A Living Memorial Park At Naharayim: Conflict & Resolution, Part 1 (Memorial Park Concept)
"A Living Memorial Park At Naharayim Seven Girls One Dream For The World" conceptually began shortly after the March 13, 1997 tragedy when a bus full of schoolgirls from Beit Shemesh, Israel went on an excursion to Naharayim, Jordan. Seven of the girls were shot and killed by a single Jordanian soldier opposed to peace.
This project was conceived as a park that would link Israel and Jordan, with no border and no soldiers, offering the children the environment to play together and learn respect for each other.
An additional component to the park will be a Children's Eye Clinic. The health of their eyes leads children to learn, read, draw, and create their own world as they see it. If perceived with healthy eyes it can benefit the child throughout their entire life leading to growth physically and intellectually. It can bring them to the realization of being part of the greater human family. Walking through the park enjoying the blossoming of flowers, the colors of the sky, the trees swaying in the delicate breeze, and the flying birds. These are the primary encounters from which we go on developing out other senses. Two ophthalmologists and a child psychologist have committed themselves to this project.
I am currently selecting a Jordanian and Israeli architect to join the project.
The Living Memorial Park project began taking shape when I invited architect Randy Gaskins and video artist Vin Grabill to participate. I then went on my first trip to Israel and Jordan. Once in Israel, I met with the families of the seven girls and filmed 32 hours of their children's history, visited the school the girls had attended, and recorded the words of some of the students who had been injured but were fortunate enough to be alive. I also went to Jordan and filmed Jordanian school children, the hospital where the injured were first taken, and other sites in Naharayim, Israel, the site of the proposed park. I received the parents' full support for the Living Memorial Park as well as encouraging responses from some of the students who were injured. The young girls' response was "children of different countries and beliefs should begin to play together when we are very young. . .yes, we need the Park". Reflecting their desire, I am particularly hopeful that Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian children will one day come together to play with and learn from each other.
Upon my return to the USA, video artist Vin Grabill and I edited the footage into a nine-hour documentary. Randy Gaskins and I produced large color architectural drawings of the various components of the Park, and I created large photo collages of each girl as well as a large painting symbolizing the Hebrew letter and number seven, "Zayin". The Park made its first appearance as a Living Memorial at a one-year exhibition held at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York City where four of the girls' fathers attended the exhibit's opening reception.
Presented here is a 24-minute video documentary summarizing progress made to date in realizing the goals of this project. The third video clip presents an excerpt of a speech made by Israel's former ambassador to the U.S., David Ivry, given at the opening of a second exhibition at Galerie Du Monde, Baltimore, in 2001. The full documentary is 9 hours in length, showcasing the families, the children, and the sites of both Israel and Jordan.
More recently, I was invited as an artist to be part of a program on the subject of CONFLICT AND RESOLUTION at the 58th Japan-American Student Conference at the American University in Washington, D.C I chose to speak about "A Living Memorial Park At Naharayim Seven Girls One Dream For The World":
Of all weapons, the most powerful are people. Much can be accomplished through our dreams for a safe environment for our selves, for our children, and for our families. It is always better to begin talking about Conflict as a singular disease that affects an individual human being. Even though I am not a psychologist, I believe that Conflict begins within us: our tensions, dreams, understanding, and in most cases our misunderstandings. In looking into myself, I discovered a picture of the world that I perceive to be ugly, inhospitable. Slowly...slowly, the question was...Who am I...? I came to the conclusion that as a human being I had inherent rights and responsibilities to afford changes for myself and changes for others. In looking at the world and its conditions, I realized that Conflict has contaminated the entire earth.
I call it contamination since I consider it to be a disease. Some diseases are not curable, but with medication, the life of the sick person can be prolonged.
You are people that have looked into yourself and have decided to embark on the journey I call the Human existence: Camus said that we live a life of numerical absurdity. We do, but just like Camus, you can become engaged. You can become the doctors that administer the medication to the sickness we call Conflict. There are far too many!!!
Look at us in this room. We begin to see that Resolution is possible. I Am here due to a wonderful composer/singer whose name is Yoko Kamitani. Coming from different parts of the world and not speaking the same language did not keep us apart. Instead we were open to each other and slowly, slowly we entered into each others lives as two human beings, as women and artists. We discovered through our link our fundamental common ground.
As another example of the kind of Resolution I seek through my work, I offer "A Living Memorial Park At Naharayim Seven Girls One Dream For The World". I began thinking that I as an artist had a responsibility to tell the story and create a Memorial that will be a bridge to understanding and that will bring Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian children together to play and learn respect for each other that will lead to a lasting peace.