Israel/Palestine Art Therapy Project – Entry 4

Israel/Palestine Art Therapy Project – Entry 4:
“3 Days, 3 Nights, 3 Murals”

A two week downpour in Israel concluded with a snowstorm in Jerusalem… and after a 2 day traffic jam and countless car accidents last year in the capital following a blizzard, when snow falls roads close. Essentially, the thousands of years of memory wonder the streets alone on the rare day that white flakes fall from the sky. Day after day we checked the walls, but they were far from dry and the Israel Art Therapy Project happily continued indoors. Schedules were adapting to the weather by the moment with huge credit to all involved, the flexibility was remarkable. 4 days before my flight and we had accomplished more than we had imagined… but 3 murals to go. Let the Mural Marathon begin!

Shira Shvadron, Robert Markey and I prepared a 2 x 4 meter wall inside the school of Neve Shalom late Friday evening. We painted the background and the main components of the composition just before bed time! We were scheduled to be the headliners in the morning for “Parents’ Day”. Few were expected due to weather, but the following day our classroom was spilling out the door with both Arab and Jewish students and their parents. It was the most beautiful compliment. We lead the parents through a short class demonstrating what we teach their children and then invited them to paint on the mural. They painted their messages of peace in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Swedish into the colorful hair flowing in the winds of change. What a moment! The following day brought glorious sunshine. Robert Markey took the sixth graders outside to make beautiful mosaic birds and fish as Shira and I painted with the students on professional canvas. The work of Markey and the children is amazingly elegant. Recently, Neve Shalom had suffered from racist-vandalism on their walls and it was a great honor to metaphorically transform heavy walls into light. (Thank you everyone at Neve Shalom!)

The Bridge is the gateway into the only Israeli-Arab village on the ocean, Jisr Az Zarka. Our dream was to paint it, but if it was not prepared correctly then the mural would only last up to 6 months. Two days before my departure the weather cleared and the proper preparation was completed with scaffolding and all! Shira Shvadron and I started painting bright and early. Two Arab boys skipped school to paint beside us… they take after me =) And by 3pm, a bus of the Jewish Scouts from Benyamina arrived. Yes!!! Arab and Jewish kids began painting the stones and the flowers of the Jisr Az Zarka mural together. It was a moment to remember! By the end of the day, it had become the community hang out spot and even the Mayor himself climbed the top scaffolding, working through his fear of heights, to paint “Welcome Jeser El Zarka” in Arabic (If you’ve noticed, there are many ways to spell this village.) Shira and I painted until 1 am. There were so many beautiful people and companies that contributed to making this possible, it was tough to give credit to everyone; therefore, after convincing the workers to put the scaffolding up in the morning to finish the mural… we reminded the world that it is about the KIDS! (Thank you Juha’s Guesthouse, Nadir, The Mayor, The City Council, Principal of Techology High School, Atid, Neta, Ahmad, Zaim, Moti, John, the Scout Leaders, the restoration workers who prepared the wall …… AND ALL OF YOU!)

Through an amazing connection of Shira’s one of the largest NGOs in Israel invited me to paint a 35 meter mural with a beautiful 18 year-old boy named Daniel. He is autistic and he is actually a genius, in our opinion! The intention of this project was for Daniel Amit to start a mural and then a professional, international artist would complete it and this art would be posted in one of the largest intersections of Israel in order to increase the awareness and compassion of mentally and physically disabled youth. AMAZING IDEA! It was not physically possible to paint 35 x 2 meters with 2 people in the time that we had free; therefore, I cut a canvas 3.5 meters long and 20 cm tall. We would paint the canvas and then blow it up x 10 to print onto the wall. Daniel is an amazing illustrator and musician who even performed live on Israel’s “X Factor”. Shira, Daniel and I worked for hours and hours on this piece. Shira’s mother and brother helped. Robert Markey painted… and all through the nights after the day job was over. There was so much love showering into this mural project. In the end only Daniel and I could be mentioned in the promotion of this mural, sometimes this is how life works… and yet, none of this could have happened with out Shira. Daniel and I would be happy to give her all the credit. Many lessons derived from this beautiful experience. The question is this: Can a human-being be at peace knowing that he may die without a name on his gravestone? YES. The ocean, the birds, the trees, and the frogs know who you are. The Universe sees you. YOU SEE YOU! (Thank you Shira, Daniel, Robert, and family! Thank you Rona!)

From Jisr we painted through the night on the canvas before racing in the early morning to Neve Shalom to complete the mural and say goodbye to all of our little and big friends. Shira and I shared an adorable moment eating lunch with beautiful kindergardeners who were laughing and smiling more than eating. We completed the mural!!! “The eyes look so real.” a child said from a distance. We shifted our focus fast, to the completion of the canvas Mural. Everything was on fast-forward mode on the ancient VCR. A few days earlier we were told that much of the painting needed to be changed for the streets of Israel. While Shira drove, I was even working on it racing to our meeting 2 hours before my flight was set to depart. To be continued…