Israel is a country with a rich cultural history. Not surprisingly, it also has a long tradition of folk arts and crafts. These art forms provide a glimpse into the overlapping history of Christians, Muslims and Jews in this region of the Middle East. Many of these crafts are suitable to do as children’s projects at home or in the classroom. These art activities also provide an opportunity to discuss ancient history, geography, religion and current events.
Traditionally paper-cutting was used to illustrate the stories of religious texts. Later it was adapted to use for other Jewish customs and holidays, such as marriage contracts and the festival of Sukkot. Older students can use small blades to cut their images, while younger children can use scissors on folded paper.
Embroidery is one example of an extensive tradition of textile design in Israel. Muslim women used embroidered jackets and headdresses to show wealth, marital status and origin. Geometric patterns were quite popular. Students can design and sew their own symbolic embroidery patterns to express their own backgrounds and personal histories. Cross-stitch fabric with a large weave will help guide children. Drawings can be sketched on grid paper before being translated into embroidery or cross stitch.
Micrography is an art form that employs miniature calligraphy to create images or patterns. Often based on religious texts, these tiny words may only be visible upon close inspection. Students can create secular micrography projects based on works of literature, illustrating chosen passages.
Israel is home to stunning ancient Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Mosaics are composed of tiny tiles, generally made of colored glass or ceramics. Older students can safely make mosaics from glass tiles. Instruct them to arrange tiles before gluing or mortaring in place. Have younger children construct mosaics of cut paper squares or fragments of eggshells. Mosaics can be installed directly on walls or affixed to board for portability.