"Painting has the power to heal communities," says Taglit-Birthright alumnus and self-defined "community-based public artist" Max Levi Frieder.
"I discovered that painting is a lot more powerful than something hanging on a wall," he told Taglit participants from the former Soviet Union at a recent exhibition of his work, held at the Beit Hatfutsot Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.
23-year-old Max has spent the last five years travelling the world and bringing communities together to make art: "Art plants seeds, it inspires, it brings communities together." The last three months have been spent bringing communities together in Israel. He has worked with children all over Israel and the West Bank—from Ashdod to Ariel, from Be'er Sheva to Beit Jalah.
Max arrived in Israel in December as a Taglit participant. Taglit Chief Operations Officer Nimrod Ran says all program participants have an opportunity to extend their ticket for three months after their initial ten-day whirlwind taste of Israel.
In those ten days, participants are led by specially-trained educators on bus trips that take them from one end of Israel to the other. Since 1999, The Jewish Agency for Israel, in partnership with the government, Jewish Federations of North America, and individual philanthropists, has enabled more than 350,000 Jews worldwide between the ages of 18 and 26 to experience Israel.
Ran says that participants are encouraged to give back to their community. One of Max's projects in Israel included a Taglit group from the USA and Canada, who joined Israeli youth from the Ayalim Foundation and local children in Be'er Sheva to paint a 30 meter long mural. The mural will be displayed at the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command headquarters, located in Beer Sheva.
The exhibition also showcased 14 other murals that Max co-created with children from diverse backgrounds. He begins by asking the group to make a sketch in response to the question: What do you want your future to look like? They discuss their drawings, and Max then makes a composite sketch on the large canvas-mural. Together, the children then paint "their future."
Max believes in bringing people together to make art and to have fun. He says that inspiring others to love what one loves, and to create beautiful things, can make the world a better place.
"This is tikkun olam - this idea, which I learnt from my family, is the foundation of my work," says Max.
In August, Max says he plans to invite Israelis at large to paint a massive mural at Beit Hatfutsot. This one - a one-mile-long canvas - will then be divided into segments that will be later distributed among Jewish museums around the world. Follow artolution.org for more information on the project.