By Elise Burgos, Winter 2019-2020 Essay Contest Winner

Being an artist, I have realized that I associate people, places, memories, and ideas with colors. For example, my childhood home is a warm red, dark like tea but orange-ish like a laugh–an inviting color that hugs you when you see it. My brother is a light bubbling green; his mind is electric with ideas, full of life, and boiling with thoughts. Memories of going to Belize, our home country, with my family are a calming yellow, bright like a ripe banana but inviting like an open door. 

Israel was confusing to me, because it did not have an apparent color that I was able to associate with it. It was both deep and wide with information and for me held memories of nearly every emotion. I realized that this place was made of layers, of people, colors, opinions, religions, and stories that made it the first place to ever confuse me and cause me to truly stop and think about its meaning in my life. 

Four students gaze at the Israeli security wall that reads, “path to peace.” | Summer 2019

To me, Israel was visually similar to drinking pure honey. Just about every shade of every color is consistently represented in every crowd of people, rolling hill of spices, and open landscape. As the trip progressed, I began to realize that this country was the ultimate eruption of color and culture that my heart knew only God could dream up himself. His love for the people here was apparent through the way that he lavishly poured out all the colors available to our eyes in this life throughout the country.

One part of the country that stood out to me for its colors was the mural on the Gaza wall. This mosaic of fragmented clay covered in bright colors and embossed with words of hope was planted on a wall that separates the Gaza Strip from the rest of Israel. I was struck, not only by the gesture but also by the confident use of color used in the piece.

The country of limitless color stood in solidarity with their brothers and sisters on the other side of a defining wall through color that symbolizes hope for a better future and for peace. While the people on the Gaza side of the wall may not have been able to read all the sentiments written on the small fragments that made up the larger piece, they were able to see the burst of color and believe in the hope that one day they too would be able to see the world in color again. 

It was at this site that we collectively learned of the hardships that those living in the communities surrounding Gaza face. We had the privilege of listening to a local speaker and later getting a tour of his community.

We listened and slowly began to understand, to our best ability, the effect that pain and violence can have on a community. I was completely lost for words. I wrote in my journal, “I feel like a deep blue, almost purple with pain and sadness but still slightly red with a sort of confusion and anger.” How is it possible to hate a group of people so much that the only option of causing pain large enough to solicit action was the murder of not only soldiers but also men, women, and their families?

I remember feeling completely numb with sadness and confusion. After the tour, we all poured out of the bus next to a large grey wall that stood in an almost apologetic way and dominated the horizon as to hide the last bits of the sunset.

On the wall itself was a large art piece that seemed to almost grow from a crack in the wall, like a vine through a fence. While we didn’t stay too long at this location, it was one of the most powerful. I felt that it embodied the way the Israeli people view conflict, with grace and confidence in a better tomorrow.

This art piece, while full of color, was also a physical representation of the trip so far: the bright colors full of laughter, the darker colors seeming to represent the sadness that I had been feeling as I began to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At this time, I was skeptical that I would be able to find a single shade that could represent what this country meant to me, and I found peace in seeing such a colorful work of art that didn’t attempt to settle on one color–but instead celebrated the diversity of a rainbow.

This wall near the border of Gaza was my favorite place that we stopped. It was here that I was reminded of the importance of color and the role that it plays in this conflict. For those in Gaza, the bright colors of a rainbow could be a piece of visual hope for them. We, as visitors, were able to look at the same piece and believe in a God who is all-powerful and fights our battles with grace.

After being home and having time to reflect, I now think that Israel is a dark purple. Hope and excitement running through its veins yet still having a sense of sorrow for the turmoil that has surrounded it and its people for years. This purple with its blues and reds remembers the lives lost and expects better for the future. Israel is a universe of color that fights for its diverse pallet in every corner, even at its borders.