This is now my favorite Hebrew word. It means OK. Israelis were on their cell phones constantly. Whether they were ordering cabs, organizing our work schedules, meal  plans and everything else. The word “b’seder” was repeated over and over.

When the conversation turned to politics though, it was clear that everything was not b’seder. The people we worked with seemed to feel that their government has made some bad choices and they are not happy with their leaders. They are especially unhappy about how they are viewed by the rest of the world.  More than one person said “ what can we do?” They are looking for solutions and feel misrepresented by their political leaders  ( sounds kind of familiar). They particularly resent the  Ultra Orthodox community who don’t serve in the army. They want peace very badly, of course,and many of them are willing to sacrifice the land to get it. One artist (whose son works with explosives in the tunnels) said “ the Arabs are here, they’ve always been here. We should be able to live in peace together, but there are too many Israelis who want war to solve the problems. ”

At the end of my journey home, I was getting off the plane after the 12 hour flight. Waiting for everyone to de-plane, I was standing behind an elderly Christian couple. As we walked slowly down the aisle,the woman looked at the incredible mess, filth, trash and food left on the plane where one of the many Hasidic families sat. I cannot express how embarassed I was. This Christian woman turned to me shaking her head and said, “ we have to learn to care more about one another.”

I don’t want to end the trip with any negativity. It was a journey of a lifetime. It was all about making connections with other artists from the US and Israel, the Israeli schoolchildren, the teachers, our guides and all the planners of the program. Everyone’s kindness and caring made it a very special experience. Strangers who helped you on the train, soldiers who lifted your luggage for you, children who sang  the words to John Lennon’ s “Imagine all the People.”  It was truly  a unique and wonderful way to see the country. But there are big problems, difficult decisions and huge obstacles to overcome. If only our government and the leaders of Israel would take to heart the words of the woman on the plane” we have to learn to care more about one another.”

I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to create a mosaic  in Israel and to give the  Israeli children we worked with the message that  we do care about them and we hope and pray for peace.

Pavarotti, Zuchinna, and a Birthday Mosaic

My cousins took such good care of me. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and some of their kids. My cousin Erele was celebrating her birthday during my visit , so since she’s a budding mosaic artist, we spent the morning on her balcony in her well organized studio making a mosaic together. First of all, she’s a music teacher and school principal, and her parents are from Italy. She has pet Italian vegetable names for all of her children. For instance she calls her daughter Adar” Zuchinna.” She told me she does that because  her mother called her the Italian word for artichoke when she was a little girl.

So there we were, sitting on her beautiful balcony,  making a pomegranate mosaic while  she was singing along to the Pavarotti CD. It doesn’t get much better than that!

All the family stories I heard from the artists I met had roots in so many countries. Romania, Tunisia, Czechoslovakia, Russia are just a few that were mentioned. Many of the artists wove their stories into their art or their art into their stories.

Erele teaches English to Ethiopian children, calls  her children  Italian vegetable names,  lives part time in  Israel and part time in  Boston and  was brought up on a kibbutz !  Together, we pieced together a mosaic with interesting bits of stone, tile and glass from different origins and the final result was a fabulous work of art !!! No wonder mosaics are so popular in Israel.

L’Dor V’ Dor- Generation to Generation

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pick the most  interesting person from your family history and spend a day with that person? This is the opportunity I had on this trip. My cousins took me to Kibbutz Ruhama to visit my great Uncle David. He’s the 97 year old, brother of my Grandmother. He helped  build the kibbutz after immigrating from ( Dokshitsky) Belarus in 1938 with his wife Hadassah. His mind is as sharp as a tack !! He has hearing aids and a walker now but still likes to keep busy and get out every day.  To look at him, I see mannerisms and facial features that remind me of my Grandmother and Uncle Simon. We looked at old pictures of other family members and talked about the visits my Grandmother made to the kibbutz. It was an emotional reunion for both of us. His son told me he thinks there’s something about the Dokshitsky air that made the siblings so hearty !!


It’s a small, small world of Jewish Art

I was traveling by train from Nahariya to Rehovoth on Friday morning to visit my cousins. Since I was traveling alone and had to transfer in Tel Aviv, I wanted to make sure I was on the right platform. I happened to pick a lady out of the crowd to ask directions. She assured me I was in the right place and came with me on the elevator, and showed me where to put my luggage. She motioned for me to sit next to her and she began asking me about my visit. When I told her that I was an artist, she looked surprised and said she was an artist too. Her name is Adina Gatt  and she’s  a fabric artist with a studio in Nahariya and Jerusalem. I showed her some photos of my work. We couldn’t believe we both had just completed projects for the same Synagogue in New Jersey!!  We had a good time sharing stories about the project and we  promised to stay in touch. What a small world.

