Haaretz: So much culture, so little time: Top 5 temporary exhibits now on display in Jerusalem

Published 11:19 15.09.11

Israel’s capital is often scoffed at by cultural enthusiasts when it comes to the arts and sciences: According to the taste-makers, Tel Aviv is the playground of the enlightened and creative, while Jerusalem is old-fashioned and stodgy.

In reality, the Holy City is brimming with thriving academia, culture, research and youth, and Jerusalem’s museums (and other spaces of every variety) host exhibitions and encounters of increasingly high quality. As the year 5771 draws to a close, it can be argued that there has never been a better time to experience the wealth of visual arts and information that Jerusalem has to offer. Below are five of our top picks.

Start-up boot camp

Israel’s uncanny capacities for innovation gets top billing at the Bloomfield Science Museum’sInnovation Ltd. exhibit. From the Epilady leg hair removal device to drip irrigation, “disk-on-key” portable hard drives to cherry tomatoes, Innovation Ltd. covers 50 of Israel’s greatest inventions, but the display and activity series also explores the reasons why Israel is such a hotbed of creative thinking. Varda Gur Ben Shitrit, the museum’s director of science and society, who also is the curator of the exhibit, posited one theory to GoJerusalem.com.

“As a small country, we are constricted in many ways. There are many things we can’t do, so we need to concentrate on other things,” she said.

Kids can put on their thinking caps at an “invention workshop” especially geared for them, and performances and interactive displays are woven through the museum.

Heists and ethno-lenses

The Museum of Islamic Art’s display of exquisite timepieces, many of them creations of the revolutionary 18th century Swiss watchmaker Abraham Louis Breuget, continues to draw thousands, and the museum has, as a result, extended its run more than once.

Stolen from the museum by the notorious thief Naaman Diller in 1983, these objects of art were returned after Diller’s death (his end-of-life confession to his wife brought them home) more than 20 years later.

In an exhibit with a more literal connection to the Islamic world, the museum is also currently hosting a temporary exhibit of Naftali Hilger’s photographs. Hilger visited Yemen six times over more than 20 years to document Yemen’s populace and landscapes, especially the lifestyles of the handful of Jews who remain there.

Urban aesthetes

Take the cooler weather already settling over Jerusalem as inspiration to walk through the downtown neighborhoods in search of art. Although Agripas St. and the Machane Yehuda Market are best known for their bustling variety fresh produce, it’s highly recommended to check out the Agripas 12 cooperative art gallery.

In the market itself, a project called Tabula Rasa, intended to last for at least one year, opens this week, with displays of urban street art, including sculptures made of recycled or “found” materials, graffiti, photography and much more.

The public is invited in the September evenings to watch the artists transform Machane Yehuda’s walls, trash cans and the surroundings into compelling, expressive works. Beit Avi Chai’s Piyyut Festival, an exploration of Judaism’s canon of para-liturgical poetry, meanwhile, includes forays into the market-hugging alleys of Nachlaot, where participants are led on a journey through the seasonal repentance-themed chants of many Judaic sects.

Symbols in the tower

Are you curious about communication? Delve into the mysteries of alphabets, writing and language at the Tower of David Museum, where the temporary Letters and More: Evolution of the Alphabet exhibition tells the story of Jerusalem’s 3,000 years through the prism of textual symbology.

Closing at the end of September, the exhibit includes interactive games, videos and the opportunity to create new systems of meaningful icons. “Many of the languages that are not used anymore [colloquially] are still used in Jerusalem,” Renee Sivan, an expert in the field of cultural heritage and the museum’s veteran chief curator, told GoJerusalem.com. “The Syrian Church still prays in Aramaic, the Greek Church still prays in ancient Greek, the Ethiopian Church in Ge'ez.”

Marclay’s sensitization wind-up

Finally, for film buffs, lovers of the avant-garde, or sticklers for punctuality, an astonishing piece of pastiche, The Clock, is currently on display at the Israel Museum. It took artist Christian Marclay two years create this work, splicing together clips from hundreds of feature films to create a complete 24-hour video that is synced to real-time in the theater. As characters on screen check their watches, hear chimes or glance at wall clocks, it is the same time in the viewing theater.

