GAZA STRIP: Jawaher Al Aqraa says it will be a “miracle” if she survives the Gaza war but in the meantime she is singing to “block out” the roar of Israeli fighter jets over the Palestinian territory.
The 28-year-old English teacher is one of hundreds of thousands of Gazans who have fled or lost their homes as Israel’s air raids have intensified since the October 7 Hamas attacks.
Now she is with her brother in the Deir Al Balah refugee camp where thousands of families live in fear of air strikes.
“I have survived wars and a million escalations,” she said.
“With this war, I have the impression that all I do is await my turn to die. If I survive, it will be a miracle.”
AFP first spoke with Jawaher last year as part of a project on young people across the Middle East and how they use culture to counter crisis.
Then she said that music was her “escape route” from the daily trials faced by the 2.4 million inhabitants of the coastal enclave blockaded by Israel and Egypt.
Gaza’s fifth war in less than 20 years has only made conditions worse.
Israel has mounted hundreds of air strikes a day since Hamas gunmen attacked Israel on October 7 leaving 1,400 dead, mostly civilians.
The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 5,750 people have died in Gaza since then.
“Sometimes I try to block out the noise of the shelling and drones by singing, but the strikes become louder so I stop,” she said.
“I recite the shahada (the Islamic profession of faith) and then I start again.”
Jawaher said the scenes she has witnessed in Gaza “have filled me with anger”.
“All I can do is sing to express my feelings and those of people who have lost their families and their homes. My mental balance comes from music and singing.”
The young woman said three of her friends had been killed in Israeli air strikes.
“This war cannot be described with words. It cannot be compared to what happened before.”
Gaza is a conservative Muslim society in which it is normally frowned upon for a young woman to sing or play music in public.
But surrounded by applauding children and her brother, Jawaher played the violin and sang a song in English composed by friends.
“I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable. They knock me down and I get up again,” she sang. “I was born to be free. I am Palestinian.”
Speaking afterwards, she said she wanted to travel and sing to “spread the Palestinian cause”.
“The bombing has not affected my determination,” she said.