ֵ 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.

 

Contemporary art in old palaces

I returned few weeks ago from a trip to Morocco. As you read in previous posts we immersed in the culture and the jewish community but what picked my interest were two exhibits that showed that Morocco is moving forward.

The museum of contemporary art in Rabat was build by King Muhammad V in the last ten years and houses art by Morocco artist from the 60th till now. You can the influence of world art on the Moroccan artists.

The photo in the middle is of the king.

Next I found out that in the last 6 years Moroccans have been hosting a biennale in Marrakech and as this was out next stop on the trip I could not pass this opportunity to see it.

Artists from Africa and the middle east were invited to place their art in old palaces. It was fascinating to see Elanazue humongous piece as a wall hanging among the ruins of the palace. Each artist was given a space to crate and the results can be seen through some of the photographs.

My fascination with placing contemporary art in old mansions led me to the newly opened Renwick Gallery in Washington Dc. The show is called WONDER. Nine contemporary artists created site specific installations. Each artist took over a gallery. The artists used material that are found and therefore it gives the feeling of craft and not the usual paint or photography. Light plays an important roll in viewing the works. It does leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement.

 

 

From Fès to Rabat – honoring the king

We arrived to Fès which is North of Casablanca at night. The Hanair Hotel sits on hill and we could see the whole city from our room.

Today, the Jewish population is small but when you visit the cemetery you find graves of tzadikim from the 18th century and a royal blue building marks the grave of Soulela, a young girl with whom the prince fell in love. The king, at that time, decreed that all Jews had to convert to Islam, and many did…. but Soulela refused. The legend tells that they dragged Soulela around the city and left her head on a stick. Her remains are buried here. She is a symbol of the strong Jewish identity and the pride the Jews in Morocco have to their believes. [Some would argue that Soulela’s behaviour contrasts favourably with that of Maimonides, who as a young man in Fès reportedly converted to Islam see here – ed] As we saw in Essaouira the graves are painted white. The name of the cemetery is “Beit HaChaim” which translates as “The House of the Living”. There is a strong belief in Morocco in praying  at the graves  of the tzadikim, scholars, and asking for a blessing.


  
Next to the Mellah ( Jewish quarter) is the King’s palace. We tried to take a photo of the guards but were chased by the palace guards who demanded that we delete them. The artwork on the palace gates is typical of Moroccan intricate carving. Fès is know for its artists. We visited a pottery factory and watched the potter literally grow a tagine dish and of course had to shop, for some to bring home.


  
The medina is the largest in the country. We walked through the narrow alleys and through the shouk, shopping for carpets and leather goods. It was exhausting.  When you buy any item at the shouk the haggling starts, it is a ritual that left us tired.

We left Fès and rode the bus to Rabat, the capital. We had a “date” with a Colonial Major and Mr. David Toledano, the head of the Jewish community in Rabat to lay a wreath at the tomb of King Muhammad the V and King Hassan the II. After laying the wreath, the Rabbi said El Moleh Rachamim and the colonel thanked us for coming. King Muhammad the V protected the Jews from the Vichy government during World War II [see here] and that was our way of saying thanks.


 
Lunch was held at Mr. Toledano’s home and Mr. André Azoulay who is the advisor to the king joined us. This is a Muslim country and although the Jewish population feels comfortable, it is important to know the King. Mr. Azoulay talked about the Israeli dignitaries who visited Morocco and about his desire to help negotiate peace in Israel. There used to be an Israeli embassy in Morocco but it closed when the Intifada started. Today Israelis need a visa to visit Morocco, many come on a “Roots trip” to look for their ancestors graves and homes. Mr. Toledano’s home is in an area called Sale where the we saw the American embassy and others.  Also in attendance was the US Deputy Chief of Mission Matthew Lussenhop and Kyle Spector, Foreign Service Officer.

In the afternoon I decided to check the newly built Contemporary Museum. It has a nice exhibit of Morocco Now art since the 195’s. As we were planning to visit the Moroccan Biennale in Marrakech, it was a good preview.

On the way back to the hotel we passed the Palestinian Embassy which brought to mind the reality, as comfortable as we feel now it can all change in a heartbeat..

