Words and music by Sarah Pirtle,
© 2005 Discovery Center Music, BMI
Ibrahim, Ibrahim, do you know my friend, Ibrahim?
1. There’s a desk by the window that no one will take.
It holds your picture and your school bag, and the promises we make.
I can feel you here beside us. You are still in this place.
Your photo looks back at us with the brightness of your face.
Chorus: Salaam, I cry to the open sky. Salaam, I cry to the open sky.
2. We would run shoulder to shoulder in the fields we knew so well.
We’d find the broken shells of robins and the old spent bullet shells.
We used to listen for the birdsong, but all we heard were guns.
We knew their names like sparrow; the M6 whistled as we’d run. Chorus
Refrain: Give me the heart to hold your story.
Give me the strength to see what you know.
I will carry you like water wherever I may go.
3. Your heart opened like a window to a lark up in the sky.
When the soldiers came around you, you were a bird that could not fly.
You were walking home from school, you were walking into time.
Soldiers chose you from that crowd with no reason and no rhyme. Chorus then Refrain
4. I saw your mother twist her hands but I could not meet her eyes.
I was frozen in the doorstep watching helpless as she cried.
She would not let go your hat, she would not let go your shoe.
She would not let go of anything that had been touched by you. Chorus
5. There was one thing that I wanted, it was cloth, it was black.
I asked her for the school bag that you wore upon your back.
I just carried it with me, then I placed it on your desk.
Nesting like a bird who has finally come to rest. Refrain
6. Your desk by the window has remained the same this year.
It holds your picture and your school bag. We will always keep them near.
We need the bag because you held it. It holds the hope we can revive.
We need to see your photo so we still look in your eyes.
Chorus: Salaam, I cry to the open sky.
???????????? Salaam, I cry to the open sky.
This story of Ibrahim comes from Professor Mohammad Sawalha, the founder and director of the Palestinian House of Friendship. Founded in 1994, the House of Friendship is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that brings nonviolence and human rights education to young people in Nablis. the major goals of the PHF are “to invest in the individual and plant in him or her the ethics of democracy, human rights, and a love of the Other.”
When Sawalha spoke at Traprock Peace Center in Deerfield, Massachusetts, he communicated his passion for protecting and inspiring young people saying, “It is our nature to search for what is good inside people.” Later that night after his public talk, he spoke to a small group and shared the story of Ibrahim which he holds close to his heart. I was present in the circle and promised to make sure the story would be passed along. When the song was completed, I sang it to him in Palestine over the telephone.
The Palestinian House of Friendship works focuses on developing constructive activities for young people in Nablus and engaging in democracy and human rights education among university students. Sawalha is a professor of Linguistics and Translation at An-Najah University in Nablus. He also works with high school and elementary age through a summer camp that over a hundred children attend. He fosters a folkloric music group which gives performances, encourages the traditional dance called the Debka, and emphasizes the importance of artistic expression. Sawalha is currently raising money for a Youth-led Radio Program. The House of Friendship is associated with Brandeis University through the Slifka Program in Intercommunal Coexistence. Contact Thalia Sparling, PO Box 459110, MS 086 Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454.
This song was included in the War Resister’s League’s 2006 Calendar which is called “Peace-Loving Nations: Music of Peace and Resistance.” A friend visited Mohammed in the fall of 2005, and he said to her that, “Even our laughter has been confiscated.” She was in Palestine to help with the olive harvest as part of non-violent resistance to the occupation. When she put the CD with this song in Mohammed’s hands, she said, “It was the first time I’d seen him smile in a long time.”
Can you remember sharing a part of your life story with a person and feeling particularly held and witnessed? What was it about the way they received you?
Have you listened to a friend’s story and dropped into the place where you could join them without having to fix anything?
“Give me the heart to hold your story.” How do we know that someone else is holding our story with us? Susan Leary, Program Coordinator for the Veteran’s Education Project, says that it’s crucial that we respect each other’s stories—our story is what no one can take away from us. What are the stories that you have been holding that you wish another person could understand?