With peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials happening, or not happening, ceasefires initiated, or challenged, prisoners of conflict exchanged, dead or alive, it’s been a roller coaster ride for months. And all the while I’ve been working on Judaica knits that might stimulate conversation and community, answering questions about the TikkunTree, and holding my breath in the hope of a breakthrough for peace, somewhere, somehow, sometime soon. Like a lot of others.

And in the meantime, there’s always a reminder that others are travelling in a similar path …

This week Knittah (on Ravelry, and her Tumblyday blog) shared photos of her contribution to the TikkunTree … a trio of lovely sculpted (double-sided) leaves (pattern available here) made from Araucania nature wool!

Thanks ever so much, Knittah. I’ll be looking for them to arrive in The Box soon.

Well, the TikkunTree project is now included among the rank of Mid-East Peace projects and links on Richard Silverstein’s blog, Tikun Olam. If you aren’t familiar with Silverstein’s intelligent journalism, his blog is worth more than a cursory look – his essays on the politics, culture and ideas about Israeli-Arab peace never fail to provide interesting and/or useful information (especially his book reviews), and valuable analysis.

Greetings Richard, and welcome to the TikkunTree.

My branch of the TikkunTree has sprouted new fruit. Amidst the variety of leaves this tree has produced (simple single and double leaves, Safed leaves, Undone leaves, YingYang leaves, Cabled Co-existence Leaves), etc), this imaginary olive tree has finally yielded its first olive branch! How was it done? I knit a few olives (solid versions inspired by the patterns described here) and knitted them into to a knitted branch … no seams, few ends to weave in, one lovely, delicate, leaf-strewn knitted olive branch. More information will be available on the Patterns page.

What conversations about or efforts for mid-east peace might this new growth on the TikkunTree stimulate? For me, renewed effort to find more information about the peacebuilding work in Israel-Palestine. Last week I made time to read all the reports on recent Israeli-Palestinian dialogue projects contained in a recent issue of Qantara.de: Dialogue with the Islamic World, a German e-journal. Learning about the range of artistic, educational, journalistic, musical and political bridges that are being built between Israeli Jews and Palestinians is tremendously inspiring.

Made me want to keep knitting green leaves, at the very least. And prompted me to explore new ways to support the pursuit of peace in Israel-Palestine. Here’s a new one: to contribute to the work of Doctors Without Borders in the Palestinian territories – it seems self-evident that people without adequate medical care are unlikely to be able to work for peace. Fortunately for fiber artists crafters interested in peace in the mid-east, there’s a simple way to make a contribution to the important work of these medical professionals: join others in the Knitters Without Borders project and take “the Doctors Without Borders Challenge”.

If you don’t know about Knitters Without Borders, you should. The project was started as a response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami disaster by the famed YarnHarlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee), to raise funds for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. How does it work? You take “the Challenge”: for one week … tally up the value of all unnecessary purchases for one week (that includes lattes, an extra pair of shoes, new jeans, and yarn!) and donate that amount to any of the MSF organizations [MSF United States, MSF Canada or MSF International]. Anyone who can afford to knit can afford to donate, at least a dollar.

So consider contributing the cost of green yarn for this week’s TikkunTree leafto MSF, to support the medical assistance provided in the occupied territories. Then send your name, email address and donation amount to McPhee (the address is: kwbATyarnharlotDOTca), so that she can maintain a running tally, proudly display the project’s button and link to the homepage. No donation amount is too small to be recorded! The project reports donations totalling almost $450K to date!

I’ve purchased a KWB tote (available inexpensively here; purchases help support the expenses of the project) to carry my current crop of TikkunTree leaves and remind me to record each unnecessary purchase I’ve refrained from making.

What a surprise! The TikkunTree project has sent shoots to Alaska … In her recent article, “Knitters make personal statement about peace, justice” (Anchorage Daily News, 5/12/08), Alaskan fiber artist and journalist Catherine Hollingsworth described the TikkunTree as” [p]robably the most ambitious [peace] project ever undertaken by needle workers.” How exciting to discover that the TikkunTree has cast such a broad shadow and has been received with such enthusiastiasm. Other knittivist projects discussed in the article include Knit for Peace and Afghans for Afghans. You can read the entire article here.

Along with drafting a pattern for the Ying Yang leaf (nearly done), my needles have been busy with small contributions to two important needles knittivist projects: the Color Orange campaign and Knit a Condom Amulet.

The Color Orange project aims to raise protest human rights abuses in China by promoting use of the color orange as a sign of protest at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing this summer. Contributions to the Color Orange are varied and international; I’ve joined others in the Ravelry fiberarts community to knit objects that can be worn or used at the Olympics by either athletes or spectators, and the challenge has prompted a bit of creative fun – such as a set of felted origami peace cranes, some orange chains, an Olympic rings medallion, and coral peapod earrings – my take on the “envision whirled peas” motto.

The Knit a Condom Amulet project is one of many knittivist fiberarts projects concocted by Naomi DB, the Little Red Hen. The project aims to promote HIV and safe sex awareness among women over 50, by encouraging needleworkers to make special covers for condoms. For me, the project is an opportunity to try a few new techniques while make making something special for a special cause – the health of my friends! I’ve contributed a bit of purse jewelry, a silver piece of purse jewelry -a Seashell Amulet Bag, and an ethnic Mosaic Girlfriends Bag.

What are you knitting for community and peace?

