Book Review: Children of the Stone

In 1988, a young Palestinian boy poised to throw a rock at Israeli soldiers, became the poster-child of the First Intifada, an uprising against the Israeli occupation. The photo captured a look of both fear and determination as the boy ran toward his enemy in a way that was reminiscent of David and Goliath, and which gained the attention of the international community.At the time, no one could have predicted that the boy would grow up to study music abroad and become an accomplished violist. No one imagined that he would return to Palestine to start his own music school and to share his passion with children like the boy he once was. At the time, he had never seen or touched a real instrument.This is the heart-wrenching and hopeful story of Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan’s journey from stone thrower to musician and teacher. Raised in the Al Amari refugee camp, he experienced the suffering of a poverty-stricken war zone. But when he was first introduced to the violin, it was love at first sound. He was given the opportunity to take viola lessons, then a fellowship to study music in the U.S., and later, acceptance to a conservatory in France. All the while he dreamed of going back to his homeland to start a music school for Palestinian children, to offer them the same opportunities.Ramzi used musical performance as a new platform for resistance, denouncing the Israeli occupation and calling for Palestinian statehood. His background and talent made him a strong candidate for the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, co-founded by Israeli conductor, Daniel Barenboim, and Palestinian critic, Edward Said, as a space for Israelis and Arabs to create harmony together. Ramzi joined the acclaimed orchestra but struggled with its unwillingness to take a strong stand in support of Palestine and ultimately left to forward his message elsewhere.His dreams were realized when he founded his own music school in Ramallah. With a team of teachers from around the world committed to his vision and a shipping container full of donated instruments, Al Kamandjati or “The Violinist,” opened its doors in 2005. The school has since grown and expanded into a network of schools serving Palestinian refugee children through various trials and triumphs.Sandy Tolan’s “Children of the Stone” is a gripping and insightful Palestinian narrative with historical and political context craftily interwoven into Ramzi’s complicated life story. It is honest in portraying the challenges he has faced within his family and career. While the book does not present a silver bullet solution to conflict, it does serve to inspire through the transformative power of music.To read the editor's note and an excerpt from the book, click here.