Who is Elham Farah?

The 84-year-old music teacher was killed by an Israeli sniper in Gaza. Elham Farah spent hours bleeding after being injured, according to family members. This article written by her niece pays tribute to her.

Friend, daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, musician, Christian, Palestinian, human, person.

These are but a few words that describe who Elham Farah was. Elham was a petite lady with a hat on her head, glasses on her face, and a purse that never left her shoulder. Elham Farah was a Palestinian woman—born and raised in Gaza. She is the youngest daughter of the well-known Palestinian poet Hanna Dahdah Farah. The Farah family is one of the oldest Christian families in Gaza, tracing their origins back to the Ghassanid Arabs, who were eminent in Gaza Between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. The Farah family have roots in this city and are famous for their knowledge and literature. Like the rest of the women in her family, Elham was educated and talented. She was strong-willed and adventurous.

Elham served her community by becoming the very first music teacher in Gaza’s educational system. She was one of the few people who could hold any instrument and play it beautifully. Her favorite instrument was the accordion; if you knew her, you’ll remember her joyful expression as she played. While she was a teacher, she played music for her students every morning. She would use her father’s poems and write music to them, making a new song to teach her students.

Elham loved Gaza. She loved its people. She was a giving and loving person. She used to give to those in need despite her own limited means. She loved to be surrounded by people, especially her family, whether close or distant. Elham used her musical talent to serve the Lord and his people by playing worship music at the church.

Elham lived by herself in a small apartment and took care of herself until her last breath. She had survived many wars, yet she described the current war in Gaza as the worst thing she’d ever experienced.

For almost a month, Elham took shelter in one of only two churches still standing in Gaza along with hundreds of others to avoid shelling, crossfire, and shrapnel. Elham never stayed in one place for too long. She always traveled, constantly scheduling new adventures on her calendar. Her adventurous and strong-willed side, however, could no longer handle staying inside locked doors. She insisted on leaving the church to check on her home and breathe fresh air. She needed to get a jacket, and make sure that her home was still standing and not destroyed. Through the gift of her strong faith she comforted those around her asking them not to worry and confessing that Jesus Christ would be with her wherever she went. On November 12, 2023, Elham walked from the church to her home, but as she arrived at her building, a sniper was on the apartment’s roof and shot her in the leg.

When neighbors in the area saw Elham lying on the side of the road, they tried to go to her to offer aid, but they were shot at, too. The neighbors were unable to help Elham. A short time after she was initially injured, the neighbors were able to get in touch with Elham’s family to inform them what had happened. After several unsuccessful phone call attempts, Elham’s niece was finally able to get through to her. In that conversation, Elham described the severe pain she was experiencing and said that she’d been calling for help for hours without any aid. She expressed that she could no longer feel her leg thinking that it had been amputated from the rest of her body. Her niece told her, “Auntie Elham, if it were amputated you would have bled to death by now. Rest your head. It is getting dark. We will try to get someone to you by the morning.” Elham responded, “Okay, I just put my head on the sidewalk. I will be waiting here.”

Elham’s family tried desperately to contact the Red Cross or anybody else who could go to her aid. Unfortunately, nobody could go. Elham was left bleeding out on the side of the road. She took her last breath, reposing in the Lord on November 13, 2023. Elham’s last words were, “Pray for me; I am dying.”

Auntie Elham, your crescendoing call for help turned into an echo on the shores of Gaza. The world lost a beautiful soul, and now you are playing music to all those who lost their lives in the same way you did. In Gaza you were born and in Gaza may you eternally be laid to rest. We will never forget the sound of your accordion. We will never forget your last words. We love you and miss you.

“I write your name my country”, one of the songs that Elham Farah sang with her students in Gaza, sung here by the Sol Band, winner of the Palestinian musicians competition organized by the French Institute in Gaza in 2020 on the occasion of the music festival
Children from the Edward Said Conservatory in Gaza sing the Palestinian national anthem, Mawtini “My Homeland”, in 2016.