Working in arguably the longest inhabited city in the world, was an experience filled with surprise. This project was brought to the Jericho Municipal Libraryby the US Consulate General- American Corner, Jericho. As we crossed the check point, we entered the isolated and ancient city in the dessert near the Dead sea. We were to paint the only library in the city, a building with a modest selection of books and people who greeted us well. The adults of the Library were excited for the mural, and the along the walls were portraits of Palestinian figures including Yasser Arafat, historical figures as well as gruesome images of Palestinian and Israeli beatings and conflict.
All the teenagers arrived and sat around surprisingly attentive, positive, and were extremely perplexed by the concept. When the idea-drawing began, huge amount of political symbols immediately streamed from the majority of the youth. Images were depicted of: “ We stand with Gaza” , the country surrounded by barbed wire, The Political symbol “Humdallah”; a Homeless Palestinian child, Eyes crying and Flags of Palestine. As we discussed how we could turn these images into a series of 3 murals, the conversation became about larger ideas. The concept became a man reading a book coming out of a book, along with a tree, both immersed in English and Arabic Letters. This was to be painted on the outside of the front of the building. As the painting began , the kids were extremely engaged and withstood the incredible heat of painting outside.
2 additional murals were also painted on inside of children’s section. Two eyes, making the room into a face, one growing from a tree, one from mountains. The right with a sleeping moon and the left, a sleeping sun. Inside the left eye, a map of the center of the country inside the star of Jericho. The right eye, a boat with a hijabed woman on the bow, pointing to the stars.
Jericho Youth came together to bring life to the only Library in the city, in an intense time in the region. The finished piece became a reading striped green man coming out of a book which greets all who enter the building. The stories this green man will tell, fit with the ending of the experience. As we were all departing, one of the boys started to sing “ Vivir La Vida”, the famous Latin Salsa song in nonexistent, spluttering, spanish, and all of the boys began to scream it and jump around. This turned into the boys putting me up in the ladder dancing, clapping and erupting in song in Arabic. I asked my Consulate Colleague what they were singing, and it was the celebration song when an arab man gets married. As the singing finishes, everybody shook hands, and they walked away with big smiles and laughter. This story started having its veins being pumped with political intensity, and ended with a farewell of human celebration and collaboration .