, but took first prize in a Palestine-wide competition in oriental music for ages seven to 11. "Everyone asked me how many years he had been studying," laughs Najjar. "When I told them it had been only 80 hours, they couldn't believe me."

Emad Kohail, Mahmoud's father, is an accomplished oud player, and his mother a talented singer. Also a doctor of mental health and alternative medicine, Emad Kohail explains how music has helped his son.

"Mahmoud suffered the same post-traumatic stress disorder [(PTSD)] that nearly all Gaza's children suffer, as well as an attention deficit disorder," he says. "Music has made an immense difference in Mahmoud's behavior. It has been a therapy for his PTSD and as a means of teaching him to focus."

Ibrahim Najjar agrees that music is therapy, and constructive for children's learning and mental health. "There is a big difference in the students' behavior from when they first came. Now, they are calmer, and listen and respect each other. I teach them this, but also to behave like this in all aspects of their lives."

Mahmoud Kohail

David Plays the Harp for Saul
I Samuel 16

Samuel saw seven young men from the house of Jesse, yet were the one God had chosen as king. Samuel asked, "Are these all your children?"

"There is one more," said Jesse. "The youngest of all. He is a boy in the field caring for the sheep."

And Samuel said, "Send for him; for we will not sit down until he comes." So after a time the youngest son was brought in. His name was David, a word that means "darling," and he was a beautiful boy, perhaps fifteen years old, with fresh cheeks and bright eyes. As soon as the young David came, the Lord said to Samuel, "Arise; anoint him, for this is the one whom I have chosen."

David Anointed King

Then Samuel poured oil on David's head, in the presence of all his brothers. But no one knew at that time the anointing to mean that David was to be the king. Perhaps they thought that David was chosen to be a prophet like Samuel.

From that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon David; and he began to show signs of coming greatness. He went back to his sheep on the hillsides around Bethlehem, but God was with him. David grew up strong and brave; not afraid of the wild beasts which prowled around and tried to carry away his sheep. More than once he fought with lions and bears, and killed them, when they seized the lambs of his flock. And David, alone all day, practiced throwing stones in a sling, until he could strike exactly the place for which he aimed. When he swung his sling, he knew that the stone would go to the very spot at which he was throwing it.

And, young as he was, David thought of God, and prayed to God. And God talked with David, and showed to David his will. And David was more than a shepherd and a fighter of wild beasts. He played upon the harp, and made music, and sang songs about the goodness of God to his people.

David Plays Before Saul

But while the Spirit of God came to David among his sheep, that Spirit left King Saul, because he no longer obeyed God's words. Then Saul became very unhappy, and gloomy in his feelings. There were times when he seemed to lose his mind, and a madness would come upon him; and at almost all times Saul was sad and full of trouble, because he was no more at peace with God.

The servants around Saul noticed that when some one played on the harp and sang, Saul's gloom and trouble passed away, and he became cheerful. At one time Saul said, "Find some one who can play well, and bring him to me. Let me listen to music; for it drives away my sadness." One of the young men said:

"I have seen a young man, a son of Jesse in Bethlehem, who can play well. He is handsome in his looks, and agreeable in talking. Then I have heard that he is a brave young man, who can fight as well as he can play; and the Lord is with him."

Then Saul sent a message to Jesse, David's father. He said: "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep. Let him come and play before me."

Then David came to Saul, bringing with him a present for the king from Jesse. When Saul saw him, he loved him, as did everybody who saw the young David. And David played on the harp, and sang before Saul. And David's music cheered Saul's heart, and drove away his sad feelings.

Saul liked David so well that he made him his armor-bearer; and David carried the shield and spear and sword for Saul when the king was before his army. But Saul did not know that David had been anointed by Samuel. If he had known it, he would have been very jealous of David.

After a time Saul seemed well, and David left him, to be a shepherd once more at Bethlehem.


  1. I did not get the whole purpose of this post, I do advocate for the peace in the Middle East, yet I fail to understand why you posted this.

    Are you comparing that young child with David?

  2. Paco. You're right to question this article. I should have added a comment to explain my intent.

    I happened upon this video and was enchanted by the music. And not just the music, but also the musician. It was like looking at a young Mozart - a true musical prodigy.

