When Caroline Lucy Smith visited Jerusalem for the first time in 2011, among a group of pilgrims from her Roman Catholic Church, she found herself sitting for hours in the Melia Shop’s training center for Palestinian women artisans.
The conversation ranged from the impact of the Israeli occupation on women’s lives, to fair trade, to women’s rights to social justice, and, she found herself feeling right at home, among friends even, in the tiny shop operated by the Arab Orthodox Society.
“I just thought, ‘I want to tell your story when I get back home. What you do.’ And I found that Pal Craftaid is one of the outlets for those goods in the U.S.,” said Caroline Lucy, whose volunteer fall schedule for church and craft fairs begins in mid-October – just like it has for the last three years.
She also sells products at conferences of the Tree of Life Educational Fund, a non-profit organization committed to cross-cultural work, transnational travel and interfaith conferences and education.
“People in the U.S. buy things all the time, but we often don’t know the stories of the people who make the products. Well, behind every piece of this embroidery there is a women, with a family – and she’s working with a wall around her,” she said, referencing the concrete separation wall built by the Israeli government throughout the West Bank.
A resident of New Haven, CT, Caroline Lucy is a longtime interpreter, an artist and educator.
A choreographer, ballerina and modern dancer, she dances liturgically, telling the stories of the lives of biblical women – and now the experience of occupation when she speaks.
It isn’t that Caroline Lucy didn’t know the history of the occupation -- but it was an intellectual knowing. Now she integrates her felt experience into her art: The high unemployment. The heavy military presence. The sense of abandonment by the world. The narrative that keeps Palestinian music, art, culture, poetry, embroidery, invisible to the rest of us.
As an artist, she is compelled to help others express their realities.
In those days in Israel/Palestine, sitting among the Melia Shop artisans, visiting churches, talking in shops and in taxis, Caroline Lucy said that she heard so many thoughtful conversations about peaceful ways to reach peace. “So many have been stripped of everything …. And they do want peace.”
Her visit to Palestine brought it all home, literally.
“I didn’t go to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to meet Jesus … I already knew him,” said Caroline Lucy, adding that she was, of course, moved by the landscape, the buildings, the biblical towns. “But I did see Christians, Muslims and Jews doing work for peace.
“In that, I saw Christ.”