Published: 18 December 2009
It is impossible to describe what it is to lose a child. Your whole life is totally changed forever. It’s not that I’m not the same person I was. I’m the same person with a lot of pain.” These words were written by Robi Damelin, an Israeli woman whose son was killed by a sniper while he was fulfilling his reserve duty. Sadly, many Israelis can identify with Damelin’s experience. But not so many have done what she has, which is join the Parents Circle—Families Forum, a group of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who aim to promote “long-term reconciliation through dialogue and mutual understanding.”
Now Parents Circle—Families Forum has gotten together with No Longer Empty, another nonprofit group that encourages the use of empty New York City storefronts for arts programming, to mount an exhibition of editorial cartoons. The exhibition is called “Cartoons in Conflict: Editorial Cartoonists Explore the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.” Forty cartoonists from countries all over the world, including Pulitzer-Prize winners Pat Oliphant and Jim Morin, have donated drawings, and more than half of them are on display at 6 West 26th St. All 40 can be seen in a catalogue and some are in a calendar, which is available for $20. The traveling exhibit has already visited Israel, Spain, and Italy.
The drawings are mounted against international newspapers, and as Damelin said at the Dec. 10 opening of the exhibit, the style of drawing says something about the country where the cartoon originated. A cartoon from Russia seemed extraordinarily painterly while the American ones are in a more familiar quick-sketch style. In general, the farther the country is from the Middle East, the more idealistic the message. Cartoonists in those lands more closely involved — Turkey, the United States, Israel — produced more cynical takes on the situation. Looking at the exhibit brings home that we share a pictorial language — there are lots of bruised doves and brick walls. One dove in a Cuban cartoon carries barbed wire in its mouth rather than a twig.
Damelin and Mazan Faraj are traveling with the exhibit. Faraj, who participated in the first intifada, joined PCFF after his father was shot by an Israeli soldier. Commenting on one of the cartoons, Damelin read the caption, “The tears are the same color, aren’t they?”
Parents Circle conducted 1,200 dialogues with Israeli students in 2008, focusing on those schools and youth movements hostile to its cause. It coordinated 130 meetings with Palestinians who live in the west bank. The group also encourages interaction between Arab and Jewish women and filmed a serial drama about two chefs, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Not surprisingly, the organization is a favorite of international groups. It has been awarded the Goldberg Institute of International Education Prize, the Eisenhower Medallion from People to People International, and the Martha Prize for Tolerance and Democratic Values from The Jerusalem Foundation. It also received the 2008 Search for Common Ground Award.
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