Rendezvous in Casablanca – Weekend by the sea

It’s been 35 years since I visited an Arab country.  The first time was during our honeymoon to Egypt. I remember thinking at the time that even though Israel had signed a peace treaty I should not speak Hebrew. Well, after getting a cup of coffee, being polite, I said “TODA”. The waiter smiled and wanted to know all about the Israeli girls in Tel Aviv. There went my cover…

Fast forward last week, I flew from Israel through Paris to Casablanca. Men wearing long galabias, women with head coverings are the sights that welcome at the airport. I remind myself that I’m here on a JDC mission to explore the life of the Jews in this country. 350,000 Jews lived in Morocco prior to the 1950s and Jews have lived in Morocco since the 18th century. But only few thousands are left today. The king’s grandfather, King Muhammad the V protected the Jews during WWII.  Many Jews left after the six day war due to unrest but those who stayed do not currently have to fear for their safety.

There is something mysterious about this country-Morocco.  Maybe it’s the bright colors or the delicious food or the stories about Alibaba and all the evil eye superstition. I knew on coming that there is a lot to uncover.

We left the airport and  drove four hours South to the seaside town of Essaouira. The landscape reminded me of southern Israel. Flat, fields of wheat, some sheep grazing. Very picturesque.  Essaouira is a port city.  Its buildings are painted in blue and white. The sand is soft, the sea was calm but we heard it’s the best place for surfing. We entered the Medina, the walled city, walked through the shouk, picked fish at the port which we had cooked for lunch.

The Jewish history is rich but out of the 35,000 Jews who lived here, one is left.We visited the Rabbi Chaim Pinto synagogue which is used for ceremonies. The cemetery which is located by the sea had silhouettes of women and men on the gravestones but no names. We were told that the Rabbi had a list of who is buried where.  Later the custom changed and we found some graves with Hebrew writing but it was hard to find a name as the letters eroded over time. There are two other synagogues that are being restored but most of the houses in the Jewish Quarter (the Melach) were destroyed.

There was tranquility in the air, it felt like a vacation. Tomorrow we will go to Casablanca to meet the rest of the group and start our mission.

Ma’al-salamah (with peace) Essaouira.


  Portuguese arch , star of David signify a Jewish home  Annual “Fantasy” commemoration of Independence from the French
 Rabbi Chaim Pinto grave in cemetery. Nameless graves identified by chart.Which would you have for lunch??

  Berber Musicians  Argan nuts.

It was mostly a boring ride but we did discover some goats on a tree.  Yes it’s an argan tree and they just wanted to eat some nuts and entertain the passengers.

Casablanca is a bustling city, lots of people on the streets, just hanging , walking , haggling to sell something or just busy going to work. It’s a business city. We took a driving tour and saw some nice villas and lots of construction.

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King Hassan II commissioned a French architect to build a mosque that will provide Casablanca with a single landmark monument. He was hoping to finish it for his 60th birthday but it took few more years. The result is the third biggest mosque in the world. 25,000 worshippers can be inside and 80,000 outside. It took around 10 years to build the mosque.  The moorish designs are incredible. I must say it is intimidating to imagine so many people listening to one person. The influence that one person, the imam, can have on all those who came to pray is scary.

great mosque womens sectionWomen’s section at the mosquedsc05915The Mosque in Casablanca

great mosque hamama

The Hammam at the bottom of the mosque. It has never been used.

 There are 3 Jewish clubs in Casablanca. We ate at the one that has some tennis courts. We had a nice kosher meal and continued to the only Jewish museum in the arab world to see some of the treasures that were collected after the Jews left.

The Jewish community in Casablanca amounts to a few thousand Jews. There are many synagogues, most of them are family synagogues.  Few primary Jewish school, a co-ed Maimonides high school, some kosher butchers. We visited the Neve Shalom primary school. The kids were singing in Hebrew  and getting ready for Purim. At the high school we met with students.  Jewish and Muslims who are studying together and learning to respect each other. We visited an old age home and a clinic that serves the needy with their health needs. From a glance you can sense the pride that Jewish Moroccans have for their country and heritage. Although the young generation leaves the country to study abroad and, for the most part not return, the hope is that the king will continue to favor the Jews and maybe more will come back.

As they say in Arabic, Inshallah or in Hebrew Amen..

We bid goodbye to Casablanca and to Rick’s cafe and Humphrey Bogart and continue North to Fez. Stay tuned for the next post.