    From there a thought popped into my head about young David playing the harp. The qanoon, the instrument the boy plays, is a rather sophisticated variation on the classic simple harp of the shepherds. The music is from the middle east and uses the types of scales, melodies and harmonies that might have been used by the ancient Hebrews.

    Then i found the Biblical account of young David and began to read it, and it brought his story to life in a new way for me. I suppose what I'm saying indirectly is that the Biblical stories have relevance. They teach us something about our modern lives, and at the same time our lives give insight into the lives of Biblical characters.

    They are reflections of each other precisely because humanity has a certain dignity which does not change over time, despite the changes in technology. We all still can become "cheered" at the sound of a beautiful melody. There are universal truths about mankind that do not change over time or space. We cannot escape our basic human nature that has been stamped upon us by God when He made us in His likeness.

    I think this is what Catholic theologians call the "natural law".

  3. Another note about this post. The segment which contains the story of David is not a direct biblical quote. It adheres very closely to 1 Samuel 16, but adds a few statements to enhance the readability. (I provided a link to the page where I found it.)

    After I realized that it is not a direct quote from the Bible I considered changing it. In the end I decided not to, mostly out of laziness. I encourage people to read the original story in their Bibles and then continue reading the saga of David which includes the familiar story of David and Goliath.

    The story of David the shepherd boy also reminds me of the story of the little shepherds of Fatima - Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta - to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in the year 1917. And of course the shepherds who were the first witnesses to the birth of Christ in the town of Bethlehem - the town of David.

  4. One last note with regards to this article. The Synod for Bishops on the Middle East is in its second week. So this is an appropriate time to be turning our thoughts and prayers to this region of the world where Christ was born. Peace begins by giving a human face to our enemies. It is through de-humanization that we are taught to hate those who are different from us.

    CNA has an article about the synod here. I've placed some quotes from the article below:

    Christians in the West must remember that the Church in the Middle East is more than just the “holy places” of Christian antiquity. The Church there is also “the living stones” of the present day Christian communities.

    The Oct. 10-24 synod was called by Pope Benedict XVI following his 2009 pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine in order to encourage and strengthen the Church in the Middle East.

  5. It is now much easier to understand your point. At first I considered that you were advocating for Gaza, something I can closely relate to, then I thought that maybe you were muslim friendly, not that I am bothered by that, though I consider them heretics, and finally I was unable to fully grasp the reason why you chose to publish this in the first place.

    It is very true, due to the modernization of society, people have become less sensitive towards the beauty, true value and meaning of simplicity and innocence.

    So sadly is that this young boy, capable of executing a wonderful piece of music, is unable to really reach the hearts of the audiences who read or saw this story.

    In a secularist society the folks, who are most likely so busy minding their own problems, probably just referred to this story with a phrase like: 'Nice kid... So what's in the other channel?'

    Like our Savior Jesus Christ said, unless we are like children, we may not enter to the Kingdom of God. Which naturally brings to mind the more complex idea, what does it mean to be a child?

    It is obviously not related with the physical age, but rather, closely paired with how we perceive our world, and how we act.

    A child is not influenced by work, occupations, worries, or conveniences. Perhaps most children are preoccupied by much less important matters, thus enabling them to fully understand the value of simple and non-elaborate.

    Children tend, in the most common cases, to rely more on their values and morals, what they learned at home, what they heard at their local Parish or Church, those special teachings their mother or father taught them to protect them from outside dangers. All that is possible due to the fact that their life experience is shorter, and opportunities to come across with the crude reality aren't as many.

    In conclusion, children are more willing to appreciate the imperceptible, with their minds considerably more open to really look into what life has got to offer.

    How often does an adult stop by on the street to appreciate the beauty of the natural arrangement of the stars in the sky? How often do we slow down our pace to enjoy a landscape or listen to the sounds of nature? For adults things like that may appear as a rather unimportant deal, however we must understand that God is even in the smallest things, on the little details.

    So for as long as an adult is capable of understanding his environment, trusting our Lord with all his heart and soul, analyze the situation and always compare what we want with our morals and values, and we embrace the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ, then there we are closer to salvation.

    About the synod, I couldn't be happier, I am hoping for an alliance/union between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church. I pray to God that the Body of our Savior Jesus Christ may be one, and that our brothers and sisters in the middle east may join us all, in the Conservative and Orthodox (by orthodox I mean close to the scriptures and non-liberal) take over of the Catholic Church.

    Keep posting your stories and see you around.