ֵ A journey to the unknown

This week’s parsha is Lech Lecha in which Abraham is called by G-d to leave his country and travel to an unknown land. “To the place where I shall show you”.  These were G-d’s words and G-d promises Abram that he will make of him a great nation and bless him.

I have been traveling in the last few weeks and although I planned to write my impressions earlier, it is today that I find myself ready to share my travel adventures.

When I heard about a JDC (Joint Distribution Committee) mission to Ethiopia my curiosity peaked. The trip was promoted as a journey of an immigrant from his homeland of Ethiopia to Israel.

All I knew was that in the 80’s there was Operation Moses where Jews from Ethiopia who walked to Sudan were airlifted to Israel. In the 90’s there was another operation called Solomon and more came, this time from Addis Ababa.

At that time I was living in the US, busy raising kids and, as an Israeli, acclimating to a new land and culture. I did not follow the plight of the Jews from Ethiopia.

We landed in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. It is a busy city with tall buildings, stores and lots of shanty towns. Old Eged buses (from Israel!), blue taxis (from Russia) and bikes are the mode of transportation…  not enough for the millions who live there, so you see many people walking. Kids coming from school in their uniform and women carrying dry wood collected in the forest on their backs. There is a lot of construction and dust. We toured the Ethiopian National Museum and saw “Lucy”.  Lucy consists of several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40% of a skeleton of a female of the hominid species and know by its Amharic language as “Dinkinesh” which means “you are marvelous”. We saw the Israeli embassy and met the ambassador; Belaynesh Zenaida, the first Ethiopian-born ambassador. We also met Dr. Rick Hodes who performs medical miracles on children with spinal conditions. He has been working tirelessly since the 1980’s on behalf of those without access to medical care. Although there are no more Jews left, it is important to maintain good relationship between the two governments.

The next day we flew to Axum, a town on the North which was once the crest of the Tigray Jewish community. There is only one paved road; the rest of the roads are unpaved and dusty. There are a few theories as to where the Jews came to Ethiopia from. One theory traces them to Yemen, the other claims that they came down from Egypt but the romantic legend is my favorite. It’s the story of the Queen of Sheba who traveled North to visit King Solomon, fell in love, converted to Judaism and bore a son to him and came back to live in Ethiopia. The story continues that this son went back to visit his father and one of his companions stole the Tablets of the Covenant which are housed in a church in Axum. We visited the church which is built like the Beit Hamikdash (The Temple in Jerusalem). We also saw Helen Sheba palace. We arrived to Axum on Friday and spend Shabbat touring the market which reminded me of the days of Abraham. People sitting on the ground with their merchandise. The Ethiopians are known for their coffee.  They meet three times a day for a coffee break and there is a whole ceremony built around this daily ritual.

We made havdala on top of a mountain overlooking the field of Teff (an Ethiopian grain that is also used to make Ingera; a special spongybread that’s used to eat the different foods and sometimes is used as utensils… yes, no need for fork and knife).

On Sunday we visited a school funded by the JDC. Some of the students walk a few miles by foot to get to the school.

There are no Jews living in the area. The “Beta Israel”; the Ethiopian Jews lived in villages and had their own schools and synagogue. They were called “Falashas” (the landless). The government owned the land and the Jews were mostly metal smiths and worked the land. Amram, who came with us, left his village when he was 5 years old and walked to Sudan with his family in the hope of reaching Jerusalem. “Jerusalem” was a magical word that described the longing for a better place. When reading the Haggadah on Passover we say “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Amram and his generation took it literally…. We walked up the mountain to reach his village; his former neighbors have taken over the abandoned homes. His village was near Mt. Sigd. Sigd is a Jewish holiday celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur only by Ethiopian Jews.

There was no running water or electricity in the village but the landscape is beautiful. I could imagine groups of people carrying their few belongings, walking through the fields and desert with a longing for Zion. We were following their footsteps, but before embarking on the plane to Tel Aviv we stopped at Lalibella.

Lalibela is called the New Jerusalem although there are no synagogues or strong Jewish history there, rather there are incredible churches carved into the ground. The air is crisp but the roads are unpaved. The homes are build from metal scrapes and wood. On an early morning walk you can see everyone waking up and washing their faces from water in plastic bottles.

I have read about third world countries; here I could see it with my own eyes.

We flew to Tel Aviv, landed in the middle of the night. We were told that when the Ethiopians arrived they did not know what Jerusalem looked like as it was only an idea and they thought that the lights at Ben Gurion Airport was Jerusalem… They were taken to Ofakim, a town in the Negev. I can only imagine their surprise on seeing running water from a faucet or flipping a switch to get light.

Thirty years passed and unfortunately the Ethiopian Jews are not fully accepted by the Israeli society. In the news you read about the injustice done to a soldier or the mistreating of a woman looking for a job just because her skin color is black.

