The Middle East Peace Quilt

By Janet Nicol

The Middle East Peace Quilt conveys stories of hope and despair arising from conflict. Fabric artist and peace activist Sima Elizabeth Shefrin coordinates more than 200 people, from preschool age to the elderly, of Jewish, Arabic and other backgrounds involved in the project. Most participants made their quilt piece at one of the workshops held in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Berkeley and San Mateo, California. Others across North America, England and Germany contributed by mail. The Middle East Peace Quilt tours Canada and the U.S. this fall.

At one workshop, six women gathered first to view videos on the Middle East conflict. The first focused on a summer camp for teenagers in Maine, called Seeds for Peace. Arab and Israeli youth spend time together in "neutral" American territory. Trained counselors mediate heated political discussions, in between other typical camp activities.

Another video was produced as a fundraiser by a small community in the heart of Israel, named "NeveShalom/Wahat alSalam." Families of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths coexisted in this village for 30 years. Of its initiatives, a "School for Peace," the "Marathon for Peace" festival and a "House of Silence" teach the residents tolerance and respect.

Two participants are Palestinian women who left Israel in 1967. Many of the other participants, male and female, do not have ties to the Middle East, but desire to be an informed part of the peace process. More descriptions of the squares and quilters are collected in a book.

Elizabeth says, "When someone makes a square for the quilt, they're taking some moral responsibilities because they're taking a position in their own minds. That's the thing about the fabric project: you reach a whole base of people who wouldn't consider themselves political. But the next time, with the quilt square in mind, perhaps they would say to themselves. "Well, I've made this quilt square, and here is this petition; I 'm going to give this issue some real thought and consider signing it."

Contact: quilt@vcn.bc.ca, Middle East Peace Quilt, P.O. Box 53528, West Broadway Postal Outlet, 984 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1K0

by Janet Nicol, a teacher and activist in Vancouver.
Peace Magazine Fall 1999

Peace Magazine Fall 1999, page 15. Some rights reserved.

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