The last several days have been busy, in a very good way. On Friday, Nancy from Spafford's psychosocial department ran two groups on my behalf. Each of the children were asked to draw their impressions of life as a Palestinian and then their hopes for the future. Using pastels, the drawings from both boys and girls showed similar themes - the dividing wall, children bleeding, air-strikes, and Israeli soldiers.
With concrete examples given by the children, it was time for me to visit the local markets and start buying up toys. Within the Arab Quarter in the Old City, choices are limited, and the toys are cheap. I moved from one cramped shop to the next, all carrying virtually identical products. I imagine that the slightly deformed army men, planes, and tanks all come from a factory in China that does nothing but use worn out plastic molds, thrown away by other manufacturers.
For 100 NIS ($28 US) I was able to buy a large variety of toys to play with. I'm still searching for something to represent the children. Many inserted themselves or their friends into their drawings. I may be left with gummy bears or a similar items purchased from one of the many local sweet shops.
Once home, I took over a room and started sorting through the toys on the floor and making connections to the art therapy examples.
One of the toys was especially interesting and entertaining to watch in action. I didn't know what I was getting at the market. I just wanted a larger scale soldier for perspective control.
Today I was finally able to shoot the first of what I hope will be many images based on the children's art. Below is an outtake that I shot after local kids took a keen interest in my little setup. They immediately understood what I was doing and felt it was appropriate to surrender to my soldiers.
The shot was taken just around the corner from the Damascus Gate in the Old City. In the time I've been here, I've watched what I'm told is a long-running cat and mouse game between Israeli soldiers and the kids that play here. It's not uncommon for one of them to be arrested and held on trumped charges, less uncommon for the soldiers to pull weapons for minor trespasses. I watched a young IDF solider chamber a round of his rife and raise it to stop a child who was climbing around a metal gate up on the wall, no threat to him whatsoever. I'm told from time-to-time kids are shot under similar circumstances.