We visited a few programs that deal with empowering the elderly through gardening and a  multi year holistic intervention for Ethiopian-Israeli school children. We visited an Ethiopian culture center in Kiryat Gat where many of them settled.

We learned that even a generation after the community immigrated to Israel, young adults share the same obstacles when looking for a job. At Ort school in Ramat Gan we talked to students at a special 18 month pilot program which is a collaboration with El Al to teach them to be airplane technicians with the promise of a job at the company upon graduation. We also met a young Ethiopian who in 2007 started a not-for-profit called “Olim Beyahad” (rising up together) aimed at helping Ethiopian Israelis who hold university degrees integrate into the forefront of the Israeli workforce.

Our guide, Gideon named the mission: “It takes a village”. At the end of the 10 days  we understood what he meant. Each individual  that embarked on the journey across the deserts of Sudan or to addis Ababa with the dream of Jerusalem had no clue what was there behind the rainbow. They came from small villages carrying their tradition and culture in their mind. It takes more then a village to welcome the newcomers into the family of Israel. There is a comedy skit by Arik Einstein called Aliya in which he portrays hows each wave of immigrants mocks the next wave of new comers but at the end we are all Jews and Israel is our homeland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collecting – Life Moments

A little girl, red basket in her hand, walks along the beach. Every other step, she bends down and picks up a shell. When the basket is full she dumps its contents with her mother; who sits nearby, and she continues. The sun is going down, its time to go home. When she gets home she will line all the shells on a special shelf. She likes to collect. She has 30 Barbie dolls, all types; they are from different nationalities and life-styles: “exercise Barbie”, “fashion Barbie,” “stewardess Barbie” and more. Each Barbie gets a shell as a present.

As kids we collect toys. I remember my son’s obsession with having all the different Power Rangers and then all the Ninja Turtles. It seems that with each year there was a new interest. It’s hard to let go, so the comic books, the Transformers, the baseball cards and the key chains all found their place in the basement. All of these are mementos of childhood. Each generation has it’s own collective interest.

There is an interesting show at the New Museum called The keeper. The exhibit is dedicated to the act of preserving objects, artworks, and images, but what makes it most interesting is the passion for accumulating Teddy Bear images by artist Ydessa Hendeles. I have seen another show of her work at the Helena Rubinstein Museum in Israel where she collected wooden dolls from the past century.

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Her installation takes most part of the second floor but other artists tell their story through the display of model houses or, for example, a drawing describing the horrors of the holocaust or painting by Hilma of Klint found after her death.

At ICP here

The exhibit is called “Public, Private, Secret” and is about people telling their story. There is a dialogue between and about the diversity of photographic and visual culture in a wholly unique and unexpected way. Each of the artists presented,tells their own story and by that telling we are experience and are drawn to be part of that story.

One photograph is a compilation of photos of people at a fashion show. We see their expressions and imagine what they see, what they think.

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Collecting is not only about art. We all love shopping for cloths and by this act we do collect. The idea of letting go of a favorite sweater or jacket is hard so we are left with a collection of “favorite cloths” that don’t always fit or may be out of the current fashion.

When my family moved to Westport from the city, the movers complained about the number of book boxes we had. We built a library on the second floor; needless to say it was not enough. We tried to categories the books according to our interests, religion, math, art, travel and more. My collection of cookbooks found it’s place in the kitchen and again some books were delegated to the basement.

Life would not be interesting without friends. It could be someone we met on a flight that becomes a friend or someone we see at the gym. Over the years we keep collecting friends. The friendships are the ties that help us go through life. We share happy and sad moments.

What I find fascinating is that as we age, our collective memories make up the building blocks that helps with the challenges of what we call The Third Age. Each experience enriches us. Our mind is like a computer that’s filled with data.

I spend the last week in Israel visiting my Mom. The Biennale of Israeli Ceramics at the Erez Israel Museum is an exhibit not to be missed.

There is also an interesting Picasso show at the Israel Museum. It’s called Drawing Inspiration. What strikes me is that at the age of 86 Picasso painted 365, which is an artistic autobiography, and one can look at as a collection of life-moments.

I started asking my mom to tell me about her life in Tel Aviv. To which school did she go? Who were her friends? Where was she when Ben Gurion declared the birth of Israel? I want to collect these memories, these are her personal stories and through them I get a glimpse of her in a different time and place.

I have seen the performances of an artistic group called Public Movement at the Tel Aviv Museum where they reenacted the declaration of the state and then took a group of ten people through the museum, behind the scenes and through the exhibits. There is a show at the Guggenheim museum called But a storm in Blowing from Paradise: contemporary Art from the Middle East and North Africa. The show presents works by artists from different countries including an interesting video by Uri Gersht walking in Eastern Europe and an installation of sand by Attiya. This exhibit also hosts a performance by the Public Movement Group. I signed up for a one-on-one briefing about art in Palestine before 1948. I did not know but according to their research there is a void and although art was created at that time there is hardly any art to be found by Palestinian artists at any museum in Israel or the West Bank. When I arrived at the museum, it was in the middle of installing a new show. I was met by an agent and was lead through back doors to a room on the 7th floor by the agent who proceeded to tell me the story of the lost art. Here again I found a collection of memories.

