The Alliance Church International Cemetery in Jerusalem’s German Colony is home to the Wall of Life, a mural now gracing its old, once dour walls with beautifully rendered scenes from Genesis to Revelation.
Attracting visitors in growing numbers from all over the world, the recently completed mural is 400 feet long and is the extraordinary product of decades of visions, providence, prayer, hard work and, most of all, love.
The unique work’s advent was not uneventful. Even now, after clearing numerous spiritual and physical hurdles to its completion, its survival is threatened by nearby construction.
But let’s start at the beginning of this complex chain of events, in the late 1990s, when artist Patricia Ann Solveson was a young and seemingly lost soul living in southern Wisconsin with no connection to Israel.
“I had attached myself to New Age philosophy,” Patricia told KNI. “The hippy movement and the counter-culture were so exciting to people my age back then, but these attachments ultimately opened doorways to darkness. I found myself haunted by the idea of committing suicide. One day, feeling as though I’d completely lost control, I cried out to God: ‘Jesus, if you are real, then you need to help me now before it will be too late.’ I didn’t see anything with my eyes as it happened, but I felt the presence of a powerful love. I heard the words, ‘Don’t be afraid, I love you.’”
‘I knew religion wouldn’t help me’
“Those words were so pure and holy and powerful,” Patricia continued. “I was immediately comforted and determined to find out who God was. I began to read the Bible.”
Thus began Patricia’s unique artistic journey, the first phase only recently concluded, which has spanned over 20 years.
“After I began reading the Bible my mind began to heal from the ravages of the occult and the new age movement. I learned about our loving God and how He sent His son to the cross. How much He loves me on a personal level.”
When asked, Patricia freely shares her story with visitors who have come to experience the mural, now complete after six and a half years of effort during two seasonal visits to Jerusalem each year from Patricia and her husband. During those visits, Patricia prayed, planned and painted while also directing volunteer helpers in prepping and priming the old wall’s surface.
The finished mural includes 80 scenes, sequentially depicting accounts found in both the Tanach and Brit Hadasha (New Testament). But when she or other volunteers lead tours, they treat their audience with sensitivity.
“I try to be very facilitative and never cause our Jewish visitors to feel pressure or coercion about coming in here because this is a Christian place,” she said. “It’s all about love. So, when we get to the mural scenes from the Brit Hadasha and I have a group of Israelis, I thank them and tell them the tour is over.
“If Jewish visitors wish to hear about the remaining scenes, they must ask. I’ll even turn my back and walk away. I’ll tell them, ‘We respect you as Jews and we love you.’ But almost all of them will say, ‘Wait, you can tell us.’ And if I have a group of five or six visitors, I’ll look directly at each and ask, ‘Are you okay with this?’ and they’ll say yes because, by this time, a bridge of trust has been built. I have already poured out to them who I am. After I’ve told them the whole gospel in detail, Jewish visitors inevitably say to me, ‘We have never heard this!’
“Most importantly,” Patricia added, “our volunteers and inspired supporters have prayed continually over this project to ensure that the story of God’s love, portrayed in the mural, would fill the hearts of those who visited and help open their eyes to God’s salvation.”
Patricia is not Jewish but, after reading the entire Bible, she, “fell in love with Yeshua.”
“I called him Jesus at the time. For the rest of my young adult life I have had a testimony of restoration and the power of the gospel. I knew religion wouldn’t help me. I needed power to be set free from all the things I had opened the door to, to recover my soul from the trap I had entered… Little by little I learned the Word. It renewed my mind and set me free a little at a time.”
In 1997, Patricia had felt directed by the Lord to attend an event in St. Paul, Minnesota. There, she and others, Jew and Gentile, worshipped as one new man, according to Ephesians 2:
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace. (Eph 2:13-15)
“I was so wide open,” Patricia said. “And when the music began to play, dancers came from the rear of this large auditorium, dancing in Hebraic style up to the front, and the shekinah, the glory of the divine presence of God, came into the place. I had never had an experience like that. I began to weep and I couldn’t stop. I had a meltdown but it was a good meltdown… I kept hearing ‘I’m home, I’m home, I’m home!’… I came out of there loving the Jewish people… Loving them with the heart of the Father.”
“I took my first trip to Israel a couple years later,” she said. “My husband and I were back in college, and I began to paint prophetically.”
Using oils, Patricia painted a picture of a man blowing a shofar and gave it as a gift to people in Israel in 1998, its Jubilee year. Later, while still in the land, she attended several believers’ meetings and continued to give paintings away. “I would say, ‘Here, have some art!’ and just give it away thinking that maybe it would open up a door to love somebody.”
