Harmonious handiwork

The Jerusalem Embroiderers Group creataes collective art that touches individuals.

'We enjoy being together, we enjoy the craft and we enjoy doing for others," said Miryom Shuman, one of the founders of the 11-year-old coterie the Jerusalem Embroiderers Group. Comprised of 10 retired women, the group's sewing skills range from embroidery and design to needlework, stitching and beading. Shuman and fellow members Fran Alpert, Vivienne Artzieli, Esther Bloch, Marion Fine, Ruth Harris, Ruth Joy Moser, Rose Weinberg, Julia West and Gertrude Zack, meet once a month at each other's houses to bring in their pieces of handiwork and see how their current hessed (charity) project is taking shape. In fact, their latest work of collective art is hanging in the hallway of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP) of Herzog Memorial Hospital in Kiryat Hayovel. At the dedication ceremony that took place there last week, most of the women were on hand to celebrate the presentation of their three-year labor of love. Made up of three panels of landscape and scenery seamlessly sewn together, the quilt is called "The Path to Harmony," explained artist Esther Bloch, who designed the piece. Silk and wool, beads and sequins, satin and cotton all combine to depict a pastoral scene of biblical flora and fauna, as well as two children holding hands about to embark on the path leading to Jerusalem. As Bloch pointed out each symbol in the work, the colorful wall hanging became even more animated and fraught with meaning. And as she explained the different techniques used by each member to craft the various parts of the panels, the small gathering became more and more impressed by the magnitude of the endeavor and the skill of the artisans. And none more so than Dr. Danny Brom, director of the trauma center. "I see a connection between what you've done and the field of trauma," he told the women. "You have created a naive style of art, an ideal world. This connects to a part of what we do. Trauma robs people of their innocence, their naivete, but this piece shows us what we want to give back to them - their hope, their appreciation of life and nature, of beauty." In essence, he said, he and his staff wanted their clients to be able to see the big picture, so to speak, and not be condemned to seeing life through the prism of whatever ordeal they have suffered. And, he added delicately, "This piece was not made by young people. You are not jaded. You see the beauty of the world and enjoy it. We celebrate life together," he concluded. Equally generous in his praise was Dr. Yehezkel Caine, director-general of Herzog Hospital. "It is amazing to hear the details of what went into this piece," he said. "It was a true group effort." In fact, he said half jokingly, this type of work may well be the original form of group therapy - having people come together and talk while doing things. "It is very fitting for our center," he continued. "The ability of one individual to draw out another helps to bring out the positive elements." And adding his own take on the symbols in the quilt, the doctor commented on the fig tree and the olive tree that figure prominently in the piece. "The fig is the fruit with the most medicinal properties," he explained. "Even today, research is being done on fig extract." And "we all know of the beneficial effect of olive oil," he added. "It is a very therapeutic image." Ending with the ultimate compliment, he quipped,"Like the Chagall windows at Hadassah-University Hospital, maybe we can draw tourists to come and see the quilt!" And well they might. As director of development Aura Wolfe said in her address, "This is a tremendous inspiration. People appreciate the work that we do here. This quilt will add a smile to our clients' faces and a warmth to their hearts." What's next on the Jerusalem Embroiderers Group altruistic agenda? Ideas are in the works.