In my youth I was a witness to the power of music, it pulled me towards it, to learn to play, mostly things that connect people. Since then the songs have led me down paths that I would never have guessed I would walk.
When we reach the closed wards in the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center, we wait a moment, take deep breaths and tune our instruments. Mi La Sol Mi, turn the guitar strings, tighten the flute, until we reach a harmony. This is the harmony that we want to enter the room with. The entrance bell is a buzzing that sounds like the emergency alarm of an elevator. A long horrible, ear piercing buzz, until we are all inside. The hour that we arrive in Kfar Shaul is usually the time the cypress trees reach the sun and the wind starts blowing.
When I was in kindergarten, I was taught about the bird in the soul, that opens and closes drawers of our feelings. This was the teacher’s explanation to my inner world that wonders, thinks, reads, speaks. The bird in the soul of the people in Kfar Shaul is an angry, desperate, confused, hurt and sometimes suffering bird. Most of the birds were not always this confused. Some of them were school principals, professors and actors. In order to make these birds stay in the world a little easier, there is a dedicated staff who work in shifts, and drawers after drawers of medication. Medication that shields the eyes of most people so to calm the dizzy bird. Neon lights in the main hall, people sitting on the padded chairs, nobody in in a rush to go anywhere, some of them are staring at the television that is on and protected inside a box, similar to the box that protects the head nurse who sits behind a desk of wood and glass. Never have all the people sat together in the main hall. Usually two are seated at the entrance in wheelchairs staring at the Russian nurse, the Arab caregiver and the Ultra Orthodox cleaner who go in and out. A few sit silently outside, one walks around with a book muttering half psalms to himself. The garb doesn’t mean anything, there are no phones here and relatives come every day or week or month.
Even though the drawers of sound mind and reason have been locked, the drawer of song has not. Every bird has a song that reminds him that he is a bird and not a wolf. “Jerusalem of Gold” reminds one bird that he can clap, “Song of Grass” reminds another bird how to smile, a Beatles song reminds another bird how to get up and shake her hips, a Russian folk song reminds several birds of their parents’ home. Iraqi poetry sends another bird to the Shabbat table where his children sat singing.
The music, as I have seen with my own eyes, purifies the atmosphere in Kfar Shaul and is capable to ease a little, the foggy mask from people’s eyes. The music makes them sing