In the age of technology when we hardly stop to smell the roses or send a hand written note or read a book in real print, Collecting takes on a different meaning.

 

 

 

Tel Aviv-learn by night

I started thinking about this post almost two weeks ago so although Shavuot is over, it is still on my mind.

It’s Erev Shavuot. On this night it is the custom to study till daylight. Some say it is a cabalistic tradition, maybe that’s the source for the reason we dress in white or it could be,to symbolize purity in preparation of getting the Torah.

I have an image in my head of kids at a kibbutz seated on a wagon singing about the new harvest. In Hebrew it’s called Bikurim which has the same root as the word for morning, “Boker”. I wonder if studying all night till sunrise is also connected to the custom on learning all night.

I am in Tel Aviv. It is Saturday; Shavuot starts tonight. When I grew up there was not much to do during Shabbat. Stores and restaurants were closed, but over the last 35 years things have changed. Movie theaters, restaurants, galleries are now open. But with all these changes there is  still a feeling of Shabbat as no one goes to work and the streets are less busy with traffic. The beaches are filled with families and the promenade looks like a track field full of walkers and bikers .You can also spot a chasid going to shul.

I met friends for lunch  and we chose to see a movie that came out  about the Settler Movement. I was astonished to discover how this movement, which started with a small group of thirty people, grew over the next 40 years to a staggering number of 400,000.  The Settler Movement which is a critical and important issue to the well being of the State of Israel began, we learn, with a forced agreement by a small group of religious people who chose to make a point and live in the West Bank right after it was occupied by the Israeli army in 1967.

This Agreement was signed by Shimon Peres of the Labor Movement. When Menahem Begin became prime minister in 1977, he issued, with the help of Arik Sharon, massive building approvalIMG_1117s to continue and develop the area.  It is an ideological movement but many who live in the West Bank do so for financial reasons. I have not  lived in Israel during this period so it was informative to me  and answered some questions and filled the gaps on some facts. I am not sure a solution can be found. It will have to be a compromise. There are 400,000 people living over the “Green Line” and I cannot imagine asking them to move to other parts of Israel, whether it be the North or South. I believe that we have to start by building trust between the Jews and Arabs who live side by side and enjoy the same sunrise and sunsets.

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/1.700387  (an interview with the film director)

http://www.ijs.org.au/The-Settler-Movement/default.aspx

As the sun went down, we sat to eat the Shavuot meal of blintzes and cheese cake.

The Tel Aviv Municipality sponsored many “tikunim” or studies for the evening of Shavuot. I chose the one at the pluralistic congregation of Beit Daniel. The subject was: “What tomorrow will bring?”. It was 10 pm when I walked into the crowded sanctuary of the synagogue. I heard the author Yair Sachar talk about his book “The Third” about the building and destruction of the Third Temple. An imaginary tale of a contemporary building and destruction of the Temple using the belief in the return of the monarchy as a metaphor for a uprising by an army elitist commander unit. Well, I can not say it was a promising future but everyone is entitled to his opinion. The next lecture was by the author Yochi Brandes who talked about Rabbi Akiva.

She talked about her most recent novel, “Akiva’s Orchard,” Yochi Brandes spins a brilliant chapter out of the incident in Beni Brak, familiar from the Passover Haggadah, when five rabbis study ToIMG_1128rah all night until their students announce it’s time for the morning prayers. In Brandes’ take, the night is not about interpretative one-upsmanship, but rather is the very moment the bery format and content of the Peach Seder was determined. Shavuot is 49 days after we read the Haggadah. She raised the question of how Rabbi Akiva could emerge out of the Pardes (orchard) unharmed yet was part of the horrific decision of the Bar Kochba revolt. Yochi who comes from an orthodox upbringing has a gift of retailing biblical stories or creating bibliographies around the figures in Jewish history. It was a fascinating lecture and I am sure to read her books

 

It is now after midnight. The synagogue is still full; some are singing in the yard, some take a cup of tea or coffee. The night is not over. They are planning to stay until sunrise. I am going home to sleep.

Some say Tel Aviv is unlike any other place. Tonight I could see a glimpse of a future that can bring peace. Looking at the Torah from a cultural and not only religious perspective can unite us all.

I am back home. In today’s times there is an article about the denial of the” Rabanut” (the high rabbinical authority in Israel) to approve an orthodox conversion by an American rabbi. I ask myself is this where we are heading? Let us learn from Rabbi Akiva’s mistake and learn to sit together in harmony.

 

 

 

 

Messages in posters

There are many ways to tell a story. We can write a book. We can write a poem. We can draw a picture.

When we read the newspaper about current events, we form an opinion in our mind or create an image. When we see a photograph, it tells the story . When we stop at a newspaper store and try to figure which magazine to pick, the cover image hints at what’s inside.

