Snap Judgment: The last journey of Pippa Bacca

The ride for peace that hit a deadly ditch.

Gaza kids (photo credit: )
Gaza kids
(photo credit: )
The killing earlier of this month of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, "Pippa Bacca," has received little media comment outside the country of her birth, Italy, and that of her death, Turkey. It should, though; Bacca was apparently a very special kind of "performance artist," who saw her life, or at least the way she chose to live it, as her "brush," and the whole world as her canvas. Tragically, the end of that life turned out not in the way she intended - nor left behind exactly the message that she had hoped it would convey. Bacca, 33, set off from Milan last March together with fellow artist Silvia Moro on what they dubbed a "Brides on Tour" journey, with both wearing white wedding dresses and taking separate routes from Italy through southern Europe and the Middle East, with the intention of meeting up together at the end here in Jerusalem sometime this month. The central point was to promote peace and faith in one's fellow man, in part by doing the entire trip via hitchhiking. Although to many the idea of a single woman thumbing rides through some of the most conflict-ridden regions of the globe sounds more than a little naïve and dangerous, this apparently was the very point. The Web site they created for the "Brides on Tour" project declares: "Hitchhiking is choosing to have faith in other human beings, and man, like a small god, rewards those who have faith in him." Alas, on the way Bacca met a man who had a very different outlook, and in early April her corpse was discovered near the Turkish town of Gebze, southeast of Istanbul. Traced through his use of her cellphone, a local man was later arrested and confessed to her rape and murder shortly after he picked her up. "We cannot blame all Turks for this incident," Bacca's mother told the Turkish press. "No one could have predicted my daughter would encounter such a maniac." Of course not - though a Western woman hitchhiking alone through the Turkish hinterlands surely must be aware of a very real element of risk. Bacca's murder generated widespread revulsion in Turkey, sparking demonstrations by local women wearing placards declaring, "We are Pippa," and demanding the government take greater steps to ensure that unaccompanied women in the streets are free from harassment. Bacca's artistic collaborator Moro, who cut short her own trip after her friend's murder, told The New York Times she "still hoped to take to the road to finish the performance. Otherwise it would be a failure, and I don't want the message to fail." "I am not disowning the project," she added firmly. "This tragedy only highlights how difficult peaceful relations are and how much work there is still to do." INDEED. I sincerely hope Moro does carry on (with greater precaution) her and Bacca's project, even the performance they were planning to stage in Tel Aviv at its end, when they were planning to ceremonially wash their wedding dresses. Their journey, said Moro, was intended to show that "by overcoming differences and lowering the level of conflict individuals and cultures could come together... Meeting people was the key." But if their project is to retain its artistic integrity, it should honestly take into account Bacca's tragic fate, and incorporate it into the work and the meaning it seeks to convey. And surely that message is that sometimes faith in fellow man and a desire for peace is not enough in this world; often it is wise, if not essential, to combine those elements with strong doses of hardheaded - and hearted - caution and concern, pragmatism and patience. If not, the end result may turn out to be not only failure, but violent failure that ends up defeating the very message of trust and peace the original effort was meant to convey. Strangely enough, I thought of Pippa Bacca this week while attending a press conference in Jerusalem featuring former US president Jimmy Carter discussing his own recent travels and encounters in the region, with the likes of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal. This was performance art of its own kind - "ex-president on tour" - that was also all about promoting peace in the region. Again, meeting people was key, as was giving them the benefit of the doubt and taking them at their word, even when in contradiction to good sense. Fortunately for Carter, the conditions under which he traveled virtually guaranteed a safe final arrival in Jerusalem to close his trip. If I am inclined under these circumstances to be far more generous to Bacca's wanderings, it is in the certainty that at least in her case there is no doubt her motives were entirely good-hearted, and that the only possible harmful outcome of her trip was to herself, which regrettably did come to pass. Pippa Bacca was a dreamer - and yes, perhaps so is Jimmy Carter. Peace, of course, is always worth dreaming about. But the longer I live in this country, and this region, the more convinced I become that peace is not made by the dreamers, but the realists, especially weary and wary old warriors such as Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak. Peace is not made by simply choosing to have faith in other people - which one should - but by taking reasonable precautions that if that faith is not rewarded, the end results will not be cruelly catastrophic. Though I appreciate her idealism, this to me is the real meaning of Pippa Bacca's final journey. [email protected]