Fragments of Memory and Loss: Neveh Channah mosaics on display in Sderot

%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%97 %D7%94%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%A4%D7%A1 %D7%A0%D7%9C%D7%A7%D7%97 %D7%9C%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%92%D7%94 %D7%91%D7%98%D7%A7%D7%A1 %D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%A1 %D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C %D7%91%D7%A9%D7%93%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA 2Israel’s memorial and independence days are always emotional as we remember those who lost their lives so that we can celebrate our freedom. This year was especially heavy and poignant as we remain at war on multiple fronts, with hundreds of lives freshly lost, including 13 Ohr Torah Stone alumni and 32 members of the greater OTS family.

It was in this atmosphere that the Sderot Community Center hosted a powerful display of 32 mosaics in honor of the communities surrounding Gaza, created by the students of Ohr Torah Stone’s Neveh Channah High School in Gush Etzion. The display was also part of the backdrop to this year’s ceremony for the prestigious Israel Prize, awarded annually as the state’s highest cultural honor.

The display includes a mosaic for each community, with the tiny pieces coming together to form a whole image; a reflection of rebuilding from brokeness. The exhibit is part of a project of solidarity and prayer, that the settlements will find the strength to rebuild on their land.

Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, OTS president and Rosh HaYeshiva, called the display “inspiring.”

“Precisely these days and precisely in Sderot, which was at the center of the October 7th attack – there is a clear and unequivocal statement that nothing will stop us from mending the fragments and that we will not forget or leave behind the abductees, the abductees and the residents of the Gaza envelope and the North,” Rabbi Brander said.

The project, called Mosaics in Motion, was launched at the school shortly after the events of Oct. 7, and was previously on display at the Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, a public space dedicated to activism calling for the release of those taken hostage. “The initiative began out of feelings of deep sorrow, pain and thinking about our brothers and sisters in the Otef, in its various settlements, whose world was turned upside down for them that morning when they suffered severe losses in body, property and soul,” says Sharon Brand, the coordinator of the Etrog Beit Midrash at Neveh Channah, where the initiative began.

%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%97 %D7%94%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%A4%D7%A1 %D7%A0%D7%9C%D7%A7%D7%97 %D7%9C%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%92%D7%94 %D7%91%D7%98%D7%A7%D7%A1 %D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%A1 %D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C %D7%91%D7%A9%D7%93%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA 3“Those residents, who were forced to leave their homes, during days of turmoil and fighting, and left behind villages and broken and missing families, never left our thoughts. Our hearts were with those who were uprooted from their land, had to move to temporary residences, and are still facing great uncertainty. Faced with the desire to connect with those residents while extending a hand and offering hope from Gush Etzion, the project was born,” she adds.

More than 150 students worked on the mosaics for four months. 

“Planning, obtaining raw materials, cutting and gluing were required,” Brand says. “But along with that, the students went through a process of learning about the affected communities, and deepening their understanding of the events that took place in them, and what happened to the residents of the surrounding areas. They wanted to connect to the great rupture they experienced, and amid that process also examine the belief that there is still hope for the future, a possibility to return and build on the scars of destruction and brokenness.” 

The project had a meaningful impact on the students. 

“As a daughter to an enlisted father, and a sister to enlisted brothers, until now my connection to the war was through the soldiers who guard us and through the fallen, especially the four soldiers my community of Alon Shvut buried during the war,” says Tagal Ben Menachem, a 10th grade student who participated in the project. “But with the residents of the Otef we did not have that much of a connection, and through this project we have had the honor of connecting with them, and this terrible trauma they experienced, as well as connecting with the families of the kidnapped and the fallen from those communities.”

Lev Ram Courtyard Min of EdRuchama Gebel-Redman, principal of Neveh Channah, said it was “a great privilege” for the display to travel to Sderot during the country’s memorial and independence days.

“It is very moving to see how, out of great pain, the students and our wonderful staff managed to pave the way for great learning, which creates momentum both in the minds of the students, and in the surrounding world,” Gebel-Redman said. “This initiative creates an opportunity for dialogue and hope for togetherness in the State of Israel. We pray that we are all strong together; that each man can help his brother, each woman help her sister; and that the hostages as well as the soldiers fighting the battles will come home whole, in body and soul.”

The exhibit’s next stop will be the Ministry of Education building in Jerusalem, where it will be displayed until after Jerusalem Day. 

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