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Peace Child Israel, founded in 1988, teaches tolerance and mutual respect to youth through the means of theater and the arts. PCI brings Arab and Jewish youth from inside Israel to work together for eight months, meeting weekly to create a play about coexistence to perform in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

In Jaffa I met with Melice Lewine-Boskovich, the Managing Director of Peace Child since ’93. Through her own transformation from viewing the conflict through one lens to working in the field of peace building, Melice considers herself “walking living proof for the possibility of change” and that with “the right stimuli and circumstances, [change] is possible.”

Peace Child uses “theater as a tool for understanding, awareness raising, and also for changing attitudes among those in the audience who see the plays.”

During the weekly sessions leading up to the performance, the teens start with building a relationship and learning about one another.

Peace Child provides the opportunity for youth, who participate in the program voluntarily, to meet the other who they otherwise would never sit in a room with. “The educational and the living, everything is segregated…They learn about the basic things of each other’s cultures,” says Melice about life in Israel and the PCI program. Through activities of role-play, reverse-role play, sharing personal stories, improvisation, and codependent activities, PCI not only exposes the teens to one another, but teaches them that they’re more alike than they ever thought. Read the rest of this entry »

In a former army outpost from 1967 sits Museum on the Seam, a socio-political museum for contemporary art established in 1999. David Amichai, Director of Public Relations, speaks of the locality of the museum, commenting that “the fact that we have a museum that is dedicated to coexistence and tolerance in a former army outpost makes it very interesting and unique…the Museum used to be the border between Israel and Jordan.”

Standing inside the gallery space which nearly faces the Damascus Gate on the border of East Jerusalem, one can see old scars, windows sealed with concrete, one ruined wall, and the remnants of what this space used to be. The Museum is located “on the seam” of different cultures, backgrounds, religions, and demographics.

The Museum was established to bridge gaps between the different ethnicities and communities of Jerusalem through the international language of art. Museum on the Seam’s main goal is to bring good art to Jerusalem, and, “as a subsequent of this good art, to raise social problem and discussion through art.” With exhibits changing every six to seven months revolving around a social theme (violence, Palestinian homelessness, and migrant workers, to name a few), the Museum offers a space for artists of all backgrounds to exhibit. “It is very important that the Israeli artist will see that there is art created in Muslim countries,” says David. The museum has exhibited work of artists from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, “even though,” as David explains, “there is an unofficial boycott of Israel by these countries.”

The Museum’s current exhibition, West End, focuses on the clash of civilizations. David describes the exhibition as a “fusion of artists from Muslim countries, Israelis and artists of the West.” He takes me through the exhibit, explaining one Muslim artist who has expressed his frustration with Switzerland’s ban on building mosques by shaping mosque-like figures into large missiles; another piece, entitled Suicide Bomber, is a statement of just that– a wall size display by an artist from Slovakia described by Amichai as “a manufactured suicide bomber, like a Barbie doll, that you just snap by the numbers and assemble it [with] the image of the fragmentation of the human body.”

I asked David if the museum has faced any opposition due to its unconventional exhibit themes and artists. He says this mostly comes from individual visitors who simply don’t agree with what they see; yet this, according to the Museum, is an opportunity to open minds. “If it makes you think about the social problem… that’s one of the reasons for making art. If it brings emotions from you, I think it’s a good art piece.” One exhibition on Palestinian homelessness, viewed by a group of Settlers, outraged the settlers. From the point of view of the Museum, this was a success: it made people think about what they see. Read the rest of this entry »