It’s a local call

Dalit is so strong and fearless. She does all of her installations herself. Ronit helped us prepare the wall with mastic and then we fit together  all the pieces of the mosaic which included 12 panels from our students from Akron. Dena ( artist from Toledo) videotaped the entire process. In about 4 hours, it was up!!! Dalit was high up on the ladder . I was safely on the ground. The size of the design is about 6 ft. by 8 ft. Lots of picture-taking, lots of ” YOFFI, YOFFI ( means pretty)” ” WOW”

Even the Mayor stopped by to meet us and thank us! This was a very gratifying day for everyone. At our final meeting this afternoon, there were tears and emotion and gratitude for all the hard work by the Israeli staff and also the artists. The deputy Mayor said ” Every Jew must feel that this is your base , your home. ” He quoted from a Chinese proverb that said “once you give a flower to someone the scent stays with you.” This is a day I will never forget. A scent that will stay with me. We gave the people of Mate Asher our mosaic flowers of peace and I hope many people will be able to make a trip like this and experience the love,warmth and generosity of this land and these people. The deputy mayor ended by saying, ” Here, to talk to God , it’s a local call!

“I wish there will be peace in the world….”

” Shalom From Akron”- Working in Dalit’s Studio

We worked with 6th graders from the school in Regba. The students were polite, very hard-working, and lots of fun. After explaining the project, they came up with their own designs for the border to go all the way around the design. I showed them all the panels and messages from our kids  in Akron and Dalit showed them how to  break the tiles and glue them on the mesh. Janice helped everyone with everything !!! While  we worked they sang Beatles songs in perfect English!!! They incorporated lettering saying “we love you”  and peace and the Israeli flag. I made a part of the border that said ” Shalom from Akron!!! .”Also helping were Stephanie, the Israeli jewelry artist, Sharon, the glass artist from Toledo.

Tuesday ,we were allowed to tour all day !! First we stopped at a Druze village on the way to Sfat.  It was very interesting to see Arabs living quietly and peacefully in this village. Sfat was beautiful and really came to life with the explanations of our guide Elan.
They only allowed us one hour to shop !!I

Janice and I met with Stephanie’s ( the Israeli metal artist) Mother this morning to talk about the quilt. She is a  vibrant  and talented Tunisian woman who loves to do embroidery and all kinds of art. We all realized where Stephanie’s talent comes from . She welcomed us to her home,of course offering us food and drink, and we talked about how she will finish the quilt and get it ready to hang in the community center. She is going to embroider all the handmade flowers and leaves.
Ronit ( our guide) translated all the messages fromthe Israelis to share with Akron .
One girl wrote this on the quilt ” I wish there will be peace in the world and that everyone will make music, and play together everywhere with friends and girlfriends and that there will never be war and that everyone will be healthy and live in a beautiful world”

After meeting with Dalit, we finished our work in the studio and prepared supplies for the installation. Our afternoon was spent touring the Kibbutz Cabri and the Etching Center and a Sculptors Atelier.

Gesher Ha Ziv and Dalit and the famous Israeli tennis player we didn’t see…..

Our quilt at the fence Festival was a great success!!! What a wonderful day ! Hundreds of people came to this festival at the Kibbutz GesherHaziv. Janice and I worked in the chicken coop that had other great craft projects for kids. Paper mache, woodworking and recycled art projects. The quilt was hung on the wall and our guide and caretaker Ronit and her daughter helped explain our project  to everyone in Hebrew. The kids were beautiful and the parents were very helpful.  The Israeli parents love to sit and work with their kids on projects.  It’s not at all like the USA where parents drop their kids off to have lessons and be entertained. Grandmothers, mothers, fathers, babies… everyone came  and worked together.We don’t know how many people particpated but it was 2:30 before we even sat down to take a breath. The crowds kept growing and growing and some kids stayed for over and hour  to sew, glue, bead and write messages. The flowers and leaves came out beautiful and each child came up to the quilt and showed us where to put their flower. They will have some women who are quilters sew everything together and then hang the quilt in the community center in Acco where our mosaic will be. The day was beyond all our expectations and everyone said our project was the highlightof the festival!!!
The most moving part of the day was having Ronit translate all the messages the kids wrote with their parents. Almost all included mesages for the safe release and return of the 19 year old Israeli soldier from Nahariya who was captured in 2006. It brings everything about Israel into perspective.

