Fighting Fire with Water; An Artistic Response to Cultural Terrorism.

Israel is a country of many challenges. Economic disparities, international relations, internal cultural strife, shifting social paradigms and religious interpretations are broad areas of concern for this nation. Each of these challenges has a familiar reflection across many, maybe all, other nations of the world. However, there is one challenge that I see as more prominent and specifically targeting Israel, with a more difficult road to change that has grown exponentially since the birth of my generation. It is a combination of hate, fear and chaos that we call Terrorism.

Though it recently has begun to spread across the globe, terrorism is a phenomenon no country but Israel can name as the long-running tactic of its opponents. Eliminating terrorism will take more than halting the physical violence, in Israel and across the world. Unlike conventional war, terrorism exists on an emotional and cultural level that breeds the type of outbursts making news across the world, most recently displayed by the tragedy in Kenya.

Problems, like solutions, grow gradually and in stages. What we hear on the evening broadcasts, see plastered across newspaper headlines, portrayed in viral videos and threaded in megabyte-long Twitter feeds are the bombs, rockets, guns and destruction. Often ignored are the cultural, religious and educational battles occurring every day in classrooms, around dinner tables, on streets and in people’s hearts. The small items of bigotry, hate and unreasonable discourse are what bring about a negative shift to people’s senses, beliefs and actions in the world.

People don’t hate without first being exposed to hate – a cyclical problem that has become more extreme in the past two decades. Thus, it seems fair to assume the explosions won’t stop until cultural attitude and educational standards can reflect the outcome every sane person hopes for. We have to live our lives in a manner that expresses our positive beliefs – we have the responsibility to ‘be the change we want to see in the world.’

What better way to counter the root of the problem than by healing the roots themselves? I recently read about an inspiring organization dedicated solely to promoting a positive change through art. They’re a group of individuals that take no action aside from creating beauty from the beast, changing despair into promise, showing love instead of hate. This group is called Artists 4 Israel.

Photo by Seth Wolfson | Artists 4 Israel.

“I think it is clear that nothing is more sacred than human life and, as such, armed conflict which threatens human life directly is far more terrifying than anything else,” Craig Dershowitz, executive director of A4I, said. “However, when it comes to significance … you are forced to consider causation. The current culture war is excusing, if not downright creating the opportunity for, military actions against Israel. So, while armed conflict is more immediately threatening, cultural war has greater potential for harm.”

In 2009, Hamas was littering Israel with rockets and lies, beginning what now seems to be a cultural Jihad. Much of the physical destruction during that year fell in Southern Israel, but hate spread like wildfire across the world through anti-Israel propaganda. “We did not want to have to turn away from our own creations to run and administer an organization but knew that if no one else would, one day our work would also be threatened,” A4I says on its website.

The challenges may seem insurmountable at times, but their cause is righteous, their goals noble, and their methods a model of proactive change for the better. Despite the apparent effectiveness of cultural attacks on Israel, this group of artists – a profession already difficult to make a living in – have found a niche that allows them to express their beliefs, practice their trades and give back to the world through an expression of good things in this world. Their work does not display anti-anything propaganda, but promotes an endgame that all should desire – peace.

Photo by Seth Wolfson | Artists 4 Israel.

“I want A4I to have to close up shop because we have succeeded, peace is declared and the world has recognized the beauty, justice and freedoms of Israel,” Dershowitz said. “This is why we focus all our energies and resources on mission-based programs. We do not have a fundraiser much less a fundraising department. We have no desire to stay in business one day more than is absolutely necessary.”

Unlike those who stand in opposition, they are not fighting with violence, or fire with fire. There is no goal of destruction, no desire for hate, no hope for the deaths of any person. Instead, they hope to extinguish the hate. This is what an activist group should be. I fervently hope they are successful and that I will be there when this group is able to shut down – when Israel has become a model of what tolerance and peace can achieve.

Photo by Seth Wolfson | Artists 4 Israel.

An upcoming a4I project is to turn bomb shelters in the Golan Heights into works of art, to remind the residents of the positives, rather than the evils that the structures are there to defend from. Anyone interested in more information about Artists 4 Israel’s projects, how to contribute, donate or otherwise support, please visit their website to learn more:

About the Author
Bill Crotty was a 20-something guy just learnin' how to Israel. He lived in several small towns and kibbutzim across the Western Galil for a year in 2013-2014. Then in 2016 he returned to Israel, for a year of work in Jerusalem with the JDC and CIMI.