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Hemant Jain
Writer, designer (Mumbai, India)

I am a writer and illustrator. I like to tell stories about the world I live in and keep a tab on India's environmental crimes here:


Israel-Palestine. We’ve tried war, now let’s try art.

Published 17th April 2010 - 4 comments - 13432 views -

Israel Palestine. We’ve tried war, now let’s try art.

This is not exactly a rejoinder to Lara’s post, though it begins from there. Her excellent post raised some questions in my head. My experience in think2 and now this particular debate makes me question - why do we always end up fighting? Why do we always end up in absolutes? And in this particular instance do all of us even understand what the Israel-Palestine issue is?

Three years back, I didn’t. Until I came across this startling image.

This is a project called face2face by the famous artist JR.
(click to go the website)

When we met in 2005, we decided to go together in the Middle-East to figure out why Palestinians and Israelis couldn't find a way to get along together.
We then traveled across the Israeli and Palestinian cities without speaking much. Just looking to this world with amazement.
This holy place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This tiny area where you can see mountains, sea, deserts and lakes, love and hate, hope and despair embedded together.
After a week, we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families.
A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he his endlessly fighting with him.
It's obvious, but they don't see that.
We must put them face to face. They will realize.
We want that, at last, everyone laughs and thinks when he sees the portrait of the other and his own portrait.
The Face2Face project is to make portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and to post them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.
In a very sensitive context, we need to be clear.
We are in favor of a solution for which two countries, Israel and Palestine would live peacefully within safe and internationally recognized borders.
All the bilateral peace projects (Clinton/Taba, Ayalon/Nussibeh, Geneva Accords) are converging in the same direction. We can be optimistic.
We hope that this project will contribute to a better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
Today, "Face to face" is necessary.
Within a few years, we will come back for "Hand in hand".

Isn’t that brilliant?

Not only the project, but the role of art in making complex issues more understandable to people at a more human level.

Look at the debate on Lara’s post. There are about thirty links there. All from different perspectives. And all of them claim the “truth”.

The truth is far from it.

Palestine: A graphic diary

Joe Sacco, a journalist who went to Palestine and drew this book. It’s perhaps one of the most powerful introductions to the Palestine issue. I can only highly recommend it.

The point is simple. Art can open minds. And art is more powerful than war. The trouble with war is it’s a business enterprise. It will find a way to not end and keep the business machinery going on some pretext or the other. Art has no such need. It lives and breathes as long as there is some humanity left.


  • Lara Smallman on 17th April 2010:

    There is a lot to be positive about when you look closer at projects in the region: and and many more. Thanks for sharing this inspirational project Hemant.

  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 17th April 2010:

    I find it hard to be positive about the Israel - Palestine conflict. I am sure there are signs of hope, but werethere not even more good signs before the second intifada? Or before the Oslo process.

    One problem is that language itself has become politicized. To me, filming the wall in a long shotlike this film does, is a clear pro-palestinian statement. I could be wrong, but I think this is how many people would interpret the Face2face project. On the other hand - if anything has the potential to overcome languge, it must be art..

    But I’ve more and more come to think that the 2 state solution is a desktop compromise that will never be reality. Can we even talk about a Palestine? Most palestinians I meet in Sweden are born in Jordan, Iraq or other arab countries. Palestine doesn’t seem anymore real to me than Kurdistan does. maybe we should start seeing Palestinians as a suppressed majority in Israel, in stead of Palestine as a defeated country?

  • Vangile Makwakwa on 18th April 2010:

    Wow thanks for sharing this; I am always inspired by ways that art can be used as a tool to enlighten others without war. I wrote a piece about this a while back as it relates to Pakistan:

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 18th April 2010:

    It’s interesting to note how art can be very powerful in informing people, in shaping opinions. Indeed as Daniel said, it has the potential to overcome language and in many instances, it does.

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