It’s been over a year since I posted a blog entry. More than a year. How can that time pass in such a blink? Time moves on effortlessly and we can only flow with it; accepting the things that get done and the many things that stay bound in the ether of our imaginations. Ideas that did not come to fruition, plans that stayed floating in the air around us.
I must confess, I think it would have taken me even longer if it were not for the awful puncture of everyday life by the staggering events of Saturday 7th October – now dubbed Israel’s 9/11. The Middle East region is once again aflame with the release of much pent up pain.
I was lucky enough to visit Israel and Palestine in March of this year. A long anticipated blog post has been in the making as I planned to share my precious photos of the magical time I spent there. Of the history I learned, the people I met, the food I savoured. The sights, sounds, scents of the ancient religious crossroads of Jerusalem; the vibe and hum of street art in Tel Aviv; the cute and cobbled streets of Bethlehem. We were all acutely aware that pain and trauma rumbled along the veins of the body of this land; that a peace and resolution lay somewhere far, far away. That things were tense and were liable to flare up in the violence of hurt hearts. But it was so breathtakingly beautiful anyway. The low pulse of fear could not eradicate the glory.
We worked with a company called The Green Olive Collective to travel into the West Bank (part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories), visiting Ramallah and Bethlehem and winding past settlements as we drove the roads between. We gazed at the water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian homes due to their uncertain water supply; bullet scarred walls; Banksy artworks and the morphing street art along the Separation Wall.
In Bethlehem, I was able to work with Palestinian women living in Aida Refugee Camp on a Comfort Quilt project. I arrived with cyanotype prints bearing messages of hope from the children I work with at The Mill Primary Academy. I returned to the UK with the women’s artwork which we then superimposed with old photos of Palestine using a UV lamp in the school’s art studio. Painstakingly, and with much love, we have stitched a squishy quilt patched with hand dyed swatches bathed in indigo hues. It is about to be shipped back to the camp to be enjoyed, although I am now concerned about whether it will ever make it to them. This seems utterly unimportant in the light of the many issues faced by Palestinians now trying to survive in the West Bank.
As we ended the textile session at Aida and the ladies hugged me goodbye, I heard the unmistakable sound of automatic machine guns firing from within the camp. A woman smiled, looked me straight in the eye and said 'don't think about it'. I knew at that point that I was hearing the sound of training and preparation. Possibly they were getting ready for recent events. I shudder to my core at the thought.
But I do not take sides. It's a solemn promise to myself that I stay firmly only on the side of love and compassion, and that all humans deserve to be included in the gaze of this healing light. I have lived through division, sectarianism and the anguish of a deeply wounded society. It was all for nothing ultimately; we must share our space on this planet whether we like it or not. We must make space; within borders and within our hearts. It may sound wishy washy to those that prefer to raise their fists, but love actually is the cry of the strongest warriors of all.