Poster Tales: Yearning for Peace

Every year on Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day), the State of Israel commissions a poster to commemorate the year. While the posters touch on many important themes, the theme of peace is often present. Using the series of posters, campers will explore Israel's quest for peace, within its own borders, with the Palestinians, and with its Arab neighbors. In the end, they will have the opportunity to create their own pieces of artwork.

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Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Israel in 1977 as a part of the historic peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 following intense peace negotiations. He was killed by an Israeli Jew who didn't approve of the concessions Rabin was willing to make to the Palestinians.
In 2002, the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a "road map" for peace, including an independent Palestinian state.
On Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day), the State of Israel commissions a poster in commemoration of Israel's Independence and each poster tells a story about the events that occurred during the year of its creation.


Stage 1: Art Bingo

  • Arrange all the laminated posters in chronological order around the room.
  • Explain to the campers that every year on Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day), the State of Israel commissions a poster in commemoration of Israel's Independence. The collection of these posters provides a lens into seeing what was going on during the year that the poster was created.
  • Hand out the human bingo sheets and pens to the campers and give them 10 minutes to explore the gallery and fill in their sheets
  • Gallery walk debrief (in smaller groups):
    • What stood out to you as you were looking through Israel’s Independence Day posters?
    • Did you notice any repetition in symbols throughout the posters? What surprised you about this particular symbol repeated?
    • Were there any symbols missing for you from among the posters? Why do you feel they were missing and why do you think they were left out?
    • If we were to make a poster for America’s Independence Day, what symbols would you include in that poster?

Stage 2: Yearning for Peace

  • Explain that the idea of peace is a recurring theme throughout Israel's history and it is often times reflected in Israel's Independence Day posters.
  • Ask the group:
    • What symbols or images do you think of when you think of peace?
    • Why do you think of these images?
    • Did you notice any of these images when you were walking around during the bingo game?
  • Allow them to walk around the posters, looking for symbols of peace and bring those posters back to the group.
  • Ask the group:
    • Why did you choose these posters as representative of our theme?
    • What do you see that makes you say that?
    • Can you point to specific elements or symbols in the poster that make you see that theme?
    • Are there any symbols that you would have expected to see as representative of our theme that are missing? Why do you think they were not included? What about these symbols makes you want to include them?

Stage 3: 1978, 1995-6, and 2002

  • Pull out the posters from 1978, 1995, 1996, and 2002 and explain to campers that you want to specifically look at these posters and at what was going on at the time these posters were created. Ask the same two questions listed below.
  • Hand out to each participant the timeline of Israel’s history.
  • The 1978 Poster:
    • Ask your campers these questions (or variations on them):
      • Why do you think this year in particular was chosen to represent the theme of "yearning for peace"? According to the timeline, what happened right before this poster was created? What happened right after? Why do you think they chose to focus on peace in this year's poster? How is what's going on during the time reflected in this poster?
      • Based off of what was going on right before and right after this poster was created, how do you think Israelis felt before and after? 
    • Explain: This poster occurred right after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Israel in 1977 as part of the historic peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel. In 1977, Sadat arrived in Jerusalem for a 3-day visit that launched the first peace process between Israel and an Arab state. After Sadat's visit, in 1978, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met at Camp David which led to the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Since then, peace has prevailed on this mutual border. 
  • The 1995 and 1996 Posters:
    • Ask the same questions as above.
    • Explain: The 1995 poster reflects a time in Israel when peace with the Palestinians was on the horizon. This poster was created while Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was in the mist of working towards peace with the signing of peace agreements with the Palestinians and with Jordan. This peace process began to take shape in 1991, when Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians met in Madrid for the first face-to-face talks. These meetings led to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between the Palestinians and Israel. These talks resulted in an agreement where Gaza and Jericho were turned over to the Palestinian Authority and the IDF would redeploy in the West Bank and evacuate large Palestinian towns.
    • Ask:
      • Given what you now know about the peace process, how you think Israelis felt during this time? How is that reflected in the poster?
    • Explain: The Oslo Agreements sparked controversy within Israel where some people supported the Government's policy while others saw it as an act of surrender. The dispute reached its climax at the end of a peace rally when an extremist Israeli Jew assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. After the assassination, the peace process slowed.
    • Then, look at the 1996 poster, after Rabin is assassinated.
      • Ask campers: how are the images in the 1996 poster different than the images in the 1995 poster? Why are the images different?
      • Explain that the 1996 poster was focused on industry and education. What do you think it says that Israel chose to commemorate the year that Rabin was assassinated with a poster about technology?
  • The 2002 Poster:
    • Explain that in July 2002, the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a "road map" for peace, including an independent Palestinian state. The road map was released in 2003 and called for independent actions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with disputed issues that were put off.
  • Conclude by asking: Looking at the timeline, are there other years where you are surprised the theme "yearning for peace" did not appear? If campers show posters that they think reflect "yearning for peace" look at the timeline and ask similar questions to the original questions. Ask about how what was going on during the time is reflected in the poster. 

Stage 4: Art Activity

  • Hand out poster boards or sheets of white paper to each participant and ask them to create their own poster for Israel this year that fits the theme of the peace group. Encourage them to use the same elements that the Independence Day posters used: symbols, words, pictures, etc. and to make it reflect their own personal connections to Israel.

Stage 5: Wrap-Up

  • You can choose to conclude this program with another discussion:
    • If you were to create a poster for the U.S. using the theme of peace, what elements, symbols, drawings, etc., would you include in this poster?
    • Are there differences in how you would depict this theme for America versus Israel?
    • Are there differences in how you would relate to a poster for America versus a poster for Israel?


Variations in Content:

  • There are many different themes that can be highlighted in this poster collection. This activity could also be done looking at the posters dealing with different types of Israelis and aliyah, as well as visions of Jerusalem or other Israeli cities.
  • Your faculty mentor can help you find other activities/themes for this collection.

Variations in Format:

  • The art exercise can be replaced with other types of activities, such as:
    • Collage making
    • Discussion
    • Photography

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Israel Education Initiative and Jewish Learning Works