In biblical times, tents were used as a meeting place, where justice was done and peace pacts made. This symbolism forms the inspiration for a temporary installation, which includes 14 tents with the word "peace" printed on them in more than 50 languages and 18 alphabets, at the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem display of the "Peace Tents," designed by French artist Clara Halter, constitutes a call for peace in a difficult time and symbolizes the situation in Israel, the artist said. She also wanted to use the military feel of tents and transform them to represent peace.
"First of all, I wanted to take a military camp and transform it into a peace camp," said the Jewish artist.
Halter preferred a temporary installation because she said it was more effective for viewers. "I think if you see something for a small amount of time, it can be more violent and have more force than something that stays every day," she said. "I did not want it to stay."
Peace messages from around the world play on video screens in the tents and are shown on the Web site http://www.peacetents-clarahalter.jerusalem.muni.il. "There will be messages from America, France, Russia - all over," she said. Many messages have already been collected on the Web site, and Halter said a large majority were from Russia. Tent visitors are also able to enter messages on computers inside the tents; their messages will be shown on screens immediately and on the Web site.
The tents are fittingly located between the United Nations headquarters building and the "Peace Forest" overlooking the city of Jerusalem. The installation is in Jerusalem as part of the "French Season," organized by the French Association of Artistic Action.
After the nine-day stint in Jerusalem, the 160x70-meter canvases are set to travel throughout France including Cannes, Paris, Lyon and Aixen-Provence to bring attention to the situation in Israel.
Halter's interest in the Middle East peace process goes back as far as 1967. On the eve of the Six Day War she created and printed the first international publication promoting peace in the region. For the first time, Israeli and Palestinian intellectual writings appeared together in print, according to her press release.
Prior to the current installation, Halter created various peace monuments in Israel and abroad. Her past credits include "The Wall for Peace" erected on the Champs de Mars in Paris. She created the wall with a French architect, and said it was loosely inspired by the Western Wall. As a memorial for the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima's destruction, Halter created "Ten Gates of Peace" to stand in the city in 2005.
French and Israeli companies and institutions along with several French cities paid for the tents. Halter said she had also been asked to create a permanent peace monument for Israel in the future.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Douste-Blazy and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski will join in the inauguration of the "Peace Tents" Wednesday at noon. The installation will remain until May 25.