Earlier this month two hundred people gathered in the Municipal Art Gallery in Afula, in northern Israel, for the opening of the next chapter in an inspiring WIZO project building women's empowerment and coexistence around artistic pursuit.
The exhibition, titled "I was in Paris and in Rome," chronicles the journey of the women of WIZO "Olive Trees" Project. Initiated three years ago, the Olive Tree Project, which brought together Jewish and Arab women at the WIZO Afula Community Center (sponsored by WIZO Brazil and WIZO Germany) to create art based on a common theme. The deeper goal was to create an emotional and social connection as well as an open dialogue between groups that rarely come into casual contact. Once every week, for several months, the women met and created art.
The fruits of that project, a series of paintings of olive trees, themselves a powerful symbol in both Israeli Jewish and Arab communities, met with a high demand from Jewish and diplomatic communities around the world. Thanks to the invitations, planning and sponsorship of WIZO's federations, the exhibition traveled to the European Parliament, Geneva's Palace of Nations, National Museum in Rome and in Paris the City Hall and the Dutch Foreign Minister's residence. It will soon continue on to locations like Jordan, London, Mexico, Belgium and Brazil. The project's participants most often traveled along with the paintings, proudly representing Israel and WIZO. The exhibition's message of equality and friendship beyond political and cultural differences resonated with audiences around the world. Both exhibitions and the project as a whole were backed by WIZO, which sees coexistence as well as the empowerment of women and peripheral communities as some of their most central values. "The Olive Trees Project is an island of sanity that proves with simplicity things that we often forget," said Daniel Benn, Director of the WIZO Afula Communuity Center. "The women of the Olive Trees Project proved to us all that it's possible to create a society in which each and every person is equal and deserving of honor, appreciation, pride and self-realization."
The new series of paintings, "I was in Paris and in Rome," which takes its name from a classic Israeli song, consists of paintings that document and express the women artists' experience of traveling around the world with the "Olive Trees." The festive opening was also attended by Itzhak Miron, Mayor of Afula, Zachariah Nabso, Head of Regional Council of Kafr Kana, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO and Esther Mor, President of World WIZO, WIZO Sao Paolo President Iza Mansur, WIZO Germany Past President Rachel Zingerand Sheila Dvor-Cassidi, Curator of the exhibitions.
"I believe that as women leaders, we at WIZO can help realize the vision of co-existence, equality and a strong Israeli society shared by Jews all over the world," said Prof. RIvka Lazovsky. "Together, we will continue to work towards turning this vision into a reality."