Israeli war veterans, relatives and victims of attacks on civilians received free tattoos in Jerusalem on Thursday, in an initiative to use art to heal both mental and physical wounds.
Eleven Israelis whose injuries ranged from lost limbs to mental health trauma were inked by well-known tattoo artists, mainly from the United States, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in the evening.
The men and women told their stories, which ranged from being ambushed during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon to losing a partner in war.
British-Israeli Kay Wilson was hiking with an American Christian friend near Jerusalem in 2010 when they were kidnapped by two Palestinian men.
Her friend was murdered while Wilson was stabbed 13 times before managing to escape.
On Thursday she was having a Jewish prayer tattooed on her wrist and explained that part of the reason was to help her “recognize I don’t know why this stuff happened.
“It is not a question of why, it is a question of how I am going to carry this cosmic event with dignity and not live in hatred,” she said.
She was keen to stress that one of the surgeons who saved her life was an Arab and she was being tattooed by Wassim Razzouk, a Palestinian Christian from Jerusalem’s Old City.
“Peace is not an easy word, peace is a very political word,” Razzouk said.
Craig Dershowitz, executive director at the Artists 4 Israel charity which organized the event along with the museum, said its purpose was to help the men and women learn to cope.
“The most important part is they are taking control of their bodies again,” he told AFP.
He said many people who are scarred “look in the mirror and feel uncomfortable because of a disfiguration, not feeling at peace in your own skin.”
But after getting a tattoo, he said, “now when you see (the scar) you don’t see it anymore, you see art.”