Israel-Palestine war: The elderly Christian music teacher killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza
The people she leaves behind remember Elham Farah for her smile and for always being joyful, a trait, they said, matched her surname, which is the Arabic word for "happiness".
A member of Gaza's Palestinian Christian community, Farah lived in the al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza and spent her career working as a music teacher before retiring. She was the daughter of Hanna Farah, who was a well known Palestinian poet.
According to local media reports, Farah was shot on 12 November by the Israeli army, outside the Holy Family Church in Gaza City.
The 84-year-old was seeking shelter in the church from the relentless Israeli bombardment but stepped outside to see if her home had survived the air strikes.
Farah was shot in the leg and fell to the ground, with those in the church unable to come to her aid because of the intensity of the bombing.
A social media post by Farah’s niece, Carole, while her aunt was bleeding out appealed for help, noting that she was waiting for someone to come and assist her and take her into an ambulance.
“A call for whoever can help, my aunt the music teacher Ilham Farah has been wounded after being shot by occupation forces and she is in the road on the floor and is waiting for an ambulance … she is close to al-Shifa hospital, please help,” she wrote, adding Farah’s phone number.
After Farah was pronounced dead, Carole shared memories of her aunt.
“She was so cute and nice, and continued to send me Bible verses and worship songs this week with what little electricity she had,” Carole posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Tributes from former music students have also poured in for Farah.
One video shared online shows Farah playing the piano in the Kamaliya School in the al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, one of the oldest schools in the besieged enclave.
Her piano performance was part of a celebration, which marked the restoration of the building as part of an initiative by the Islamic University of Gaza.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in Gaza who hasn’t met her on the street. She would always stop people, smile at them, and start talking to them. She was an icon of Gaza in terms of culture, knowledge and awareness. We will continue praying for you and talking about you. The only consolation is she lived her life playing music,” one social media user wrote.
In another tribute, one former student recalled observing Farah perform: “We loved listening to her music, it was one of the most beautiful classes.”
More than 11,240 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on 7 October.
The number includes 4,630 children and 3,130 women, according to Gaza’s government media office, amounting to 73 percent of those killed.
Three churches have been hit in Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. Christians in Gaza have taken part in mass baptisms in case of their death in air strikes.