Area artists, residents look to spark conversations on Gaza conflict
BRATTLEBORO -- What do you do if you are concerned about a dire international crisis that is causing dozens of deaths of civilians every day with no end in sight?
If you live in Brattleboro, one thing you do is create and discuss art.
Area residents concerned with the war between Israel and Palestinians living in Gaza took to the streets last week to focus attention on the grim situation and encourage local conversation.
On July 25, the names and ages of Palestinians killed during the recent Israeli strikes in Gaza were written in chalk on the sidewalks downtown.
Then Friday night an art installation was put up in Pliny Park during Gallery Walk by a group calling itself Brattleboro Solidarity with Palestine.
"There is a lot being written and said about Israel's recent attacks in Gaza. It can be overwhelming for people to sit down and sort through all that information," said Becca Polk, one of the leaders of Brattleboro Solidarity with Palestine. "Brattleboro Solidarity with Palestine is using art and films to teach about some of the historical content that is not typically represented in mainstream media. Sometimes an artistic representation of that information can be more meaningful and gives people an opportunity to think about things in a different manner."
Brattleboro Solidarity with Palestine hosted a film showing on July 28, and is also showing another film tonight, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. at The Root Social Justice Center at 28 Williams St.
"Occupation 101," a 2006 documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be shown with a discussion on the film and the ongoing conflict to follow.
In Pliny Park Friday a full, walk-though, art piece was installed to bring attention to the war in Gaza and Israel.
Beyond the more well known issues surrounding the situation in Gaza and The West Bank, the installation Friday presented information on water rights, housing and security.
Two walls with barbed wire were set up to represent the Israeli occupation in Gaza and West Bank and to show what the everyday lives of Palestinians are like.
Members of Brattleboro Solidarity with Palestine provided information on the situation in the Middle East.
Kelly Junno of Brattleboro, a member of the activist group, said the group reserved Pliny Park weeks ago and is going to continue doing its work to raise awareness and spur debate.
"We weren't so much focusing on what's going on this month, as what has been going on for the last 70 years," Junno said.
Saturday another group, Jews and Non-Jews Concerned about the Violence in Gaza and Israel, held a vigil outside the Brattleboro Post Office which included a street performance of "Witness to Genocide: Israel-Palestine-A Journey," a performance art-installation by local artist and activist Namaya.
"Many people have great compassion and concern for the violence and death that is happening here," Namaya said Saturday. "This performance project addresses the question of 'How can there be a just and viable future for the children of Israel and Palestine?'"
During the performance, a woman stands in a cage with the Palestinian flag behind her. To the side an Israeli and Palestinian flag is woven together as a Jewish memorial candle flickers.
Namaya, who is Jewish, traveled to Israel, and throughout the Islamic world, and said the performance recognizes his Jewish heritage and his hope for a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Though he recognizes that there appears to be a long way to go.
"There is a hunger for peace in this time of insanity as we see more and more children being killed, and both Palestinians and Israelis killed," he said. "This work is done drop by drop. I like the Quixotic journey."
Richard Evers is a member of Jews and Non-Jews Concerned about the Violence in Gaza and Israel and he stood in front of the post office Saturday with a sign urging Vermont's Congressional delegation to take a firmer stand on the crisis.
Evers said the group came together recently, and while there are no additional events planned he said the vigil Saturday grew out of a need to educate and seek support.
"The situation is very grim and very dire. I don't expect to change anything," Evers said. "We're not organized, we're just reacting to the crisis of the moment. Rather than sitting in your living room and watching the news and wringing your hands, you come out with other people and you feel better and a little stronger. All protest movements start with something like this."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.
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