‘We have a vision’
After Patricia’s jubilee trip, she continued painting prophetic art in the States and bringing it to her newfound love, Israel, making five additional visits to the land between 2001 and 2008. In 2008, Patricia met Mero Aaroni, an Israeli believer, at another meeting at which she had continued gifting strangers with art.
“Mero was very interested in my work,” Patricia said. “He took a few pieces and afterward asked, ‘Would you like to come see my ministry?’”
Patricia asked Aaroni for more details but he mysteriously declined.
“Just meet me next week,” he told her. Shortly after receiving the invitation, Patricia and a friend met with Aaroni at the Alliance Church Cemetery in the German Colony. The cemetery, at the time, “really looked bad,” Patricia said, further describing the wall that would someday host her colorful mural as “black concrete.”
During Patricia’s first visit, Aaroni told her and her friend stories about some of the icons laid to rest there, well-known Christian figures like Derek Prince and John Stanley Grauel. After Patricia and her friend began weeping upon hearing Aaroni’s “powerful stories” of the saints buried there, Aaroni spoke the words that ultimately changed their lives as well as the lives of many others: “We have this vision for a mural upon this wall.”
With the approval of Roger Elbel, former director of Alliance Church Cemetery — “a constant source of prayer and support throughout the arduous process” and the visionary behind creating a mural — Aaroni invited Patricia to paint the walls, but told her she would have to raise the money herself.
Patricia prayed about Aaroni’s request and subsequently received her first vision of what, after years more of effort, would become The Wall of Life.
“At the back corner I saw a bright light emanating from the mural wall. People were standing before it and I knew that blind eyes were opening. I saw the cemetery wall filled with colorful images, but no details.”
Now on display where that light first appeared in Patricia’s vision is a depiction of the hill at Calvary: “The Lamb with a crown of thorns, walking up toward the brazen altar. The scene came to me a full year before I painted it.”
When the Lord asked Patricia to paint the mural, she, of course, agreed.
“He knew the challenges and the warfare I would endure to complete it,” she said. “I experienced intense spiritual warfare against me throughout the painting process; attempts to fog my mind, depress my spirit and physical attacks that drove me to prayer and praise. About halfway through the mural’s creation, the Lord began to send prayer partners to Jerusalem from the U.S. and elsewhere who prayed as I painted. When the adversary threatened, these volunteers would stop to worship and pray together. Then the work could go on.
“Had the mural simply been somebody’s nice idea I would have quit — I nearly walked away several times — but because I knew the work was for my awesome God, who had saved me out of darkness, out of demonic torment, I knew He could get me through it all and He did.”
‘The way things sometimes work in Israel’
The most recent threat to the mural’s well-being is ongoing demolition and new construction of luxury high-rise condos just beyond the cemetery wall.
“Last year we got a call from a building foreman who said, ‘We’re going to build next door.’ We met with the builders and told them, ‘You know you’re going to have to protect this.’
“The way things work in Israel, sometimes, even if it’s illegal, people push ahead and do things then wait for you to stop them. I have an attorney in Tel Aviv and the Alliance Church has a whole law firm. We sent the builders a notice telling them to stop because the construction threatened the wall. Finally, representatives came here, the architect and their lawyer, and when we showed them the mural, the architect turned to me and said, ‘Now I see what the fuss is about.’”
Though the need became clear to reinforce the old wall to protect it from collapse during the digging and earth-moving activities next door, the builders “became nonresponsive when they learned how much it would cost and would not talk to us anymore.
“We are hoping for the builders and the lawyers to negotiate something. They have been told, ‘If you knock this down, you will be liable.’”
The construction threat calls for increased prayer. A huge hole has already formed in the wall after a small backhoe removed a nearby gas line on the other side.
While the threat to the mural is not yet resolved, Patricia, Aaroni and the Alliance Church proceed in faith. Patricia has written a soon-to-be-published book entitled Artcry about her experiences and special calling.
“I feel like I have a Ruth calling,” Patricia said. “God has given me His passionate heart for the Jewish people, who so desperately need it. When Jewish people come through the cemetery gate, I pour out love to them as I talk about both the mural and the Bible. Many have thanked me with tears. Several women have taken me in their arms, weeping and thanking me for the gift of the mural.
“I’m excited about what God’s doing. Mero is the cemetery’s official tour guide and its care is his life and ministry. We’re really partners in the Gospel.”
Up to 5,000 people now come to see the Wall of Life annually, a number that continues to grow. “People from all over the world and our Israeli neighbors come in droves to see the mural, to hear the stories and they love us here. So we have a wonderful time.”
The Alliance Church and Patricia wish to extend to believers in the land — those who are able to participate in a short training program and contribute regularly — the opportunity to join their ministry team. For more information, please call +972.2.625.4669 and ask for Carlos.
Also of interest:
From Genesis to Revelation (CBN)