The Israel Museum is also hosting two complete, all-night screenings of The Clock, free of charge, on September 13-14 and October 18-19. In an interview with BBC2, Marclay called his piece a giant memento mori and spoke about the heightened awareness of time passing.

“That anxiety keeps you, as a viewer, connected,“ he said. "You’re spending time being entertained, but at the same time, you’re always conscious of the time that you just spent watching this thing…. This anxiety over time is a universal one, and I think this piece is very much about time passing, about mortality.”


But Levy’s sweeping conclusions about the nature of Israeli society are not supported by the full picture presented by the findings.  His statement that Israelis are saying “we’re racists… and we want to live in an apartheid state” is patently false.  Although some of the findings are disturbing and do appear to represent expressions of intolerance, they are balanced by other findings that are more encouraging, representing a clear rejection thereof.  Further, the only question that could possibly raise any suggestion of “support” for “an apartheid regime” – as trumpeted in the headlines – represents a scenario that overwhelming majorities in Israeli society reject outright, and so the suggestion that a majority of Israelis “support” or even “would support” apartheid is misleading as best and totally false at worst.

I threw my support behind the Haaretz article polling Israeli Jews much too quickly.  I’m happy to say that it is looking more and more like I was wrong and those findings were definitely skewed and the reporting was shoddy. For anyone who read the Haaretz article, I recommend reading this as well.

Bracha and Carys, it looks like you were much more right!

This is a really interesting effort.

Actor Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame arrived in Israel earlier this week, with the media questioning the sincerity of his efforts to bring “serenity now” to Israel and the conflict. But the OneVoice Delegation Tour - an eclectic group of business professionals and philanthropists from the U.S. and Europe - strives to be more than yet another celebrity tour for a trendy cause.

The delegates arrived on Sunday for a weeklong trip geared toward providing participants with a broader, more informed understanding of both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives of the conflict, while fostering a deeper commitment to a two-state solution.

“As an American Jew, you feel like it is your job to advocate for the state of Israel,” Josh Bernstein, president of Bernstein Management and director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the United Jewish Endowment Fund told Haaretz.

“But Israel has grown from a state that is fighting for its existence to a democracy, and unfortunately, it doesn’t always uphold the values it was built upon. For American Jews, this has become awkward – this is not the Israel we love.”

Many of the delegates shared Bernstein’s sentiments, expressing a love and commitment to the state of Israel, but difficulty reconciling their Jewish values and vision for a democratic country with the current reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

James and Sonia Cummings, chairman and trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, that launches and sponsors community projects that promote economic and social justice based on Jewish tradition and democratic values, were disappointed at the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships’ inability to reach a solution. However, they remained hopeful that the youth they had met through OneVoice were part of a new generation that could inspire change.

“It is so important to enlighten the Diaspora about what is really going on in Israel – we need more unity,” Sonia Cummings told Haaretz.

“It is about the future of the next generation. Meeting with young people on this trip has been very enlightening; there is hope, they are living in the present. Maybe we can grab that, and communicate it to the Diaspora, so that we can create a movement of peace,” she added.

Forty-five years ago, on 22 September 1967, this statement was published as a paid advert in Haaretz. It reads:

“Our right to self-defence against destruction does not give us the right to oppress others.
Occupation leads to foreign rule, foreign rule leads to resistance, resistance leads to oppression, oppression leads to terror and counter-terror. The victims of terror are generally the innocent. Holding onto the territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims. Quit the Occupied Territories Immediately.”

Shimon Tzabar, David Ehrenfeld, Dan Omer, Raif Elias, Haim Hanegbi, Uri Lifschitz, Moshé Machover, Eli Aminov, Rafi Zichroni, Arie Bober, Schneur Sherman, Yehuda Rozenstreich

SOURCE: Haaretz

New policy to help transgender soldiers from the time they get first draft notice through getting gender-appropriate uniforms and housing.

The Israel Defense Forces has decided to institute a new approach to dealing with transgender recruits by offering them extra support from the time they get their first draft notice at age 16 through their army service.

The new policy intends to make army service easier for transgender soldiers, regardless of whether they intend to undergo gender reassignment surgery, according to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, which cites the army’s Bamahane magazine.

