Two compilations from Berlin reveal artistic communities consistent and united in their advocacy. In any small way, they’re working to provide real material relief and a chorus of outcry in a moment of urgent need.

Moss on a Stone

I’ll start with the music, not least because you can hit play, hear this gorgeous music, and process the news with more humanity.

Moss on a Stone is a mutual aid compilation organized from Berlin and featuring both international and Arabic and Palestinian artists. Head on to the Bandcamp site for the full description. The project is working to raise funds for a specific case: “Their beloved house that was built by my friend’s father, was reduced to rubble. In order to help this family, including my friend’s sister who just gave birth a few days ago, we are raising money for their evacuation across the Egyptian border.”

The title references this poem by Mahmoud Darwish, the legendary Palestinian poet, whose words sing even in the English. (Incidentally, if you speak Hebrew, he also published in Israel, spoke Hebrew, and had a lot of his works translated into that language, too. I’m ashamed not to speak Arabic where of course rhyme and rhythm take on their own intended musicality.)

We have on this land that which makes life worth living
We have on this land all of that which makes life worth living
April’s hesitation
The aroma of bread at dawn
A woman’s beseeching of men
The writings of Aeschylus
Love’s beginning
Moss on a stone
Mothers standing on a flute’s thread
And the invader’s fear of memories
We have on this land that which makes life worth living
September’s end
A woman leaving ‘forty’ behind
with all of her apricots
The hour of sunlight in prison
A cloud reflecting a swarm of creatures
A people’s applause for those who face their own erasure with a smile
And the tyrant’s fear of songs.
We have on this land all of that which makes life worth living
On this land
The lady of our land
The mother of all beginnings
And the mother of all ends
She was called Palestine
Her name later became Palestine
My lady….
Because you are my lady
I have all of that which makes life worth living.

Mahmoud Darwish, Moss On a Stone عشب على صخر

Even with crossing currently closed, I know that this assistance is greatly appreciated and the moment is now.

Current situation on the ground

The situation on the ground now is so urgent, any action is better than none. On Wednesday, NGOs operating in Rafah gave an emergency joint media conference with their folks communicating from Rafah (or recently having been in Rafah), including representatives of Norwegian Refugee Council in Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance, Medical Aid for Palestinians, MedGlobal, Refugees International, Save the Children International, and Médecins du Monde. Most significantly, while you may have seen headlines about Kerem Shalom crossing being opened, these organizations described convoys generally being unable to cross anywhere. (Anyone who’s dealt with crossings and checkpoints I’m sure will find this unsurprising.)

Direct link to report with details.

I’ll talk separately about what the war has meant for music partnerships with people in Gaza, but on a human level, it’s hard to describe – people working in Rafah on this call described civilians, many of them children, dying of easily treatable ailments and mothers unable to breastfeed because of inadequate nutrition and water. This means even the unimaginable death counts you’ve seen are an incomplete representation of the level of loss.

I want to also mention US-based HEAL Palestine (especially if you’re looking for a US recipient to boost your aid by making a tax-deductible donation). This group was temporarily caught up in a compilation that they had not endorsed – folks, the thing to do is, either make a direct contact if you’re going to give donations, or at the bare minimum make clear that you don’t represent the organization, especially when there is a danger of political involvement. A spokesperson for HEAL responded: “For music people, it really depends on what they think they can do to help.  We welcome all support but wish to avoid controversy or issues that cause problems.  We have to put all of our attention and focus on helping kids in Gaza, not on political issues externally.”

With that said, HEAL is a new organization doing some urgent work, they’re connecting to kids in the diaspora, and they’re providing some of the services in Rafah I mentioned are missing. That includes an emergency provision of an ICU, baby formula, activities, aid distributions (with materials like flour), maternity services, and activities and food. All of this will likewise be devastated if crossings don’t reopen.  

“We Will Stay Here”

A second compilation is due June 5, also featuring a diverse mix of international artists with Palestinian and Arabic contributions, organized by Andrea Pomini/Love Boat records.

There’s already this powerful teaser by Assyouti; the dabke most of you will recognize, but the sampled song “Jafra” has its own poignant meaning which you can read along with the moving program notes.

The specific reference of the title is this:

Inspiration for the title comes from the wonderful singing doctors of al-Awdah Hospital, Gaza: “We will stay here until the pain is over/We will live here, and we will keep singing”.

The singing doctors means literally singing doctors. (I had to check where this video had been posted since I didn’t recognize it; this is a Pakistani news network.)

Recipients of the benefit here are the UK group Medical Aid for Palestinians. Here and everywhere, you can also donate directly; the advantage of spreading the musical benefits is that they work well as an organizing tool and to pass on to others.

And yes, without centering Berlin or Germany, each time there is a compilation of artists based in Germany, it helps provide collective support at a time when artists are facing public shaming, project cancellations, and even intimidation by police and immigration authorities for speaking out. (For readers who haven’t been following that, you can catch up on projects like Archive of Silence (or for a sense of humor, Beriln is Over) and a slew of English-language reporting like The New York Times‘ Critic’s Notebook in April. Far from “virtue signaling,” the more people who do sign their names like this, the more pressure there is to protect speech.

We work side by side with musicians from Palestine, and our music is an expression of humanity. Music would be meaningless if we didn’t engage with this and other crises facing humanity.

Please feel free to keep sharing your efforts.