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Argentines paint for peace

BUENOS AIRES, Sept. 29 (JTA) — Wishes of peace for Israel came alive on paper and canvas in a recent exhibition in South America of paintings by Jewish youngsters. More than 500 youngsters participated in “Israel searches for Peace,” a national painting contest organized by the women’s division of the local Keren Hayesod. Many of the participants — Jewish and non-Jewish students from elementary schools, high schools and universities across Argentina — gathered this month for an exhibition of the paintings in the prestigious Cultural Arts Center of Buenos Aires. “We can certainly say we achieved our goal: more than 500 children, their parents, classmates and teachers thought of the idea of peace in Israel,” said Nava Rubenzadeh, the international president of Keren Hayesod’s women’s division. The drawings, organized as part of the division’s 25th anniversary, will travel to schools throughout Argentina and then around the world. Cosponsored by the city of Buenos Aires, the exhibition ran from Sept. 11 to 21 at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, in one of Buenos Aires’ fanciest neighborhoods. Paintings included sketches of Jews, Arabs, families, babies, Jerusalem icons and religious symbols. The center’s director, Nora Hochbaum, calculated that thousands of people saw the exhibition. “When Keren Hayesod came to us with the idea of exhibiting the paintings of the contest, we accepted immediately. Every effort for peace is always scarce. And the idea of involving kids that are being educated for peace made it more meaningful to us,” Hochbaum told JTA. The 22-year-old Recoleta center, which draws about 60,000 visitors a month, houses more than 200 visual-arts projects every year. It also houses educational programs, a science museum and a music library. Elizabeth Keitelman, 18, took first prize in the painting contest for her depiction of the Dead Sea. She won a trip to Israel. In her drawing, an Arab and a Jew use graffiti to transform a sign reading “Dead Sea” in Spanish — “Mar Muerto” — into a wish reading “No more dead” — “No mas muertos.” Keitelman says she discussed the idea for the painting with her grandmother, a Polish Jewish immigrant to Argentina. Keitelman first heard about the painting contest via e-mail, and immediately thought about the Dead Sea. “I was so peaceful during that afternoon when I floated in the Dead Sea,” Keitelman said, recalling a day she spent in the lowest place on earth in the summer of 2000. “It became a symbol of peace to me.” She began working on her painting late at night after biology classes at Buenos Aires University. She had to contend with a 14-year-old sister who shares her room and a cat who drank from her watercolors and spilled paintbrushes and dirty water over her sketches. This is not the first time Keitelman has won a trip to Israel: Her visit in 2000 also came as a prize from Keren Hayesod for high academic marks. There were six other winners in the painting contest, each of whom received a computer. The youngest winner was Melany Nechaevsky, 6, for her drawing of an Israeli family. Amalia Kohen, mother of Jacqueline Charrua, 15, said the contest was a good way to think anew about the Middle East. “I think grownups carry too many prejudices to achieve peace in the Middle East,” she said. The way to peace, she said, “has to come with the new generation.”