Dr Susan Greene has repeatedly left the safety of San Francisco and travelled to the occupied territories - armed only with a paintbox.

She has become a leading member of the Break the Silence Mural Project - an arts group that promotes a greater awareness of the complexities of the conflict in Palestine.

"Although there is no real freedom of movement, friends got me to Bait Hanun where the local children and I painted a mural of orange trees," she told Aljazeera.net on Thursday.

Anyone familiar with Bait Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, knows the town was once famous for orchards - especially its orange trees.

"Now it is a desert. The trees have been martyred ... so the mural depicted martyred orange trees."

Local support

With more than 15 years' experience in Palestine, Greene has built up a great relationship with countless parents and young people.

"The children loved taking party and showed real enthusiasm. The parents were just as pleased - though many joked that Israeli soldiers would probably knock down these trees too!"

Palestinians of all ages took part
in creating the huge mural

The artist told me she laughed at the joke, but felt the tragedy all too keenly.

"As an American Jew I have the privilege to be able to speak out. Americans need to get acquainted with what is happening here. Palestine is as big an issue as South Africa was. What is going on here is genocide.

Breaking the silence

"At night I couldn't sleep because of the gunfire and the F-16s constantly making flights over the town.

"But the children are accustomed to it - if you ask them whether they have trouble sleeping, they will tell you 'the gunfire is like music - we can't sleep without it'".

Locals take cover during an air
raid - the real Bait Hanun today

"What Israeli soldiers do to Bait Hanun is horrible and relentless."

Break the Silence started work when four Jewish American women artists travelled to the West Bank city of Ram Allah and worked on a series of community mural projects with Palestinian community members and artists.

Upon returning from that first trip in 1989, the artists presented their work and reflections on their experiences to approximately 100 audiences in high schools, universities, art galleries and community centres across the United States.