Delia Arts Center in Gaza was a core of the musical community there – until it was destroyed and looted by occupying Israeli forces. Now, musical organizations have shifted to sheltering artists, shelter that is gravely threatened by the unfolding operation in Rafah. Earlier this week, CDM spoke to the Delia Arts Foundation about their work and their call for participation, with time or treasure, depending on your capabilities.

It’s hard to find words to describe what we’re looking at in this story – both the images of the former center in Gaza, now reduced to rubble, and now the artist shelters in tents in Rafah (and even images of people playing music there). As I write this, more people are fleeing Rafah, as an already unimaginable situation continues to deteriorate.

It’s strange to look back at the window of time and see what was there before and what was destroyed – check the videos below. Delia Arts Foundation runs centers in multiple locations, including partnering on a space in Ramallah and a separate center, Ndaro Art Culture, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (I hope to talk more about their DRC work separately.) But the Gaza center was something special – and a small glimpse into what the assault on community spaces, domiciles, and culture can mean. The project space had three-fold work: studio and recording infrastructure, training programs, and a recording program to share music with international audiences. There were practice rooms, a lab with DAWs, and a recording studio.

Working with Al Kamandjati and the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Delia has created shelters for artists and their families in the Mawasi desert of Rafah, in what they describe as a “closed private property” with walls, a guard, amenities, and nearby hospital and UN facility. That’s as safe as currently possible in Rafah, but just those kinds of facilities have been targeted repeatedly through the war, and nowhere in Rafah or Gaza is currently safe.

Joelle Khayat, executive director of Delia Arts Foundation, was kind enough to speak to CDM about the center, the current situation, and how you can help. Supporting their work means sustaining them through this ongoing crisis, working with children to help them process trauma through music, and expanding shelters.

The foundation sent over this interview with Ayman Mghames, the space’s manager, who grew up in Gaza and had worked at the former center and is now sheltering with his family in Rafah. I feel it’s important to listen to his voice, centering his story in its entirety:

CDM: What’s the status of your team in Rafah?

Joelle: As of last week, all of our team members and their families have evacuated the Gaza Strip. We continue to work there through connections and new individuals we appoint as our coordinators. 

Our Delia Arts Center, a place of musical exchanges and training we had established in 2020, has been destroyed. Therefore, we had not been able to create any programs in our center since October 7. 

Meanwhile, we had been receiving requests to shelter artists and to keep the music going. For that purpose, we partnered with Kamandjati and the Edward Said National Conservatory, two of the most prominent cultural entities in Palestine, to create the Artists Shelters, where several artists and their families are currently residing, in addition to the creation of several music activities throughout the Gaza Strip. We are fortunate to have these strong organizations by our side and represented on the ground by their own coordinators with whom we share the responsibilities and well-being of the families.

In Rafah right now, nowhere is truly safe.

How are staff impacted by these latest evacuation orders? (realizing really nowhere is safe?)

In Rafah right now, nowhere is truly safe. Everyone is impacted by the evacuation orders. In our case, the evacuation order was not in direct relation to the location of our shelters, but we have to work in anticipation. Our teams are looking for a new space to move the shelters in case they have to be displaced soon. 

What are you able to do in these circumstances; what’s happening now on the ground?

Providing “safe” spaces with amenities available to the artists is now what is highly needed. A place of relative normalcy where they have to worry a bit less about displacement, in hopes that this doesn’t change soon due to the invasion of Rafah. With our partners, we are also able to support the creation of music activities provided by artists all over Gaza. It is important to mention that the artists are remunerated for their work.

What can folks to do support your work / how can they best speak out in the current situation?

We are in dire need of support to keep our initiatives going in Gaza, from the Artists Shelters to the activities and productions we are setting up in the midst of the war and our advocacy for Palestinian artists through the Palestine We Still Hear You Campaign we just launched.

We invite all artists to join their voices to ours by engaging with us on the Palestine We Still Hear You Campaign that aims to create global artists’ solidarity for Palestine. The way to do it is to create their own videos where they respond to the cries and demands of Gazan artists, which we are highlighting on our social media. You can see the videos on our Instagram page:

In general, our foundation is also doing several fundraising efforts to sustain our work in Palestine and internationally. We kindly ask for support through our donorbox link:

Thanks, Joelle. We’ll be glad to follow up on this story and even given the circumstances, wish everyone the best.