debvanpoolen.com

 
mural painting in Palestine sBelow is a letter Deb wrote about her recent trip to make a mural in Palestine: 
 
Hello Friends!
 
In deep gratitude to all the people who facilitated my safe journey to and from the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) in Bethlehem, I returned to the US one week ago!  While in the West Bank I had a wonderful time making a large mural at the PMNH, just in time for the museum’s grand opening! (Please see attached pics)
 The mural includes animals and plants native to Palestine. Three birds are featured, the common names of which follow:  the eagle owl, the bee-eater and the hoopoe. The Palestinian red fox appears at the entrance of a cave, behind native wildflowers, including the anemone, yellow and white stars of Bethlehem and the iris.  The mural is about 55 feet long and 12 feet high and appears on a wall at the eastern end of the museum's property, facing the museum's two greenhouses. 
I will share a little bit about what my time was like on this trip to Palestine.  First, as in my previous experience (two months in '16) volunteering at the PMNH is an adventure in endurance!  Most volunteers stay at Mazin Qumseyeh's house in a guest bedroom or in the guesthouse next door apartment.  Mazin, the museum director, leaves his home promptly at 8 am, taking in his car three or four volunteers who are ready to go. His wife Jessie leaves shortly after with any other volunteers.  The volunteers work each day from 8:30 am until between 7 and 9 pm, when Mazin and Jessie drive us back to our residencies. Daily I ended my painting at dark, around 7pm.Throughout the 12 days that I was there I felt energized.  I attribute that largely to the friendly community of people, the wonderful Mediterranean climate, and the empty wall waiting for me to fill it with images of amazing animals and plants.  I was happy to have the long days of work, this enabled me to get a lot of surface area covered and make the largest painting of my life! mural painting in Palestine
 On the day of the grand opening I greeted guests when they walked by the mural on their tour of the museum.  I have a fond memory of one particular encounter. I met a woman who in the past had been Palestine's UN Ambassador to France.  As we were viewing the mural, she made this bold statement: "If we can succeed to bring back beauty it will solve most of our problems."   Her words confirmed that my act of travelling across the globe as a conduit for artwork to appear on a Palestinian museum wall is a valuable endeavor!  I feel tremendously grateful to have such opportunities.  
Of course, living even for a short time in the occupied territories of Palestine has its share of challenges. On two days I experienced tear gas in the air and in my body.  This didn't surprise me because the Israeli military regularly fires off several rounds of tear gas during Palestinian demonstrations.  On my last full day there, while I was putting finishing touches on the mural, the tear gas from a demonstration three blocks away caused my nose, eyes and throat to burn too much to stay outside.  I waited a couple hours and then resumed painting.
In addition to the tear gas experience, throughout this visit I was reminded that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine continues.  During my visits over a span of just few years, I have started to observe the obliteration of Palestinian land and culture first hand.  For instance, the Cremison monastery, which also functioned as a winery just outside of Bethlehem, and which I previously visited, was stolen by Israel within this past year when they extended the apartheid wall to enclose the monastery and much of the land surrounding it. (http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/fight-beit-jala-monastery-land-and-history-over-palestinian-christians-1152469636)    
 I saw many more examples of colonization/occupation/apartheid but I won’t make this email much longer. I would, however, be happy to talk with you more about all of this via phone or tea or dinner or a trip to Palestine!  Despite the intense attacks on Palestinian lives and culture, the occupied territories remain a wonderful place to visit because in my experience, the people are consistently very generous, hospitable, courageous, humorous, and accepting.
 I will also mention an event happening soon in Ashland, Oregon.  On May 16, if enough people advance purchase tickets, the Varsity Theater will be screening a fabulous film called Junction 48, about a Palestinian musician. Here is the link to the trailer: https://www.tugg.com/titles/junction-48. Here is a link to the event page for the Ashland screening, where you can BUY TICKETS;  https://www.tugg.com/events/junction-48-mtr7
Thank you so very much for your time, attention, and love!  I appreciate you. :)
 
Best,
Deb
Debvanpoolen.com