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Art Projects with Children of Palestine 2015

Project Spotlight: Palestine

“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.” - Khalil Gibran


The Beautiful Project was invited by the Barefoot Artists Organization (led by the amazing humanitarian and artist, Lily to work at several sites inPalestine (Nablus and the West Bank) in 2015. We artists were to work with leaders, practice art making with the community, and learn more about Palestine.

Background: An Occupied Population, Loss of Land, Home, and Rights Over 75 years.

During our time there we were genuinely and warmly welcomed by the Palestinians. We were invited into their homes, lives and hearts, and through those experiences and the hours of hours and hours of conversations and interviews, we learned of the ongoing Palestinian struggle that extended back for over 75 years. Daily, we witnessed the presence of an occupation that had control over Palestinian water and food supply. We heard first-hand countless stories of Palestinians being forcibly removed from their land that they had lived on for generations by Israeli settlers often through violence. Homes and entire neighborhoods are demolished to make way for more and more Israeli settlements. And, great crimes inflicted against the Palestinians like the Nakba (“The Great Catstrophe” of 1947) happening periodically. As shown on the map shown below, Palestinians now only live on less than 5% of the land they once lived on as indigenous people.


Palestine Map.png
Shrinking Palestine.png
Map of Palestine in 1947 published by
National Geographic
A Shrinking Palestine from 1947 - 2005

Al Aqaba Mural Project

Al Aqaba is a small village in the West Bank that is under the constant threat of being demolished. We worked closely with Haj Sami, Mayor and Peace Activist.

We painted the mural to honor the courage of Haj Sami and all of the villagers in their pursuit for peace, dignity, and a future for their children through peaceful means of education, art, entrepreneurial effort, and construction.

Al Aqaba, a small village in the West Bank, remains under constant threat of demolition. We were able to work closely with Haj Sami, the Mayor and a committed advocate for peace, to create something beautiful to honor the community.

In recognition of Haj Sami's courage and the villagers' unwavering pursuit of peace, dignity, and a better future for their children, we created this mural, deisgned by Lily, called “Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine,” honoring the people’s deep emotion of trauma and loss. The figures of two children, a boy and a girl, at the suggestion of Haj Sami  as the symbol of their future. This symbolic artwork reflects their dedication to achieving these aspirations through peaceful means, including education, art, entrepreneurship, and construction.

Portrait of Peace Activist Haj Sami painted by Rob Shetterly 

In 1972, when Mayor Haj Sami was 16 years old, he was hit by three bullets fired by an Israeli soldier during a training exercise. In his long recuperation in Israel, in the care of kind doctors and nurses at the Tel HaShomer Hospital, he learned to face life as a paraplegic and decided that no one, neither Palestinian nor Israeli, should ever suffer his fate. His priority has always been to keep the children and his village safe and promote human rights with honesty, kindness, creativity, and perseverance. This is his wonderful legacy.

The Al Aquaba mural we created with Barefoot Artists and Lily Yeh titled, “Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine,” before the 1948 Nakba, the Catastrophe, and before apartheid oppression and the brutal ethnic cleansing.

Nablus, Palestine - "To Resist is to Exist"


(rewrite this as it is a direct quote from Lily) Nestled in a valley between two striking, arid mountains, Mount Jarzim and Mount Etal, Nablus is very much the nerve centre of the upper West Bank. This beautiful, ancient city – known as the uncrowned Queen of Palestine – with narrow streets and arches, was built during the Ottoman era. Many of the residents, whose families have lived here for generations, are fiercely proud and protective of their land and heritage.

During the Second Intifada (Intifada meaning "Uprising"), the city endured brutal attacks from the Israeli occupying military. Numerous buildings were destroyed and families perished. Despite continued harassment and arrests, the determined citizens, in their resistance to occupation, have earned Nablus the honored name Mountain of Fire.

In Nablus, the Barefoot Artist Team held art workshops for the children in the city square. We also worked together to create a mural with a figure adorned with a kaffiyeh (a symbol of unity), emerging proudly from the ancient city. Holding the national flag that symbolizes the essence of Palestine's land and people, this creation swiftly transformed into an iconic image, spreading like wildfire across social media platforms.

Children's Art Workshops in Nablus City Square

......The children continually reminding us of who we are standing for and must protect.

"To Resist is to Exist"

The Palestinian slogan "to resist is to exist" could easily be reversed to say "to exist is to resist." For  many Palestinians, simply remaining on their land and in their houses is a form of resistance

he Palestinian tradition of nonviolence is both old and very much alive today.

It reminds us of the words of Mahmud Darwish, the pre-eminent Palestinian poet:

And they searched his chest

But could only find his heart

And they searched his heart

And could only find his people.

Al-Fara Prison Interview Project Prison

Illegal Detainment of Palestinians and Palestinian Children over the Years

We interviewed several people who had been imprisoned and tortured by Israel without any charges or due process - many of them were children who were detained for years without their parents or family being able to contact them. Since the Second Intifada, in 2000, when Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) began tracking Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military, Israeli forces have detained, interrogated, prosecuted and imprisoned approximately 13,000 Palestinian children. UNICEF reports of the appalling conditions psychologically scarring OPT children. 

visiting Al'Fara  prison

My beautiful Palestinian friend, Ayat and I, after she gifted me some of her handmade jewelry in Nablus. Her brother, AbduAllah, has been under illegal administrative detention, his identity card confiscated, and imprisoned by Israeli forces for over a year with no formal charges, nor trials, brought against him and they have not been able to make any contact with him or even know if he is still alive. She reports of other Palestinian prisoners coming out of Israeli prisons having been mistreated and tortured, many of them children.