At the Tel Aviv Museum of Art there is a retrospective of work by a graphic artist; David Tartakover. You can follow Israel’s history through his images. He has an image called “Ima” (mom) where you see a Palestinian woman peaking from behind a wall that is built around her home and an Israeli soldier watching her. When I think of the word “Ima” I think of my mom but this image reminds you that mothers, have an instinct of watching and caring.  When you enter the second room you see a wall of skeletons called: “Heads” which is a series of 208 digital prints taken from the book: “Bibi: Who are you Mister Prime Minister?”  When he was asked why the image? He said he found a book in a store near his home in Neve Zedek with a Bibi biography from 1969 and after reading it he started drawing these images, he could not give an explanation. It is obvious that Tartakover is critical of the political situation in this country.

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There are some beautiful drawings and more reflections on the politics of the day.

The top left corner is Haim Nachman Bialik, a poet. The right corner is Mayor Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv. The bottom left is Herzel and on the right is the Pasha from Jaffa.

The photo on the left is a composite of terror attacks in Tel Aviv (1994) , In Jerusalem (2001), in Hebron (2003), in Netanya (2002).

The writing on the right translates to :”Israel is not America”. This was done many years ago but it stands true today.

Last Wednesday I was watching a satirical show on Israeli TV with my mom. The show was interrupted by the news that there was shooting at the Sarona market. It is 15 minutes from her home. We saw helicopters circling above and heard sirens, as the hospital is also near. The mood changed immediately. There is a feeling of anxiety. Here we go again. After a relative quiet time with no terror attack or knife stabbing the sound of gunshot is an immediate reminder how a peaceful evening can be interrupted in a blink of an eye. Like a lion that woke from his nap; woke with a loud roar and with vengeance. The two terrorists dressed as business people  took handmade guns from their bags and started shooting. Four people dead and nine injured. It feels as though the whole country is mourning with the families. At this moment there is unity and political disagreements are brushed aside. How sad that terror has such power over our lives.

I read about an exhibit at the Islamic Museum of Art in Jerusalem called “A sign from Iran”. It gives us a glimpse into the contemporary design in Iran. Posters that describe the political situation. Posters that flood the social networks. All along the history of Iran, art was used as a tool to express political views. In a society when freedom of speech could cost a life. The art can transfer dual messages or messages hidden in a duality and allegorical way.

In this film,the traditional drawing of the woman is filled with letters.

We all wish for peace. It can be by spelling the word, SHALOM, or drawing a dove.

 

COME TOGETHER-Aipac 2016

“Come Together”. This is what the Aipac conference organizers chose to use as their slogan for this year. Its election year and it is important to stress that the relationship between Israel and America is bi-partisan. It does not matter which party the candidate comes from as long as s/he supports Israel. The idea that this year: 18,700 people gathered for two days of lectures and presentations and one day of lobbying is heart warming. I have been coming to this conference for the last 12 years and each time it gives me strength to see so many activists coming together and knowing that what brings them together is ISRAEL. The lobbying agenda does not seem to change much since I started coming to the conference. Iran, Foreign Aid and the security of Israel are the three topics that we make sure that our representatives pay attention to. This year we ask that they will sign a letter; one in congress and one at the senate.

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But let me start at the beginning.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and joined the shabbaton group for a Havdala service that featured Eli Gold, a comedian we heard before. It was a nice way to begin the three day marathon of seriuos lectures and presentations.

Sunday 8am started with breakfast for the national council with Tal Becker (Hartman Institute) telling us that Israel as a home for the Jewish People achieved a state of normality, Israelis want and need to be treated like part of the Hevre-like any other country. We are safer then we were in ’67 or ’73. There are thriving Jewish communities in Israel that are exceptional in technology. Our society has many challenges but we have to remember how much we have achieved. “The work we do at Aipac is a privilege that we should be proud of.”

This was a nice way to officially start the conference before an interview of Ambassador Ron Dermer by David Horowitz (editor of Times of Israel). The ambassador talked about the major threat on Israel: IRAN , IRAN, IRAN..It sounded like a broken record and although we have been talking about it for the last 10 years, it is still the most important issue we lobby for. He reminded us that Israel never asked for an American soldier to risk his or her life for our country but we need the monetary help and the back up of the American government. As for peace, President Abbas is not part of the solution. He refuses to sit down and negotiate.

Next we heard from John Jickenlooper, Colorado governor who talked about the BDS  (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement which divides us. Colorado, under his leadership to divest from any fund that ascribes to BDS. He also talked about the partnership regarding conserving water and aerospace. Colorado has a lot to gain from collaborating with Israel.

