"Out yonder there is this huge world
independent of us human beings
which stands before us
like a great eternal riddle.
The most beautiful thing
we can experience is the unknown.
It is the beginning of all art and science.."
- Albert Einstein
Growing up in Israel-Palestine, with all its complexities, conflicts and inherent questions, Einstein's words may explain my divergent interests in the arts, nature, and the social sciences. I am fascinated by our seemingly insatiable hunger to understand the meaning and intricacies of life and our existence, for relationship, harmony, and beauty. I find the arts a wonderful medium for reflection on these things. Viktor Frankl, the existential psychologist, in his studies in the aftermath of the holocaust, concluded that the pursuit of meaning is "the primary motivational force in man". This may explain my spiritual and artistic journey towards faith, peacebuilding and conflict transformation, and my desire to integrate my journey with these in my art. This region of the world which has cradled three of the world's great faiths has left a storehouse of impressions and longings within me for harmony and peace between them that express themselves in my art.
Despite the antitheses of peace that characterize the Middle East, I have precious memories of that land, of remarkable people and sacred spaces, of rivers and springs, oases and waterfalls, the Sea of Galilee, and the contrasting beauties of the deserts and the Mediterranean we explored and enjoyed. There are stories everywhere etched in the landscape and in the faces of people from all walks of life who have been drawn to that land. It was there I met my beautiful wife who grew up in the troubled Gaza Strip. And it was also through her eyes and those of many others that I began to understand the experiences and perspectives that comprise the Middle East.
I left Israel in 1971 for Virginia and began my education in biology and sociology, hungry to understand and perhaps heal the world I knew. I became interested also in conflict studies, in mediation and restorative justice. After deciding against medical school I moved on to graduate work in philosophy, ethics, world religions, and a reexamination of my faith and convictions, wanting to understand the dynamics that guide our belief systems and our relationships. Then more of an aside, my interests in art involved photography, ceramics, sculpture, and painting. In 1983, these interests were piqued in a new way on a trip home. While in Gaza we visited a Palestinian artist by the name of Nihad Sabassi, a woodburner and watercolorist. Something in his work led me to pick up an old woodburning tool from my childhood and from that grew a new enchantment with the art of pyrography and a deeper appreciation for the arts.
In turning to art, I have come to look at the world in a new way.. I have come to feel that it is in giving expression to our perceptions and ideals and to our love for each other and for life, that we get in touch with the essence of who we are and understand something of the mind of the Artist whose hand I have become convinced is evident in the world. I believe it is in those expressions that we are ultimately drawn together as a human family and understand the broader meaning of our life that transcends the differences we represent.
In recent years saddened by the War in Iraq and the deepening problems in Israel-Palestine I 've felt drawn into a more intentional engagement with conflict and the challenges of conflict resolution. In the summer of 2007 I began studies in a Masters Program at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. Despite the compassion and goodness that I believe are part of our human nature I'm convinced we must learn to transcend our differences or we will not survive. I'm becoming increasingly convinced the arts have a strategic place at the heart of our cultural, spiritual, and moral aspirations and a role to play in conflict transformation. I hope to find a renewed sense of voice and relevance in my work at this crossroads between arts and peacebuilding.