December 16, 2007 / 7 Tevet 5768
The trauma and damage caused to the residents of Northern Israel by the Lebanon war in the summer of 2006 deeply touched Jews around the world, who mobilized en masse to assist their brethren in Israel. Proving that age is no obstacle to serious action, the children of Camps Eisner and Crane Lake sought a response that was both immediate and unmediated; with the help of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and the Jewish Agency for Israel, they found the perfect medium: art.
Last summer, the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, in conjunction with the Jewish Arts & Culture Initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, initiated, "Campers Joining Community for Tikkun Olam". The project was initiated to build community bonds among Jewish campers and the Berkshires Jewish Community through engagement in arts and culture. 100 campers were invited to the Federation's summer fundraising concert, both to learn about music with Jewish content and the concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world through social action. The summer fundraiser was dedicated to the residents of Northern Israel who were traumatized by the 2006 Second Lebanon war in which thousands of homes, schools and other public institutions were damaged by the attacks. The concert raised $17,000 for the Victims of Terror Fund of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which directly distributes funds to victims of the violence. .
Prior to the concert the campers strove to create a more permanent and personal impression of their feelings during the war – and one that would allow them to express their individual reactions. They turned to the medium of art and designed wall-hangings that combined their individual greetings into a large-scale quilt-like wall hanging that could decorate one of the damaged schools in the North. The message behind the entire project was one of hope and peace, caring and identification.
Recently the fifth graders at the Re'ut School in Tiberias received the two wall hangings from their Berkshire peers in a celebratory ceremony that included their school principal, Naftali Turgeman, and Jewish Agency Coordinator of A New Tomorrow Funding for the North, Kinneret Zeevy. The school children were immediately drawn to the wall hanging by the colorful display and began eagerly reading the images. Upon learning about the history and intention of the project, they expressed their gratitude and excitedly sought ways to send back messages to their US-based friends.
Many Re'ut students spoke excitedly about building stronger relationships with their new US friends. "Thank you for everything you made for us. We'd love to get to know you. And be strong for us," said student Dudu Peretz. Others, like student Yahel Sabag, wishes her peers what she would wish unto her fellow Israeli students, "I hope you have a good year. Enjoy school and good luck with your studies."
The wall-hangings are now a prominent feature on the school wall. Since the Re'ut school was directly hit by a Katyusha rocket in the war, these wall hangings provide a source of encouragement and pride for the Israeli students. Moreover, they remind youngsters in Israel of the solidarity and empathy shared with their peers in the Berkshires.