The first breakout session I chose was called “A Military Edge: Ensuring Israel’s Military Superiority.” Ron Prosor who was the Israeli ambassador to the UN talked about the challenges of using the UN as a place for talking and trying to bring the Arab world, Saudi, Egypt and Jordan to align with Israel. Daniel Tab from the Uk talked about the wave of immigration to Europe which is changing the map. The world is changing, the Arab world used to be first in math and architecture but there hasn’t been any further innovation. Their society cannot move forward. Israel needs to have an edge or Q. M. E.  (Quantitive Military Edge) to be secured. The next breakout session was about an Israeli TV show called FAUDA. It tells the story of an elite army unit whose soldiers train to go into the West bank dressed and behaving as arabs in order to target terrorists. Fauda means chaos in Arabic and its also used as a code word when the soldiers are discovered. It is fascinating. From the clips we could glimpse into the life of the Palestinians as well as the dilemma that confronts the Israelis.

The evening program started with Vice President Biden’s speech followed by Buji Herzog; the opposition leader who described his new peace/separation plan. He believes that we need to move from hoping for peace and a two state solution which he does not condemn but rather try to break the stalemate and combat terror and dis pare by encouraging investment and state-building in the areas that will form a future Palestinian State. Israel is a resilient nation and can overcome any challenge. He emphasized the importance of US-Israel relation.

The main attraction for day 2 were the presidential candidates. In the morning we welcomed Hillary Clinton and in the evening we heard from Kasich,Trump and Cruz.

Hillary talked about the shared alliance and commitment to strength of  Israel. She said that the next president will immediately face a world with peril and opportunities .

Kasich talked about his first trip to Bethlehem where he met Avital Sharansky. He promised to honor the legacy of President Truman. He mentioned the Jewish community of Ohio and the memorial for the holocaust. He believes that everyone needs to live his life bigger then himself to provide hope for a better world.

Trump started by talking about Iran and promised to dismantle the Iran deal. He continued by telling us about his marching in the Israeli day parade during a “dangerous time”. He promised to veto any resolution against Israel that will come in the UN. He said he will meet Netanyahu immediately after becoming president.

Cruz started by mentioning the story of Esther, as Purim will start in two days. He mentioned Elie Wiesel who said that silence encourages the tormentor not the tormented. He called to defend together the US-Israel friendship to the next generation and stand strong together.

Paul Ryan , the speaker of the house spoke as well and also condemned the Iran deal.

It was a long day. These last two days were filled with speeches.

Tuesday morning we heard from Bibi Netanyahu via video and Senator Melendez who is a great friend to Israel.

The learning part of the conference is over and it’s now time to lobby which is the most important action. The impact of 18,000 people on the hill with a unified message of Israel is too powerful to describe. Each congressman and senator will be visited by an activist. Lets hope we can bring peace and be successful in pleading the case for Israel.

 

Art: New York – Tel Aviv

I am sitting at the  airport waiting for a flight to Israel reflecting on last week art exploration. I will miss the Armory show but i know I will see some art on my travels.

A weeek ago it was raining, sitting at home was not an option but seeing the show that just opened at the Guggenheim Museum was the thing to do.

It’s a show by two artists who collaborated together over 30 years. It’s really a retrospective by the Swiss artists Peter Fisceli and David Weiss. They use the alter ego of a rat and bear. One is ugly and one is cuddly. Their work spans multi disciplines. You can find incredible videos, sculptures of basic shapes like a circle or drawing with words that describe the world from their eyes. On the third floor there is a display of duo sculptures  which describe opposites emotions  as sad and happy, high and low and more. One feels like one is walking into the mind of the artists.

It is an unusual retrospective as the work is not set in a chronological order. One feels like an explorer and can be part of the creation of the art.

Next I chose to explore some exhibits in Chelsea. Here is what I was able to see within two hours.

Paul Kashmir Gallery on 515 west 27 had a show of Kenneth Nolan, bright colors, not so exciting. I think the show closed and he is showing some new artist.

Fredericks & Freiser Gallery on 24th street has a group show. Mostly it’s bright colors and geometric shapes. One artist in particular caught my eye; Cary Smith. I have seen his work at the Aldrich Museum, his work is  refreshing and it  makes me happy just think of it.

On the same Street, a few galleries east, Jack Shainman Gallery is showing a South African artist name Claudette Schreuders.  The sculptures are great but the lithographs are even better and  are actually affordable.

I will  have to go back to pick one.

Off to 20th street, the Jack Shainman second gallery which is really his first, has a show of three artists; El Anatsui with his metal scrap pieces that creates a carpet, Bernd and Hila Becher show their series of  water tower photographs and Maya Lin who designed the Vietnam memorial with sculptures and video that’s called “What is Missing”.  This group show is called “Of a Different Nature”. Each of these artists is great on his/her own.

My next stop was at David Zwirner Gallery. You have to take off your shoes and enter the mystical, magic world of Doug Wheeler. A play with fluorescent light. You can see the relations between light and space. It’s called “Encasements”.

To finish the day I stopped at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery on 22nd street to see the Amy Silman show. She had a retrospective a few years ago at the Boston Museum but here we see some familiar work and as well as some new and exciting pieces.

