Elizabeth Shefrin (simaeliz@smartt.com), teaches "Quilting For Social Change" in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  In an ongoing work of devotion, she has pieced together over 300 squares created by Palestinians, Jews, and others in an exquisite 30-panel Middle East Peace Quilt.  This museum-quality creation has been exhibited in Canada, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
     Here is a report from its present exhibition in Portland, Oregon.  We encourage you to consider bringing it to your town.  --L&L

Portland, Oregon responds to Middle East Peace Quilt

     In January 2001, Building Bridges for Peace in the Middle East sponsored the Middle East Peace Quilt.   Building Bridges is a small grassroots group formed in 1999 to create connections and understanding among Palestinians, other Arabs, Jews and Israelis in our community (Portland, Oregon, USA). 
     The Middle East Peace Quilt, an international community art project involving nearly 300 people, brings together each individual's vision for peace in the Middle East.  The display includes thirty 3' x 3' quilts, each consisting of nine quilt squares.   Accompanying the quilts are the statements made by the people who designed each square.
     We are especially grateful to Sima Elizabeth Shefrin  (simaeliz@smartt.com), the fabric artist who conceived of this project and made her vision a reality.  Having the Middle East Peace Quilt in Portland was a great gift to our community.
     The quilts that make up the Middle East Peace Quilt were displayed throughout January at an art gallery located in the First Congregational Church in downtown Portland.   At the entrance to the exhibit, an information table was set up where visitors could sign the guest book, make donations, buy postcards, and pick up information about grassroots peace efforts happening here and abroad. Slides showing scenes from Palestine/Israel and faces of Palestinians and Israeli Jews were projected on a screen in one corner of the hall.

Some of the highlights from the month include:

        THURSDAY GALLERY OPENING - Over 200 people attended the opening of the exhibit, viewed the quilts, had a chance to talk with one another, and enjoyed entertainment by dances of Universal Peace and a local Middle Eastern ensemble.  Visitors responded favorably. One person commented: "I have deep fears about the conflict in the Middle East. I need a place of hopefulness to reignite my imagination for what is possible. Thank you for this inspiration." 
        PEACE QUILT-MAKING WORKSHOPS - Building Bridges sponsored two workshops where adults and young people could make their own quilt squares showing their vision for peace in the Middle East.  Several Sunday school and other school classes also made quilt squares.  One woman who attended a workshop said it was wonderful that this group of strangers had a chance to come together, talk about their connection to the Middle East, and transform their hopes into something visible.
        MEDIA COVERAGE  -  Media covering the project included: the Oregonian (Portland's major newspaper), two television stations, and the Jewish Review (Oregon's Jewish community newspaper).  KBOO, a local community radio station, co-sponsored the exhibit and featured the project and issues related to the Middle East throughout the month.
        VIDEO NIGHTS -  Three times during the month people gathered for video-viewing and discussion. The video If You Make It Possible by Lynn Feinerman was shown.  The discussions, led by a participant on a Compassionate Listening delegation, were poignant, powerful, and moving.  People were challenged to look at their own beliefs and their own potential as peacemakers.
        BUILDING BRIDGES FOR PEACE: AN EVENING OF LEARNING - The local university's Middle East Studies Center co-sponsored this event which included a presentation, video viewing and discussion. The major speaker was Lee Gordon, co-founder of Hand in Hand, an organization that focuses on creating integrated schools for Arabs and Jews in Israel.  The Seeds of Peace video was also shown. Those who attended came away with new perspectives and new acquaintances.
        INTERFAITH SERVICE FOR PEACE - On the last day of the display, the church hosting the exhibit invited the public to an Interfaith Service for peace. The service included music and singing led by a local rabbi, and stories of peacemaking presented by the rabbi, an Imam from the local Islamic community, and a minister.  The service was a beautiful and inspiring end to the month long exhibit.
        QUILTS ON DISPLAY AT PEACE FEST - In early February, the Oregon Peace Institute and Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist organization, sponsored the city's first Peace Fest with resource tables, interactive activities and workshops focused on peace and non-violent conflict resolution.  The quilts were beautifully displayed throughout the hall where the event was held. Building Bridges also sponsored a workshop on Compassionate Listening.

     We found that the Middle East Peace Quilt can serve as an effective focus for organizing, educating, building connections and bringing people together in a community.  It can enhance community dialogue and individual learning about complex issues related to the conflict. We're sure that other communities that decide to host this project will find it very inspiring and rewarding.


Yehudah Winter      awinter@nutech.com
Judy Brodkey