In an action inspired by a British artist and a United Nations Agency, a thousand Palestinian refugee youth gathered beneath the Mount of Temptation near Jericho to create an image with their bodies of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Peace Dove’ and spell out the words ‘Love All’.The children and teens are all students at the schools run by the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency, and took buses to the Jericho desert Friday to participate in the voluntary effort to promote a message of peace in the Middle East, and particularly between the Israeli regime and the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation.

The artist who organized the project, John Quigley, is known not only for his living art installations, but for his activism in defense of human rights and the environment. In 2002, he sat for 71 days in an oak tree to protect an ancient grove of forests in a pristine valley from development. Fellow artist Velcrow Ripper said about this action, “It is in times like these when the very best in people comes out – when they are standing up for what they believe in the face of immense resistance.”

Quigley was invited by local branches of UNRWA to help design a living art sculpture of peace, and consulted with the children in the schools as to what the image should be. About the choice of venue, Quigley stated, “Jericho is the deepest place on earth. So let us go to a deep place to this message.”

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency, Filippo Grandi, praised the action, saying “The world needs to sit up and listen to the youth of this region, their message of peace is essential. It is the voice of the next generation”.

As the Christmas season approaches, Palestinians in the Bethlehem area are planning a number of such peace events, including a ‘concert for peace’ which will be broadcast live around the world from Manger Square on Christmas Day.