Five days in Israel, I had to check what’s new at the Tel Aviv Museum. I saw an amazing exhibit by the prolific, complicated artist Roee Rosen. It a survey of his works but this was not clear when you enter the exhibit.  There are four portraits and names of artists and I assumed that these are artists that Roee was inspired or influenced by. I asked myself whether he curated his own show or maybe some are his works and wondered, is so, which ones? Well, after spending two hours between the works that touched on different mediums: video, painting, writing, photography and the printed book I was still not clear whose work I was experiencing. Honestly I was confused, something did not compute. On further research I realized that my assumption was all wrong. Roee invents characters and creates body of work for them so Justin Frank, Maxim Komian, Mishkin are all Roee. The work “A virtual Journey through Eva Braun’s Eyes” is all from Roee’s own imagination.

He is either a genius or has multiple personalities, or maybe both… I will leave it to my psychology friends to analysis.

I think this show is a must-see but needs time to understand  the complexity of the work.

In the past few years I have started to work with clay so when I saw the display in the basement of the museum of what looked like a potter’s workshop I was drawn to explore.

Ben Hagari video of pottery starts with him making a vessel on a wheel. You only see hands, then the artist covers himself with clay and moves slowly towards the fire… while a snake crawls on him. The movements of creating the pot and the snake slithering seem to be in rhythm. It is amazing.

I find it interesting that the two shows; Peter Fisceli and David Weiss at the Guggenheim and Roee Rosen at the Tel Aviv Museum, although continents apart are both complex body of work by very creative prolific artists.

 

 

What does it mean? Democracy

For the last two weeks I’ve been in Israel to celebrate my mom’s birthday. The weather is warm; sitting in the garden at The Norman Hotel is magical. Israeli breakfast which includes fresh tomatoes, salad, fresh eggs, cheeses and great bread is a must. The cafés are full of people, all day long and breakfast is served anytime of the day.

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Tel Aviv changing skyline

Tel Aviv changing skyline

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We heard about a rally for democracy that will take place in Rabin square. Upon arriving at the square I was struck by the number of young high school kids, most of them in scout uniform. The signs read “enough to racism, yes to peace” another smaller one said ” Bib will bring us to the next war”. There were no political speeches only a call for peace, accepting the other, being united. Naftali’s mother ( one of the boys who were kidnapped and killed during the summer) spoke in a passionate way about being tolerant and hoping for peace. Later I found out that the rally was primarily meant for the youth. To empower the next generation and give them hope.

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I met with a young comedy writer who is planning a conference called “Comedy for a Change“,  what a great idea. Israelis like to make fun of themselves and of everyday events. I guess comic relief is part of life. Friday night there is a new comedy show called ” The Jews are Coming” which mocks biblical and Jewish historical events. Maybe we could bring it to the American TV …. Israel is more than “Homeland” war shows..

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Saturday morning we joined a group called ” Machsom Watch” which mean “gate keepers”.  It was started by women whose mission is to make sure that human rights issues are kept at the checkpoints. We wanted to see what happens on the other side. How does the West Bank look from a different point of view. Olive trees fill the scenery.  Arabs are waiting at a crossing . They are resigned to the situation, there is not much they can do. In another town there is a demonstration every Friday morning demanding to open a road that is too close to the settlement nearby and is closed to the villagers for “security reasons”. That means that the farmer has to go around to get to his grove. We stop for falafel and sweet cheese desert. On the way to Tel Aviv we stop at ELhanan; a Jewish settlement and see another crossing where the fence surrounds an Arab house; ” Hani’s” home.  Mr. Hani was given a key to the gate so he can enter his home. The settlement houses are a stone throw away. When you look at the map there is area C where Israelis can travel and the settlements are near each other with some arab villages in between, then there is area A which occupy the middle of the West Bank where it is  ruled by Palestinians. We could draw a border line which will include all these settlements but it includes the green line. Unfortunately no one agrees on the placement and the conflict, the arguments, the disappointment, the fighting and the demonstrations continue.

On the way home we hear of clashes near the Calandia crossing in east Jerusalem, Some Palestinians tried to climb over the fence. In the north Israeli Arabs and Druze were fighting over wearing a cafia.

A few days later we are shocked by the killing of five rabbis in a synagogue in Har Nof. I cannot erase the images of the bloody talit and prayer book from my mind.

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I visit the Israel Museum and climb on the Big Bamboo , the biggest installation by the artists Mike and Doug Starn. From the top you get a 360 degree view of Jerusalem. I sit on  top and meditate. My country is full of beauty, the population is diverse, there are so many faces, there are so many smart people, lots of inventions. You need to use all five senses to really appreciate it all.