According to the report published Thursday, transgender soldiers have had to ask for assistance from commanding officers in order to get uniforms and housing for their preferred gender, as well as hormone treatments.

Maj. Iris Wagman, head of the mental health unit in the army’s Medical Corps, said the army reached out to the Israeli Center for Human Sexuality and Gender Identity to help it become more familiar with the needs of transgender recruits.

Transgender recruits who have not begun the gender-reassignment process but would like to will be drafted according to their biological gender, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.

Immediately after their enlistment, they will get personal assistance from the army in transitioning and will be addressed using the pronoun of their choice.

Haaretz | New documents reveal early Palestinian attitudes toward Zionist settlements

Its not always gracefully written, but documents like these matter.

By Nir Hasson | Nov.04, 2012

Petitions sent by locals to the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul reveal the complexity of early encounters between local villagers and new European immigrants.

In the history of Zionism, the Zarnuka incident of 1913 has gone down as one of the first violent encounters between Jewish settlers and the local Arab population.

The clash, which left two Jews and one Arab dead, broke out between Rehovot settlers and residents of neighboring Zarnuka. It appears that members of “Hashomer,” the newly founded Jewish defense organization, confronted two villagers who were stealing grapes from a vineyard belonging to Rishon Letzion settlers. The confrontation led to a mass brawl and ensuing acts of revenge.

The Halutzim naturally wrote their version of events: “One day, during the grape harvest, two Zarnuka thugs, sons of wealthy families, passed through the vineyards of Rishon Letzion, on their heavily loaded camels, and on their way, reached out to harvest some of the grapes,” author Moshe Smilanski wrote. “One of Hashomer guards, from Jerusalem, a new ‘green’ recruit, confronted them. Realizing he was no hero, the Arabs ridiculed him, and even took his gun and beat him up.”

As in so many incidents that enfolded in the early years of Zionism, often researchers have only had access to the version of events written by the Jewish side. At times, one could find another narrative – the official account of events as recorded by the local Ottoman administration. Still, a new document referring to the Zarnuka incident was discovered recently by researcher Yuval Ben Bassat, in the Istanbul Archives, a petition written to Sultan Mehmet V by heads of families in the area.

The petitioners present themselves as, “We, the residents of villages neighboring with the Jewish colonies of Daran [Rehovot] and Lun Kara (Rishon Leztion),” and complain that the Jews “wanted to strip the camel owner of their clothes, money and camels, but these men refused to give their camels and escaped from Lun Kara with their camels, protecting each other [to seek refuge with] men of the law… The above mentioned Jews attacked our villages, robbed and looted our property, killed and even damaged the family honor, all this in a manner we find hard to put in words.”

The villagers continue to voice their grievances about the Jewish attitude, the amassing of forbidden arms in the Jewish colonies, and even of bribery: “By payments they do whatever they want, as if they have a small government of their own in the country.”

The Zarnuka petition is but one of thousands of petitions sent from Palestine to Istanbul at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. A reading of this correspondence sheds light on the way rural Arabs viewed the first Zionist settlements, as well as irreconcilable differences between the local population and the new European immigrants.

A huge gap is evident concerning the concept of land and property. As far as the Jews were concerned, purchasing the land from its owners – usually landowners who lived elsewhere – gave them full control of all rights concerning the land. The local Fellaheen and Bedouins saw things differently, however. They believed that the fact that they had lived and cultivated the land for centuries granted them rights on the land.

Thus, for example, in 1890, a Bedouin tribe who cultivated the lands that would later be Rehovot, wrote: “Lately, the supreme government has sold the place to certain people of the land. We did not protest since the new owners of the land clearly knew that the place was cultivated and handled by us for many centuries… but, still in this condition, the land was suddenly sold to a group of foreign Jews [Asralin] who arrived with funds… They began to expel us from the land we lived on… the farm, which was ours since the times of our fathers and grandfathers, was forcefully taken from us by the strangers who do not wish to treat us according to the accepted norms among tillers of the soil, and according to basic human norms or compassion.

In short, they will not accept us, even as their slaves.” The tribe requested that the sultan issue a decree allowing them to remain on their lands, or, alternatively, allocate other land for them.