 

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.

 

 

Art-Miami 2015

The week after Thanksgiving I flew South to Miami. Even with global warming, New York has started to get cold so a little sun and little art made sense.

Well…. I did see Art but although it was not cold it rained and was windy.

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Janet, Ronit and the Pink Ladies, Adele and Eva

Janet, Ronit and the Pink Ladies, Adele and Eva

 

When it comes to Art Basel – Miami 2015 it was an uber plethora of fairs. Close to 20 different fair and museum shows and gallery pop-ups . There was no way I could cover it all but here are some of my favorites.

Pink was the color chosen to welcome the fair goers: Untitled on the beach  and design Miami among them

Ceramic was everywhere, creative and looking primitive but colorful.

 

hass brithers

Hass Brothers

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley

Katsuyo Aoki

Katsuyo Aoki

Kusama

Kusama

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Talking about primitive…. the Perez Museum had a show of Aboriginal Art from Australia. I found it meditative and sometime … my eyes just saw dots. Maybe that’s what Kussama saw when she created her Christmas tree.

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The main fair at the convention center was full of big name artists and some emerging ones at Nova.

Overall there was comfort in seeing familiar names and colorful works. It brings a smile and elevates the spirit when it rains outside and the news is not so uplifting.

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Thursday morning , The Rubell’s presented their collection which this year was themed, No Man’s Land showing women artists and offered with an artistic breakfest created by their daughter Jennifer. This year we were treated to buttered bread.

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Hanukah is here! At Design Miami there was an installation called EL SOL, sun,  by FR-EE  Fernando Romero Enterprises, a Mexican artist using Swarovski crystals to create an installation that explores humankind’s relationship to the sun

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Is it Saigon or Ho-Chi-Minh??

We arrived at the last stop on our vacation. It’s the longest time that we have been away from our family and we miss them all.
The capital of Vietnam has had name changes that reflect the ruling “party” and just like in olden days when a new king came to power the old temple gods were destroyed, so too in modern day Vietnam.. the names of cities change with a change in ruling power. The capital of the South was called Saigon but when the North won the war and the name changed in 1975 to Ho chi Minh to honor the North’s communist leader. (see)
The sheer number of motorcyclists is mindboggling.  They even take to riding (or is it swarming) on the sidewalks during rush hour. It’s like an army attacking the road. You’d think that you’d get used to seeing this mode of transportation but it is endless…

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We walked around central city and took the elevator 49 floors to the top of The Bitex center to get a 360 degree view of the city.

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The architecture is a mix of French colonial with magnificent building mixed with more typical small building.

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We visited the Post Office building which is a working post office, then off to the Notre-Dame Cathedral and to the Presidential palace or as it was renamed The Reunification Palace. Lots of important meetings took place here and there is huge bunker in the basement. It’s an impressive building built in the 1960 architecture style surrounded by palm trees with a helicopter pad on the roof. It is associated with the 1975 fall of Saigon to the North , yet it is as though time stood still.

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The war remnants museum is a reminder of the Vietnam War. There is an exhibit that details the US involvement and an exhibit of war photos among them the famous naked girl running from a napalm bomb. I have been reading the book ” The Girl in the Picture” which gives a detailed description of those days. There are also photos of the victims of Agent Orange the chemical weapon that was used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Remnants_Museum

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Vietnamese use herbs to cure almost anything.  We visited the Fito museum which is an old house in the Chinatown neighborhood and learned that the bones of different animals can produce different medicines. Dried herbs are used with water to remedy other stuff. Cinnamon for example mixed with water can cure diarrhea.

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To finish our tour we visited two temples. One is a religion called Caodi which is a monotheistic religion established in 1926.

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Our adventure is almost over. We started in Hong Kong which is reminiscent of New York with the tall buildings and a modern skyline.  Then we flew south to Cambodia to embrace the ancient temples of Ankgor Watt . We then continued to Vietnam; starting in the North and going down south as-if following the communist Viet-Cong on their way to conquer the south. It is a different world. We tasted different foods with different spices. We learned about the religion.  We talked to people who grew up after the war yet carry in their DNA the effects of the war.

Vietnam is a communist-run country with strong capitalistic influences. The government is corrupt but there is no alternative…  yet. There is beauty in that world and I am glad we chose to go there.

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