While crowds once again pack restaurants and malls in the north, the generous spirit that marked the wartime has not died. When I visited the Rambam hospital in Haifa, I sat in on an art therapy session involving roughly two dozen patients. Walking from table to table and doling out advice was award-winning artist and best-selling children’s book author Hanoch Piven. Creating a more dynamic version of arts and crafts, patients assembled artwork out of wide array of items, from string to plastic trinkets to Brillo pad.
Though his costs are covered by Roche Pharmaceuticals, Piven doesn’t need to do this. He’s long past his “starving” phase, yet he comes back to his home country periodically from his Barcelona residence in order to lead these art therapy sessions. He was making the rounds of Israeli hospitals two months ago, but obviously couldn’t travel to the one in Haifa while rockets were raining down. So he vowed to come back.
The incredible assortment of materials “allows patients to express themselves in ways they otherwise couldn’t,” Piven explained. One created a portrait of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. When I asked him why, he responded, “Why not?” At the 20-minute sit-down group discussion afterward, several of the participants expressed the anxiety they felt during the 33-day war. There were tears, laughter, and sometimes both at once.
Further north in Nahariya, stores were also bustling and residents appeared to be out in full force. Just as in Haifa, I visited homes destroyed by katyusha rockets. One in particular struck me. The entire facade was charred, and almost everything inside had also been burnt to a crisp. What was amazing is that this extensive damage did not come from a direct hit. Visible in the front yard was the spot where the katyusha had landed, some 15 feet from the front of the house. The hole in the ground was less than a foot in diameter and maybe a few feet deep, yet the footprint of its devastation was far greater.
In Kiryat Shmonah near the Lebanese border, most interesting was the appearance of one of the bomb shelters. The above-ground portions were painted to be as kid-friendly as possible. Most likely done by a professional artist, the colors are bright and the drawings of children and their families are warm and inviting. Happy as the outside of the bomb shelters may appear, though, children in the area do not seem enamored of it after spending a month trapped inside because Islamic terrorists were trying to murder them.
For as nice as it is that normalcy has returned to northern Israel, it is not lost on anyone there that “normal” doesn’t change that they are wanted dead by their neighbors.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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