by Bridget Robertson |  University of Minnesota

Sunlight glimmers off the chipped paint that comforts the walls of the barren shelter, just seconds away from a bustling playground brimming with the laughter of children. The host of bomb shelters marking the Gaza bordering kibbutzes are a vision of vibrancy and resilience born from the deep roots of turmoil and suffering. A symbol of psychological warfare, reclaimed by the hearts and minds of proud Israeli citizens. This unlikely artwork is a pivotal and beautiful illustration of the allegiance the Israeli people have for their land and the potential for peace.

The bomb shelters in this Kibbutz serve as a continual reminder of the proximity and animosity projected from the neighboring communities in the Gaza strip. The emotional peril each rocket siren ensues is unimaginable to the average American citizen, yet it is the new normal in this region. Night after night, children get tucked into bed resting in the safety of a bomb shelter. In the daytime, a moment of true peace is unattainable, driven by the constant fear of rocket attacks. A parent is tasked with teaching their child how to grow up in love and hope for a better future, while in the same breath, equipping them with necessary survival skills. Childlike daydreaming about the future has been dimmed by the impending threat of rocket attacks. A farmer must reconcile with the reality a rocket attack has on their farm for their family and their community. This mental turbulence evoked by Hamas rocket and mortar attacks harbored in border communities for 18 plus years.

This psychological warfare brought chaos, destruction, and anguish to the victims of these attacks. However, it is from this misery that the unwavering heart of the Israeli people is overwhelmingly visible. The parents that are contrived to teach their children about the capabilities that darkness exercises in the world out of necessity for their survival, are pursuing this life out of love for their country and respect for the generations before them that fought for its existence. Israel is only as strong as the will of its people in times of unrest.

The wind dances across the murals adorning these physical reminders of deep-seated historical conflict. These physical expressions of hope, joy, and perseverance serve as reminders to this Kibbutz that the Israeli people rest in a common unity even through turbulent times. As an outsider to this conflict, eager to learn about what it means to be living in a conflict-ridden area in the 21st century, these unlikely canvases illustrated the humanity of this crisis. Both sides cling to the comfort brought on by the joys and comfort of humanity, like art. When we view this conflict through the lens of our shared human reality, we wield the potential to spark a full paradigm shift with the immeasurable potential to create a peaceful future for those children sound asleep in the shelter of their concrete mural haven.