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Don't Panic!

When student Inbal Halevy hung a huge 'Don't Panic' sign at the entrance of Tel Aviv's Carmel Market last month, she had no idea it would go viral.

As part of her studies at HaMidrasha–Faculty of Arts at Beit Berl College, Inbal Halevy is enrolled in an 'Introduction to Photography' class. Last month, the 24-year-old first-year Art and Education student received her first assignment: to create a sign, hang it somewhere and photograph it. "Most of my classmates photographed their signs in their homes, but I decided to hang mine outdoors," she recalls. It was mid-March and Israelis were self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic. She chose to hang her sign at the entrance of Tel Aviv's fabled open-air Carmel Market. "I have lived in Tel Aviv my whole life and often went there. Usually the market was very lively, but this central place was one of the first to close down," Inbal explains.

She took sheets of newspaper with articles about the coronavirus, glued them on white pasteboards, and painted a letter on each one, spelling out the phrase 'Don't Panic' in English―the famous phrase from the cult classic The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. "It was supposed to be an optimistic message. I wanted people to feel better," says Inbal. On the morning of March 23rd, she climbed on the closed market stalls to hang the sign, and then photographed it for her class assignment. Much to her amazement, other people did too, and her sign was all over Facebook by that afternoon. Soon it was featured prominently on YNET, Israel's leading news website, in the Haaretz  newspaper and in other media outlets. Without a doubt, the sign struck a chord among many people and it immediately became an iconic symbol of the coronavirus era.

"I decided to study at Beit Berl because it is unique. It allows me to be an artist as well as a teacher, and it's a great place," notes Halevy. She had been involved with art and teaching for several years and the Beit Berl program was a perfect fit. This semester she is studying online like most students around the world, and is self-isolating at home with her mother. "This period of isolation has been really good for my art," she confides, ever the optimist.

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