My choir, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir, has been very busy this week spreading the light of Chanucah. Besides our own party on Monday evening, yesterday evening (Wednesday), we lit the eighth and final Chanucah candle at the Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital and followed this up with a concert for the inmates. I hope we did them some good. After all, since the time of King David, music has been recognised as having a therapeutic effect on damaged psyches.
The day before, a small group of us lit candles, distributed sufganiyot (doughnuts) generously contributed by the Roladin Cafe, and sang Chanucah songs for children suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and similar disabilities, at the Ilanot School in Jerusalem. It was heart-warming to see the children joining in with the songs – some of them knowing the words better than we ourselves did! Heart-warming too was seeing the children – both Jewish and Arab – “dancing” as their wheelchairs were moved around in time to the music by Arab and Jewish staff. And heart-warming too, to see two of the female staff, one a hijab-wearing Muslim and one clearly orthodox Jewish (the head coverings of both gave the game away), embrace in the centre of the circle of “dancers” before returning to their charges.
More than once, I felt a lump in my throat – most of all, when we finished the concert with Salomone Rossi’s arrangement of Psalm 146 and we came to verse 8: “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the Lord straightens up those who are bent down.”
These children were indeed “bent down” – but in body only, as was clear from the excitement and joy in their eyes. Their spirits remained unbowed.