Women and their Olive Trees at the European Parliament: both a pride and a hit!


European parliament building

As quick reminder and high praise, without WIZO Belgium and its close connection with the Israeli Mission to the EP, there would have been no exhibition at the European Parliament.

Ambassador Walzer attended the event in Brussels. He felt the common hope expressed bythe 35 women artists and he immediately understood the impact this exhibition could haveon the Parliamentarians about Israel’s reality.

The Mission has a big work to do at the EP, attending meetings, facing endless ranting and Israel bashing especially from the overrepresented anti-European parties. Tireless, Michal Weiler-Tal and her team explain to more MPs the Israeli position in order to get more support from more of them.

In this context, “Women and their Olive Trees” gives a totally different picture of the country. The women artists really make a change at their own local level. This peace initiative, based on sharing art to share emotions and later dialog, cannot give rise to any sort of argument. Numberless MPs from all backgrounds showed their interest in the project. The first of them is Pina Picierno, the Italian MP who sponsored the exhibition. She is a real friend of Israel and offered us a beautiful political speech of support to the country at the opening eve. She was so enthusiastic about the exhibition that she insisted she would be ready to sponsor it again in Italy. Among many others, the next I would mention is a Slovenian MP, leader of a group of friendship to the Palestinians, who came several times lengthily on the spot. He had organized in the past an exhibition on the Naqba at the EP. When he knew for sure that Arab artists were part of the group together with the Jews he read all the stories. He came back the next morning to be photographed with the paintings – for his FB page he said. (We made sure that he stood next to the “Diversity among Israeli Citizen” panel). He came back again and told me he was going to advertise the exhibition during his speech before the Assembly. Gee! He did it, during the debate opened by Mogherini about the Quartet’s report on the Middle East. He opened his 1mn speech and tackled the “illegal Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories” but then he dedicated his last 30” to “an exhibition about olive trees, a peace symbol, now on show at the European Parliament. Israeli and Palestinian artists offer us images of peace. The artists remind us that without empathy no solution can be reached neither for the Palestinians nor for Israel”. He came over again to read his speech to us. He said he would be ready to sponsor the exhibition in his country.

The exhibition was located in the wide gallery leading from the elevators to the hemicycle. A hot spot. To make sure that the MPs wouldn’t just run by we settled our workshop in the middle of the way. The artists and we WIZO haveroth were happy to draw together and capture attention of the busy MPs! We had very young visitors too…

We would have loved to make a big PR out of this exhibition and invite many. Unfortunately the Parliament is a very closed and secured place where we were allowed to bring from outside 20 people only. The exhibition was intended for the Parliamentarians. So we tried at least to bring in the most relevant. Representatives of the Muslim congregation – no rabbi ,though he had confirmed his venue- prominent local leaders, Gilbert Roos the Consul ofIsrael, Marc Attali the Ministry to the Israeli Ambassy in Paris were among the attendees. The Israeli Mission was more than satisfied with the performance of this exhibition. Theyconsider this coexistence project a great tool as it features the expression of an ambition that everybody is willing to share. Michal insisted that now, after the UN and the European Parliament, after its successful tour all over Europe, Women and their Olive Trees should be promoted in Israel also and must be hosted at the Knesset. She is ready to help. The artists were happy to find home and caring with the wonderful WIZO team in Strasbourg.

Big thanks to Claudine Kahn, Chantal Lévy, Gabrielle Rosner and Anne Tennenbaum for their high professionalism and warm welcome. Big thanks to Michal and Nicolas for their time, help and support. They made things easy for us all the way while ensuring great PR for Women and their Olive Trees. Thanks to Shuli for her presence and her beautiful speech at the opening event.

Manuèle Amar