Sunday was a really, really long day. We started at Dalit’s studio. Everywhere you looked were mosaic sculptures, decorations, tables, benches, plants, flowers and color. Located on a kibbutz overlooking the beautiful hills of the Galilee, we talked about how to incorporate our 12 mosaic pieces from our children in Akron. We worked back and forth with ideas on a  large piece of paper and came up with a 6 ft by 10 foot format for our mural to be located on the outdoor wall at the Mate Asher Community Center. We worked with another Israeli artist who works in metal and a glass artist from Toledo who makes glass beads. We incorporated their work into the mosaic too. Tomorrow the leaders of the Partnership , the kids, and all of us will be in the studio working. The kids from the school will create a border around the whole piece to tie it all together. So it will be an exciting day.
We another grand lunch overlooking the Mediteranean , then went off to hike around Rosh Hanikra which is a kibbutz on the Lebanon border. RIGHT ON the border so we had an armed guard with us. They had a cable car take us to see a breathtaking view of the cliffs and the ocean. Many schoolchildren were there too. No signs of any trouble like we see on US news .We had about 10 minutes to change shoes and wash our faces before we had to go to a celebration of the grand opening of the tennis courts of Acco where we ALMOST got to see some  Israeli Tennis star who is 15th in the world. Well you can only imagine how exhausted hungry and tired we all were .

The mayor of Acco was there and a Hasidic Rabbi of Acco who put up the mezzuzah and speeches and speeches and where’s the tennis player already????? We took a vote and left because the school for the arts had prepared  a lovely dinner and presentation for us. We were treated to a violin concert by a 16 yr oldand a 10 yr old , two modern dance selections  and  musician named DUDU, who gave  a drum workshop. We all followed his beat on beautiful African  Drums. It really helped our sore hands from all the tile cracking we had done in the morning. Luckily we got into the cab back to the hotel that knew the way to our hotel. The other 3 people had an Arab cab driver that got lost. Ours just tried to convince us that Barack Obama was a Muslim. As tired as I was, I still had the energy to argue with him !!!

Shalom from Nahariya

We had a wonderful first day of touring Acco, meeting the other 6 artists and preparing our ” fence festival” project for tomorrow.
The people are all wonderful. We have our own guide to take care of our every need and then also the staff from the partnership is making sure we are feasting on wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Last night we met Dalit ( the mosaic artist) and teachers and the principle from the school for the arts and had dinner in a restaurant owned by the cultural director of Acco. I don’t know what we ate but it was all delicious.  Early this morning we toured Acco with our own guide who was an art history major and went to the most amazing synagogue with mosaics from floor to ceiling representing every biblical, historical, and cultural aspect of Judaism. I just wanted them to leave me there so I could drink it all in. It took my breath away. The man in charge of the synagogue looked exactly like Uncle Simon! All of the marble and stone came from a nearby kibbutz. After another fabulous lunch we went to Kibutz Gesher Ha Ziv to hang the quilt Janice created for tomorrow’s festival. We are working with the children in a refashioned chicken coop to make soft sculpture flowers to hang on the quilt. It looked great and everyone was so delighted to see the pictures of our Akron kids on the quilt.Tonight is shabbat dinner at one of the Israeli artists house. I will try to send some pictures tomorrow.Janice is really enjoying everything too.We both feel like kids in a candy shop to be able to see everything from an artistic perpective

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The Fence Festival

For the first weekend of our Israel Artist in Residency, Janice and I will be particpating in ” The Fence Festival”. This will take place at  Kibbutz  Gesher Ha Ziv http://www.gesherhaziv.org.il/, in the Western Galilee near the Lebanon border. Janice and I will be working with children in a building that was once a chicken coop ( at least that ‘s what Amir, the festival organizer, told us). Janice made this wonderful wallhanging incorporating photos and messages  from our mosaic Planting for Peace Project  here in Akron. The Israeli children will have the opportunity to  cut, sew, decorate  and stuff soft sculpture flowers and write their own messages to hang on the quilt!!

All this before we even start doing  mosaics  with older school kids on Sunday morning!