August 27/September 10.2015

OT zu 5 In the heart of Zurich’s old town, right behind the cathedral, stays the Helferei cultural center. This is the strategic place Irene chose to show our Olive Trees exhibition.

Indeed, this community house belonging to the Reformed Church is a meeting place, with an important network, where a couple of weeks ago was hosted the exhibition of anti-Israeli propaganda “Breaking the Silence”. Good to be there now with our peace message!

Of course, our project was not awarded – unlike the other – with any grant from Zurich municipality nor from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, neither with any headlines in the newspapers. Information instead was widely available online.

The paintings were installed in two adjoining rooms separated by steps, which gave a certain intimacy to the exhibition. The first had big windows wide opened on the street, the last on the garden. Like in Frankfurt an olive tree accompanied the show. The exhibition looked beautiful and warm.

Sheila was worried when she came to Zurich. She didn’t know how much she and her project were welcome or not. She talked from the bottom of her heart and announced that the artists would lead 2 workshops during the following day. She was amazing. Asma sung a beautiful song in Arabic. The audience was captivated.

People came from all over; we had beautiful encounters and felt that many were longing for such heartfelt bridging actions. We discovered that among the Jews, many had never heard about Wizo before.

I was particularly moved when a former chairperson of Wizo Switzerland explained to me how doubtful she had been about the Olive Tree and now, how enthusiastic she was. She made up her mind when she saw the paintings, read the stories, met the artists. She suddenly understood how much relevant this exhibition is, bringing to the light another story about Israel. We dramatically need that many people embrace this opportunity.

Women and their Olive Trees reflects another reality of Wizo’s field action: besides cripples, schools and shelters, learning to live together became another Wizo mission. The involvement of each of us is essential to succeed in this new challenge.

From one exhibition to another I can see the personal progress the artists have made, and this is one of the Olive Tree’s project achievements. They are more open, they enjoy increased self-confidence and are closer to one another. We learn from them, they learn both from their workshops and from their experience with us.

In Zurich, thanks to the warmth and joy of Irène and Isi who took them around and made a party for them with their friends, they had the opportunity to meet “other people” (Lina said, meaning “not Jewish only”). Their experience in Zurich was just unforgettable.

Manuèle Amar