On Palestinian Prisoners Day, marked annually on April 17th, we joined the celebration to honor the resilience of the Palestinians. Since 1967, roughly 20% of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 40% of the male population, has been arrested at least once. Of utmost concern in recent years, the Israeli military has increasingly detained children at an escalating rate, including by administrative detention. Since 2015,  in total a third of all detentions concern children under the age of 18.**

Face painting with the children during Prisoner's Day Gathering

UPDATE: To read more about the crisis in Gaza today click here.


May delete or make this section much much shorter entirely

Like so many, I have felt at times powerless to affect any change, to really be of help. What can one tiny, little person like me possibly do in a situation so immense, so dire where there are such extreme powers at play? So much darkness at hand? The story of the Palestinians who have had a wage waged upon them for 100 years is the same story as the indigenous, marginalized, colonized, and oppressed people all over the world and people with some degree of sensitivity can intuit this. Most of us feel this is not right in our hearts. It is not merely something “political” to leave up to the political experts, the historical experts, and the pundits but that it is something that deeply violates our sense of humanity – what it means to be actually and fully human. For we often misunderstand, we believe erroneously, that it is the oppressed that suffers alone (although their suffering is apparent and immense) but the oppressor and the majority of silent bystanders that implicitly support the oppressor in their silence suffer as well… and what is that suffering? For the oppressor and those complicit in injustice - we too are in great peril of losing sense of our own wholeness, our own humanity – without which life quickly becomes a meaningless shell, a dried and calcified husk of a human having to increasingly seek some outer source to fulfill that nagging sense of lack that comes from the absence of Being. Being whole, being fully human, with the capacity to feel and to love. To love, not only within our tiny little sphere of life, under the misapprehension that we are somehow all disparate parts lacking any connection… any cohesion, but to love our fellow mankind. As we widen the gap between “us” and the “other” we become ever more separated and alienated from ourselves. To cut off an entire group of people is like cutting off our own leg. 


And yet how… How do we mend these ruptures?… How do we bridge these apparently ever widening gaps?… What can we possibly do in the face of so much darkness? I know these questions have bombarded my mind as much as the images of violence and suffering we are now bearing witness to.  So much so, that it seems hard to have the energy to meditate and create… and yet I know that is what I must do. I was given a gift to paint in a unique way with a unique voice and also given the gift of the very desire and passion for painting. And so it is. It is my job, my profession, dedication, my little way of holding up my tiny corner of the universe. And that’s all each of us can do… our given role… whatever that may be…to follow the deepest calling of our hearts for good. And lately, as so much darkness has fallen upon us, even though I must fight to keep at the easel and not let the prevalent sense of density and inertia take over, as if painting through molasses, I can see it…revealed brushstroke by brushstroke. That the light of heaven still struggles through the 20-haired tip of the brush to express something of our deepest selves, our soul, our shared humanity calling out loudly for us to return to the Self, to restore our inherent and natural sense of goodness and harmony… the calling to become ever brighter beacons of light in these days of darkness with the unfathomable light of the heart leading the way. 



"Although we may take on different appearances in that gorgeous and plentiful multiplicity of life that we are inextricably interwoven and that we all rise as One from the One.”

With Great Love, 

- Pamela Sukhum




Take to the streets: Check with your local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other SWANA-focused organizations for local protests and actions happening every day.

Contact your representatives: For US-based community members, use this basic call template from US Campaign for Palestinian Rights or this email template from Jewish Voice for Peace to quickly express your solidarity with Palestine and call for an immediate ceasefire. For UK-based community members, use this template by Medical Aid for Palestinians to email your MP. For Canadians, use this call template to contact your MP. It takes less than five minutes!

Boycott Israeli Genocide and Apartheid: Reject Israeli funding, refuse collaborations with all Israeli institutions, and take part in the BDS movement.

Support colleagues who speak out: Community members across the US and Europe are being silenced, vilified, and attacked for supporting Palestinian liberation or for merely being of SWANA descent. Stand with your community members!

Support Urgent Relief Efforts And Grassroots Fundraising For Gaza

Send donations to this direct aid campaign facilitated by Beirut Art Center, this grassroots mutual aid campaign in GazaPalestine Children’s Relief FundMedical Aid for Palestine, and The Palestinian Social Fund.




**Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

I wish to share these resources which have helped in informing myself on the true nature of this conflict from prominent experts in their field:

Ta-Nehisi Coates Speaks Out Against Israel's "Segregationist Apartheid Regime" After West Bank Visit

Israel/Palestine: The History and What’s Real -  Norman Finkelstein (interviewed by Mikhaila Peterson): 


The 100 year war on Palestine w/Rashid Khalidi | The Chris Hedges Report 


Stand with the oppressed. 

Igor Kufayev speaks to the dynamics of troubled times:

We Are All Palestinians:

Holocaust Survivor, Gabor Mate, Tells Piers Morgan Why He’s Not A Zionist:

This brave and talented photographer, Motaz Azaiza, captures the shared humanity so well, but I wish to prepare you that some of the imagery he has captured is deeply disturbing: 


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