In my estimation a museum is successful if it has a defined mission, presenting interesting and thought provoking special exhibitions, and has a good permanent collection following this mission with a variety of works, more than a “one each” of the latest and greatest. Jerusalem has two such museums though very different in focus. The Israel Museum is a very well respected museum and has a very large collection that spans the ancient art of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, as well as a fine collection of art of the 20th and 21st centuries. There is always something new and inspiring to see. In addition to a James Turrell exhibit (an artist who is a master of using actual light, illusion, and color), the two exhibits we explored were “The Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe” and “Face to Face: the Oldest Masks in the World.”
The masks are incredibly well preserved and are about 9000 years old. They have been dated based on other materials found in the area where they were excavated.
The second museum we visited has a unique focus. It’s called Museum on the Seam: A socio-political contemporary art museum. It’s housed in a former army outpost on the former border (seam) between Israel and Jordan. It was built in 1932 by the Barmki family and stands near the Mandelbaum Gate, the only entry into what was until 1967 the divided city of Jerusalem. The museum was founded by Raphie Etgar, whose goal was (and is) to show art that addresses human rights and civic engagement. The show we saw was “And the Trees Went Forth to Seek a Queen”: our relationship to leaders both public officials and charismatic religious and social leaders.
As we were leaving the museum, we met the director/curator Raphie Etgar who gave us the sad news that the benefactor (a German non-Jewish family) who has been the sole support of this museum has decided to no longer fund it. He had just received this news himself and we could tell he was still in shock. It looks like the museum will have to close at the end of this year. Very sad, especially at such a difficult time in peacemaking in this part of the world. The last image in the blog is a photo of us in his office talking about this sad situation and how they might continue their valuable work. We discovered that this museum is responsible for the “Coexist” exhibit that traveled the world and you are likely to have seen the bumper stickers even in our small town of Mendocino. Check out the museum’s website to learn more.
We’ve visited a number of small communities that have reminded us of home but spent the night in the guest house of a Kibbutz (cooperative community). It was a lovely place very quiet and peaceful. They are very good at what we like to call reduce/reuse/recycle. You’ll see what I mean. On the way north we stopped in a nature reserve called Ein Afek and ended up in Tzfat where we’ll be spending a few days quietly relaxing.
The town of Zichron Ya’akov which now has a population of 18,000 was established as a small village in 1882 by the French Baron Edmond de Rothschild who wanted to establish Jewish settlements throughout the north of Israel. Even then it was determined that this was an excellent wine growing region and so establishment of a small town based around winemaking became very successful. Rothschild brought in architects and planners from France to build French style stucco houses with tile roofs, and small gardens. A number of them can still be seen in the historic center of town. This town is the home of the Carmel Winery, which is the largest winery in Israel. It’s the Israeli equivalent of Manischewitz though has more varieties of wines they produced.
While Katzrin (also spelled Qatzrin) is a planned town in the Golan of about 7000 people, it has also been inhabited since the Bronze Age and there is an archaeological park well excavated and “restored.” Restoration is always a tricky thing as sometimes it goes too far and becomes more recreation than restoration. We saw that first hand in Myanmar and those of you in Art 1B learning a bit about this in our discussion of Tibet: Temple at Mustang.
Katzrin has an active educational program where they do demonstrations about life in the 3rd to 4th century when Katzrin was an active Jewish village that was subsequently destroyed by an earthquake and abandoned. We visited on a day that there were no demonstrations so we did some guessing on “life” in Katzrin, especially revolving around olive oil production, something that is a major commodity produced in the Golan today.
As I work on this posting there is a funeral going on downstairs for the head Rabbi of a Yeshiva (school) across the street from my daughter’s apartment. A heinous attack took place in the western part of Jerusalem this morning as people were leaving morning prayers. Four were killed and nine are in the hospital. It’s very subdued here in the city today and we have heavy hearts wondering how peace will ever come to this part of the world.
End of last week we spent some time in my favorite part of Israel, the Galilee and explored a bit of the Golan, the area bordering between Israel and Syria that became part of Israel in 1967.
The Museum of Islamic Art in downtown Jerusalem was opened in 1974. It is divided into two sections, the first a compendium of religious works and the Muslim world’s contributions to science, astronomy, medicine, and cultural riches. The second part of the museum is historical from prehistoric times through the various civilizations of the Near East to Ottoman and Mughal art. For those of you in my classes this semester you will recognize some of the symbols, styles, and media of Islamic art both ancient and more contemporary. And for all, notice how this museum attempts to give context to works of art many of which are out of their normal environment.
I am in Jerusalem to meet my new grandson who was born Thursday, November 6th the day before I arrived. My daughter and her family live in a neighborhood in Jerusalem called Sandheria, and her immediate surroundings are filled with other Americans living here without their families. This is a neighborhood that most tourists don’t visit and since women who are married cover their heads with hats and/or wigs I’m the only gray haired one around. Here are some images from the neighborhood and a little more afield as we’ve been taking long walks every day.
Obviously I’m behind on my blog posting as we have been in Israel for a week celebrating the birth of our first grandchild. Will catch up now with blog postings hopefully every few days. On the way here we had 12 hours in Paris and although a little “sleepy” made a visit to the Picasso Museum that has reopened after several years closure to renovate and update.