August 15, 2006

And how shall our hands meet?

With Tali Goodfriend
Photo Credit: Louise Lachapelle

Text: Performing Solidarity : Jewish/Palestinian alliance-building, street art interventions, and the power of symbolic encounters

This street intervention was a collaborative response to the invasion of Lebanon by Israeli forces during the summer of 2006. In the context of an anti-war demonstration in downtown Montreal we created a non-violent alternative to the shouting of angry slogans.

The performance — during which the two of us, wearing white, bare footed, silent, and positioned across the street from the protest marking Colin Powell’s visit to Montreal in support of the Jewish National Fund’s Gala event to build a stronger Israel — was simple and yet multi-layered in meaning: For the three-hour duration of the organized protest, we bathed each other’s hands in olive oil. This shared healing gesture emerged from our individual lengthy and intense involvements with peace efforts in the Middle East and our feelings of being heart-broken by the death of innocent Muslims, Christians and Jews in Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine.

Nearing the end of the demonstration, we filled up 10 small glass bottles with the oil that we warmed and energized through our continuous contact and offered these freely to people who had been part of the demonstration in one way or another. We explained that though the oil — a product of Lebanon gifted to us by a Lebanese shopkeeper on St. Laurence Boulevard — was of edible grade, it should be used for massage only given our handling of it during the performance.