Trio plans to help build peace wall at Jerusalem YMCA

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Many have tried to dismantle walls between Arabs and Israelis — but a East Bay trio is hoping to build one in Jerusalem for peace.

Carolyna Marks and Mikayla Mickelberg of Berkeley, along with Palestinian American Rayed Kury of San Leandro, plan to train eight to 10 Israeli Jewish and Arab teenagers as youth leaders who will, in turn, work with others to build a Peace Wall at Jerusalem's YMCA.

The trainees will, in turn, spend the next year teaching Marks' and Mickelberg's "Peace Process of Emotional Wisdom," a course that teaches the creative process of art as a way to build an intellectual framework for peace. That will include constructing the Peace Wall.

Marks' and Mickelberg's group, World Wall for Peace, will supply 1,000 tiles, plus paints and brushes for decorating them, so the youth leaders and the people they recruit can each paint at least one tile.

The group wanted to avoid replicating more traditional peace efforts between Arabs and Israelis.

"We could just do conflict resolution," said Mickelberg, the group's "community energy organizer."

But an art project leaves a souvenir, she said. Art serves as a reminder that Jews and Arabs worked together on something tangible, something that lasted — a wall.

Despite contributions it has already received from sources such as the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, World Wall for Peace needs an additional $6,500 for airfare and building materials. But if all goes well, the wall should be built, completed and dedicated on July 26, 1997.

Marks and Mickelberg are also hoping to embark on a second trip to Israel to initiate construction of a 500-tile wall in the Arab-Israel village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam with 20 Jews and 20 Palestinians, ages 16 and 17.

The founding director of World Wall for Peace, Marks has been building walls for 13 years, developing them around specific conflicts. Eleven walls went up throughout Russia before the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended.

One wall was also erected in Nagasaki, another at Hiroshima. Walls have also been built in the United States, including two in Berkeley. A wall in Berkeley's Martin Luther King Park, inspired by the Mideast conflict, was dedicated last year.

Marks has built or directed the construction of 29 walls all over the world. That means 35,000 tiles, painted by close to 35,000 people.

Art projects of this kind "remind us of our authentic self, our goodness, our beauty, our strength, our wisdom," Marks said.

"Every creative act brings in opposites and differences," she said, and in an artwork anything — even peace between Arabs and Jews — is possible.

It was Mickelberg's idea to build a wall in Israel. A filmmaker who moved to the Bay Area two years ago to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, Mickelberg lived in Israel when she was 16, during the war with Lebanon.

She returned to Israel in 1986 to study at Tel Aviv University, and stayed until the beginning of 1989. Most of her extended family lives there.

One year ago, she brought the idea for an Israeli wall to Marks.

"She's really got the fire for this," Marks said of Mickelberg. "It's really beautiful."

The group will focus on having Arabs and Jews deal with anger, fear and disappointment.

Just as putting a patch on the AIDS quilt provides one individual with an emotional connection to many others, Marks said, adding a tile to the peace wall will connect people to other Peace Walls around the world.