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The Knesset is trying to pass a new law, Nationality Law,the right wing emphasize that Israel is ” a national home for the Jewish people in which he fulfills his desire for self-determination in accordance with historical and cultural heritage: a right that is unique to the Jewish people but Prime Minister Netanyahu suggests a compromise “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state “ . The debate can topple the goverment but it could alienate the Jews who live outside of Israel. It all sound like political games to me.

Kadishman, an artist I like wear a kippa that says “Mashich is not coming, he is not even calling” the words are from a song by Shalom Chanoch about a buisnessman who is not fullfiling his obligations ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucWs-5xprD8), but did we loose hope for a brighter future.

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Shabbath is coming, My mom lights the shabbath candles and says a special prayer for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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I am on my way home, I have been away for two an half weeks but lots happened, I pray for peace, I pray for finding a way to bridge the gaps.

Although sometimes it seems that there is no end to the conflict …. when you hope for a break you get hit by a terror attack .

Today, it’s the deadline for the talks with Iran. There are so many unsettling situations, so many unknowns. I feel that there is turmoil, the earth is bubbling.

I don’t have answers but I know we all need to be together and help spread the creativity, the tastes, the smells, the beauty that is my country-Israel.

What’s inside the sandwich ?

It’s saturday morning , It’s quiet in Tel Aviv, the streets are empty. I am walking in “old “Tel aviv among refurbished buildings. It’s November and I am back in Israel to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

The last two weeks I took care of my two adorable grandkids while their mom went to visit her grandparents. It was an honor to be asked and I said “yes” without hesitation. The idea of spending two weeks with these little munchkins was tantalizing.

I put on hold any my regular schedule and started planning . We planned to spend the weekend in the country so a trip to the farm to enjoy pumpkin picking, hay ride and rolling in a heap of corn kernels was one of the activities.

Weekdays are school days; the boys follow a routine, wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed and out the door by 8:15. Our ride in the stroller is a spaceship, it’s grandpa’s game and it works. I have free time till 2:00 but after exercise , grocery shopping and catching up on emails, it was time to go back to school for pick up. “Safta, did u bring a snack?” Let’s go to the playground and here we go …. play time ,dinner, bath, reading and bed..

Two days into this routine I was struck by the realization that being a full-time mom is a full-time job. When my youngest left to college and there was no one to wait for late at night or prepare breakfast or lunch or dinner for, I kept asking so what’s next.  I also wondered how quickly the years went and what happened to me? When I grew up I did not see myself being a stay-at-home-mom as my mom was but here I am… being a stay-at-home-mom. “Stay at home” grandma was just a reminder of how rewarding it is to be greeted with a hug and a big smile. To witness the joy of reading a new book, build a 3D puzzle or playing hide and seek.

Two weeks went so fast.  The last night I was sad.  Who is going to come wake me up in the morning, pillow and blankly in hand asking to sleep in my bed ..but ..there will be more sleepovers.

I had a day to pack , hop on a plane and here I am…  on to care for my beloved mom. As she gets older and is not able to travel much I find myself on the New York-Tel Aviv route every few months as though to compensate for the years I was busy raising and caring for my own kids . Now my mom needs me by her side. To hold her soft hand, to take walks to the neighborhood coffee house to visit the museum or go to a concert . I listen to her stories from her youth growing up in Tel Aviv. I try to make her forget the pains of growing old. The pictures of her grandkids and great grandkids light up her face and makes her happy.

I am the bridge , I let my grandkids ride on my back and my mom to hold my hand.

So, when I sit on a plane flying East I think of this beautiful combination and how lucky I am to be able to enjoy these precious times… and be the jelly in this wonderful sandwich

May we all have many years to enjoy each other.

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I am in the west and my heart is in the east

Thursday, July 31, I flew back home. It was hard to leave.

When I landed, I learned that a ceasefire will start Friday at 8am, but by the time I sit down to sum up my “adventures” this past week, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a tunnel creating a diversion and one Israeli soldier was kidnapped and two soldiers died.  All that ended the ceasefire which lasted maybe one hour.

Last Saturday another ceasefire was declared. Early morning while waiting for my friend to go for a walk it felt calm….

The streets are empty of cars, you can hear the birds. At 8am you can spot some people going to shul with their talitot on and some walk in their running shoes. It’s the 19th day since operation “Protective Edge” or in hebrew “Tzuk Eitan” started, and as a ceasefire was declared since 8am the optimist in me is looking forward to a quiet day, a true Shabbath.

My friend chose the route. We walked through Rothchild blvd to Neve Tzedek then the beach promenade. Usually by 9am the promenade would have been packed, but not this morning. We did see some surfers in the water and bike riders. We finished the loop through Dizengoff Street and Nordau Blvd. I decided to visit my cousin who just moved from the Arava (Negev Desert) to Michmoret, a yishuv by the sea. His son is in a special unit operating in Gaza. They haven’t seen him for six weeks. To the excitement of new home there is a layer of anxiety. We all hope for a safe return for all the soldiers.

The day is quiet, no rockets, who knows maybe this time the cease fire would hold..

