A Palestinian prayer for peace

On October 15, Hamas launched terrible attacks on Israel, and in their wake Israel has hit back with terrible force at the people living in the Gaza Strip. 

Singing can’t fix the dire situation in the Middle East – or anywhere stricken by violence. But it is a way for people to express their heartbreak, their empathy for those suffering, and their wishes for a solution.

Yarabba Ssalami is an anonymous Palestinian prayer for peace. The source for the tune and words was the Oxford University Press anthology Agape: Songs of Hope and Reconciliation (Oxford University Press, 2003). There is no detailed information in the anthology about the source of the song – it’s attributed to “Unknown, Palestine” – so one has to trust the collectors of the song about its origin. 

Canasg’s edition of the song is a simple hymn-like harmonisation for mixed voices, with an optional descant. We provide the original Arabic words (transliterated) and an English translation by the hymn-writer Fred Kaan (1929 – 2009). It’s worth reading his story. He was born in the Netherlands, and lived through the Nazi occupation in World War II. His parents were involved in the anti-Nazi resistance movement. Fred himself became a pacifist and, later, a minister and prolific hymn-writer. He lived in England for most of his life.

Another internet source of information on the song is this page from Music that Makes Community. It includes the rather lovely poetic translation:  

God of peace, rain peace upon us,
Fill our hearts with peace.

The image is from wikipedia and shows a damaged UN school and remnants of the Ministry of the Interior in Gaza City, December 2012. It’s used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Other Canasg songs on the theme of peace:

A Prayer for Peace by David Barton (SAB, organ). Words from the Scottish Psalter of 1650

Hinei Ma Tov trad. Jewish arr. Sheena Phillips (SATB a cappella). Words based on Psalm 133 (“It is a joy when people live in peace together”)

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