Preparation for the Jewish festival of Passover has kept my tikkunknitting needles flying, and although I was engrossed with the work of creating a ” knitted seder” for my family and the Pattern for Peacebuilders series, the TikkunTree and Israeli-Palestinian conflict were never far from my thoughts. Our Passover seder table includes a plate full of the ritual symbols of the holiday, commemorating the narrative of the liberation of the Israelites from servitude in Egypt. Committed to Passover as a symbol of freedom for any and all of us, as an opportunity to gather, share traditions, and build hope for a peaceful future, a knitted cup for the prophet Elijah, whose anticipated arrival by Jews presages the achievement of an age of universal peace, was the tikkunknitting project of the moment.

No seder is complete without enumeration of the Ten Plagues, purportedly inflicted on the Egyptians for their Pharoah’s defiance of the Israelite God. While researching and creating knitted representations of the plagues. The plague of frogs (the second plague) is an interesting example of religious irony, the Israelite God turning the table, so to speak, on the Egyptians – suffocating them with their own beliefs and traditions, rendering them lifeless with their own symbol of life (the frog-headed goddess Heqet). It’s also a connection to modern experience of plagues … most notably, the plague of conflict in Israel-Palestine. Frogs have long been a part of the landscape of Israel-Palestine; indeed, fossilized tadpoles have been found in the Negev (source). But the symbiotic relationship between the life of frogs and the land is seriously threatened in modern times. According to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and disease have endangered six species of amphibians in Israel. And one specie, the Israel/Palestine Painted Frog, has been extinct since the 1950’s, when its Galilean lake habitat was drained to accomodate the expanding post-war Jewish population (see source; and the reconstructed images of the Painted Frog).

So here’s a new addition to the TikkunTree: a TikkunTree Painted Peace Frog (all he needs is a bit of “paint” (to be added momentarily) ..

If you have an interest in crafting frogs, they’ll have a home on or under this peace tree.

A plague of peace frogs … what a thought.

Knitters will find a pattern for this origami-style felted frog available as part of the Patterns for Peacebuilders series. Additional information about the Passover seder in general (my knitted seder), is available at “Why is This Knit Different from All Other Knits?“; more about the ethical implications of the holiday for current peace efforts soon (on the TikkunKnits blog). Photos of the knitted seder can be found here.

Other frog patterns that might be interesting to try:

The myriad of ways we find to make connections between the creative work of our hands and peace is endlessly fascinating. This week I crossed paths with Em-En’s I Like Lemons blog. She’s knitting olives for peace … large olives, small olives, black olives, green olives, stuffed olives and not … at least one olive a week, for peace. As Em-En describes her project for the year,

I’ve come up with an idea that is quite simple in its basis, but which I am hoping will help keep me optimistic as I begin the journey into this year.

I intend to knit at least one olive every week this year. Why olives? Well, olive trees/branches/fruit symbolize peace, prosperity and love (“olive you”). By the end of the year I should have a jar full goodness. Ok, ok. So I also need to use up some yarn, but with each olive I knit I’ll be reminded of the things I wish for myself and the people I care about.

Inspired by Em-En’s gentle approach, I’m planning to check out her patterns, raid my sock yarn basket for remnants, and hope that the TikkunTree will show signs of bearing fruit this week.

p.s. If you are interested in knitting olives instead of leaves for the TikkunTree, there are any number of possibilities for inspiration and patterns in addition to Em-En’s olives, including the few I’ve found:

Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. Micah 4:2-5

Friday was Knit for Peace Day, a relatively new event for a number of socially-concerned knitters around the world. Initiated by Randy/KnitforPeace, an American knitter living in Sweden, Knit for Peace Day is an opportunity to commit both the work of spirit and hands to the pursuit of peace. She found time to reflect on:

  1. a lasting solution in Israel, where everyone can live in peace and dignity”;
  2. religious freedom for Tibetans;
  3. an end to the war in Iraq and an honest restructuring of the Iraqi; infrastructure;
  4. an end to the misery in Darfur; and
  5. understanding within my family for different views and different ways of doing things.

All of these found their way onto my list, along with a few others regarding local concerns as well, chief among which were wishes for the continued reduction in the number of homicides in my city, and care and reconciliation within the Democratic party (Clinton and Obama campaigns), so that eventual unity and electoral success can be achieved.

My knitting time was devoted to thinking creatively about the relationship between the Jewish holiday of Purim and peace (a few recent essays on Purim violence and traditions certainly stimulated me), and ways to promote the pursuit of peace in the American Jewish community. Much creativity will be needed in this endeavor, so I’ve been working on variations of “co-existence leaves” for the TikkunTree Project.

I managed to knit four leaves (each takes less than an hour), including “integrated” striped leaves, a ying & yang leaf (pattern available shortly), and a felted leaf, a combination of the simple garter leaf pattern and co-existence leaf. Any leaf pattern will work for the felted leaf – just use US 10.5 or 11 needles and 100% wool yarn. These leaves were made with Peace Fleece worsted wool – Peace Fleece felts beautifully, though requires a bit of elbow grease (or extra time in a machine). But then, peace is worth the extra effort.

Try knitting for peace – with the onset of spring, contribute to the new growth of the TikkunTree in 2008.

p.s.  Friday was also the Jewish holiday of Purim.  In keeping with the spirit of Knit for Peace Day, I also worked on a felted “Peacetaschen” Hamentaschen cookie (more information here).