In the afternoon I met a young man who spent the last 12 days in Israel as part of Taglit (Birthright). He was not fazed by the situation. He felt safe and traveling to Masada, the Western Wall and the Golan Heights gave him a sense of the country. He said that he was confident with his Jewish identity but now after the trip he connects to the country and plans to come back. That brought a ray of sunshine to know that the magic is here no matter how scary it might seem when reading the paper.

I heard that there was going to be a demonstration in Kikar Rabin this evening. The “Left ” were going to demand a ceasefire. I don’t believe we are ready for unconditional ceasefire, all the humanitarians ceasefires were kept by Israel and were broken by the Hamas who kept sending rockets towards Israel.

Arriving to Kikar Rabin we saw people holding signs that said Jews and Arabs don’t want to be enemies. But mostly people were talking to each other, you could hardly hear the speakers and no one around me knew who they were.

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The municipality building was lit with the Star of David

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There were police guarding the demonstration and on the other side of the Kikar the people on the “Right” were holding Israeli flags and contesting the left. The whole demonstration lasted 2 hours and it was over. On the news they said that there were clashes but I did not see any.

All week I felt the unity; unity in the government, unity among the people, no matter what one’s political orientation. It felt that the whole country is united against the evil Hamas. There is one mission we stand for and it is to make sure that the threat of the tunnels will be obliterated.

Shabbath is over, a rocket was shot towards Ashkelon. Officially there is a ceasefire but again it was broken.

I planned to take my mom on a retreat, away from constantly watching TV. There is a new hotel spa only 35 minutes from Tel Aviv so although rockets continue falling and fighting goes on in the south , life must go on.

Two days of pampering worked, my mom was able to relax.
Monday night at 2:30am there was an alert siren in Tel Aviv, at least we escaped that.

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Wednesday morning I spend with Justin who works for JDC visiting an elderly center in Bat Yam. I was impressed at the activities . Bat Yam has a mostly elderly population and these days it’s important to make them feel safe.

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Wednesday evening my friend invited me to a play by an Israeli playwright who is known for his macabre humor. The play’s name is “We all want to live”. Before the play started to a full theatre the main actor came out and gave us instructions of where to go if there will be a siren. A sobering reminder that although we are attending a cultural event we cannot forget what’s happening outside the theatre hall.

I am taking the 4pm El-AL flight back to the States. It was not easy to leave. I did not want to leave my family, and friends. I did not want to leave my country . Life goes on but you can sense the anxiety, you can sense the uncertainty. Reading the newspapers I felt like many other Israelis …. isolated. I felt that the world does not get it. The world does not understand.

I know that I am rambling. I know I am emotional.
I pray for Peace. I Pray for the end of the conflict. I pray that all the soldiers will be back.

Some statistics are in order, Operation Protective Edge is on it ‘s 26th day.

2,874 rockets shot towards Israel, Hamas claims to have 20,000 rockets.

It is not entirely clear how many tunnels there are but Israel estimates around 50

63 Israeli soldiers died since the beginning of the operation.

For more info check : mfa.gov.il , Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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TO LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tel-Aviv- red alert

My mom needed new shoes so we headed to the mall. The car in front of me suddenly stopped, the driver came out and the Israeli in me wondered, hey what are you doing? He pointed to the sky.. A red light went up, whoa its a siren. So we left the car in the middle of the road and went to the nearest building…  stayed there till the siren sounded again, signaling that it’s safe to come out. Later I found out that there were three rockets aimed near that were intercepted by Iron Dome. To my amazement everything continued as usual. All I could think is how frustrating it is to think of when and where the next siren will sound. Art is a great therapy. We can make weapons into beautiful objects and maybe they will loose their destructive connection. 20140724-160036-57636639.jpg 20140724-160037-57637334.jpg 20140724-160037-57637699.jpg In the evening we said fare well to President Peres and welcome the new Israeli President 20140724-160141-57701166.jpg 20140724-160141-57701364.jpg It’s 12pm on Friday, on my way to meet a friend and the alarm sounded. My brother and I went to stand in the hallway in our apartment building.  We heard four explosions and then it was over. My mom met a friend for coffee and they used the shelter in the restaurant. Life goes on but Rothschild Boulevard is not as busy. There is a feeling of numbness. One has to think twice before going to the beach or a restaurant- is there a shelter nearby? It’s almost Shabbat.  I pray that Hamas would take a rest. I pray that all the wounded will be well soon, I pray that we will have a true cease fire and not just a temporary relief , I pray for PEACE. If you read till now you realized that this post was supposed to be published on Friday..  There was a cease-fire that started Saturday at 8am but Friday evening during Shabbat diner at my brother’ home out side of Tel Aviv, the alarm sounded. We all went to the Miklat (Shelter) and when the boom sounded …  it was safe we came out. A miracle happened and Hamas held up and there were no further rockets shot during Shabbat. We all could use a day of rest. … Shabbat Shalom.