AMMAN, Jordan — Young Palestinian musicians from the West Bank, the U.S., Europe and the Arab world performed a pair of concerts in the Jordanian capital on behalf of the children of the Gaza Strip.
Playing a repertoire that ranged from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to the theme song of "Pirates of the Caribbean," the young musicians, dressed in black with Palestinian black-and-white-checkered headscarves slung across their shoulders, come together only once a year to perform.
"We've been working flat out for the past two weeks, in seven hours a day workshops," said Zeina Khoury, the Palestine Youth Orchestra's assistant manager and bassoonist.
She and the other artists performed a piece titled "Gaza," written by Palestinian composer Suhail Khoury. The musicians said they want to lift the spirits of Gaza's children and try to support a fledging school of music there.
"Everything we see on TV is the same as everyone around the world, even though we live in Palestine," said Zeina Khoury, a Jerusalem native.
"Because we cannot enter Gaza, we cannot do anything about it. It's really frustrating and it makes us really angry," she said, her dark eyes welling with tears.
"The emotions that we put through tonight (in our playing) are the emotions that we put through our frustration and anger about what is happening in Gaza," she said. "Sometimes you want to stop playing and sing with the singer about peace," she said one of the pieces performed, made famous by renowned Lebanese singer Fairuz.
"There is really nothing we can do except provide financial support, moral support. When these children from our music school in Gaza see we are here, playing for them and trying to support them, hopefully they will feel better and feel like someone is there for them and trying to do something for them in different ways around the world," Zeina Khoury added.
The atmosphere at St. Joseph's Cultural Center at the Franciscan Sisters School was charged with excitement about the performance, coupled with frustration over the unresolved conflict between Israel and the militant Hamas. More than 2,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in just over six weeks. More than 60 Israelis also have died.
Some of the 1,000 Jordanian concert-goers, many of Palestinian origin, said they felt helpless to help with aid or assist their compatriots in Gaza, who are sealed off from the rest of the world because of sanctions.
"We have to put our hands together and help them," said Rima Turk, a Catholic financial controller originally from Gaza, but who has lived in Amman for the past 30 years. "Sometimes, some rules and regulations stop you, so you do all the efforts you need to help them."
For Turk and some 250 other Gazans now living in Jordan that means, at the very least, supporting the Palestine Youth Orchestra and its benefit concert for Gaza children, many of whom have borne the brunt of Israel's airstrikes and shelling.
"You ask why I have come to the concert. It's for Palestine," said Lilly Raamiian, a teacher. "We have to push the world to support Palestine."
Raamiian said she empathizes with Gaza's refugees, particularly vulnerable children, because as both an Armenian and Palestinian she, too, has suffered the difficulties of displacement and loss of home and loved ones at an early age.
"It came to a point of hopeless," she said regarding the siege of Gaza. "Suppose everyone is attacking you daily and you have no support. At the end you forget your spirit, your feelings. You want to just struggle and get your rights."
As a teacher, Raamiian said she worries for the future of the children of Gaza.
"They are just children. Imagine you have a child and he lost his parents, he lost his friends, he lost his school. He lost everything," she said. "There should be justice in the world, but might is the only right.
"Daily we pray: 'Please God help the Palestinians.' That's why we came for the concert."
Turk expressed fear for those traumatized by the recent violence, particularly the children.
"I think this war will affect them, their spirits. I am afraid for all of these people who are hurt and have been handicapped that they will work against Israel in the future," she said.
"The war has not yet finished. It will take a long time. We hope they will solve it in a safe way, instead of carrying out more bloodshed," she added.
"We have a hope for all the children also. They just want to live like everybody else."