As our days here in Israel wind down
and the On the Road phase of this project beckons,
we are dealing even more than usual with the cyclical nature of things.
The end allows for a beginning, a beginning necessitates an end.
Behind doors that have long remained shut and dormant
wait the possibilities of a decisive action.
The expectations, my fears, the people and animals whom I love, love, love more than words.
The set of clothes for a special mood, the bookcase(s), my own bed, the excellent shower, the table on which I work, the collection of large color markers, the countless spice-jars (shelves full of them!)
All that connects me to this place… my home base.
This is a lesson in release.
I train myself in the way of the unexpected and the unbelievable. :-‘)
In late November 2016, a great fire raged across the streets and woods of Haifa.
It was supposed to be winter but the air was dry and very windy. Not one drop of rain to hush the burning hisses,
no moistness to dampen the red tongues wildly licking wood and concrete alike.
The opening night of my new solo exhibition was a week away, which obviously meant
a complete mad house in our apartment… (9-foot long paintings piling up on the floor,
sculpture parts resting on the kitchen table, wet paint and brushes on every shelve).
At the time, not knowing how the story is going to unfold, I wrote in a FB post –
“We’ve prepared an emergency bag, in case the fire spreads and we will be forced to evacuate.
Not much went into this bag and what didn’t is an entire world of memories and significance that’ll be left behind.
We’ve calculated how much we can cram into our tiny old car next to one dog, two cats and two humans.
Against the formidable forces of nature, one is required to find focus and choose…”
Thanks to the hundreds of firefighters and to Lady Fortune,
the fire was extinguished before it reached our neighborhood.
Still, it made us think, and it made us choose. We chose life and not much more.
The rest was just stuff. Oh so precious and important, but stuff nonetheless.
Last week we went back to the parts of town that were devastated and burnt.
Here too, it was apparent that Nature has made a choice.
Green sprouted here and there. Flower beds among the blackened branches.
Death creating life anew.
Saturday afternoon in the port of Haifa.
A short walk down one of the many creeks that descend, vein-like, down the Carmel Mountain. It’s the end of summer, and there’s not a drop of water to be found. Several trees have been cut down through the years, presumably to clear way for water or travelers, depending on the season. Their carcasses are laid out, sliced, presumably so other trees don’t get any ideas.
This text-construction means: tree – object/bone
(weirdly and not weirdly, in Hebrew it’s the same word).
Read about the De/Construction series in this post:
Hebrew writing is not dependent upon vowels, instead relying on punctuation –
dots & lines that give a letter sound by mere proximity.
Once you reach mid-school, though, they just drop these punctuations,
and pretty much leave you with jumbled blocks of vowel-less, dot-less letters
and trust your vocabulary to make sense of it. It’s beautiful, really.
To the point at hand – it’s thanks to this that the building blocks of words in Hebrew
can many times be words all by their own.
When you don’t need vowels, you’ve got tons of 2 and 3 letter words.
Sometimes, you can shave off a word, letter by letter,
and be left with a another, functioning word every time.
And sometimes within those sometimes, these words encapsuled in one, tell a tale.
The construction/deconstruction of this specific work we did here means:
tree – object – itself – bones
This location, Stella Maris, was once a Monastery upon the mountain top.
Today it is a naval radar base. Figuratively, in both instances,
a specific demographic could enter to serve and search for signs from the heavens.
Things renew, things move forward, things mostly stay the same.
It’s beautiful, really.
When we returned to the city, we drove up to the mountain overlooking the sea
and mended the cracking gray concrete with blood-red scars.
While working, a zealous Australian approached,
his heart full of kindness and his eyes full of flames.
Him, on a 4-week pilgrimage in the footsteps of prophets;
us, metaphorically healing the wounds of time.
He wondered whether the nearby Elijah’s Cave is the real deal, or just a tourist attraction.
I replied that in my opinion, even if Elijah had never actually dwelled there,
but thousands of people over the centuries are convinced that he had,
then the place is imbued with their energy
and that makes it into a meaningful place, either way.
The zealous Australian sparkled his eyes and disagreed.
“You,” he said, “contend that humans can produce such energy,
where as I believe that energy such as this is the sole property of God.”
Either way, it was a beautiful day.
Haifa is dotted with more than a dozen crumbling colossals,
relics of a time when cinema was larger than life and cinemas were its churches.
These huge majestic buildings stand out even today in their girth and magnitude.
Shut, hollow and abandoned, it seems no present-day venture has a use for such beasts.
The Hadar Cinema is actually the smallest member of this family.
It sits between the railroad and the flea-market, its doors and windows barred.
While life whizzes around it, its rows of chairs remain buried in darkness and memories.
The text of the work reads:
there are no answers
between the lines
The Bat Galim Casino in Haifa was never actually a casino,
but it is a cool name, given to it at birth in the 1930’s.
Built literally on the waterline, defying past and present construction laws,
this 3-story building never lived up to its immense potential.
Even with the tide coming and going right underneath its glass floor
and the sea winds caressing its rooftop terrace, it’s almost as if it was cursed.
From a cultural center under British rule, to a cinema in the 50’s, to a night club in the 70’s –
no matter what it tried to be, it never lasted.
And then the aforementioned laws caught up, and put the Casino at an impasse.
One cannot renovate it, because it’s illegal to build right on the water.
One cannot tear it down, because it will harm the marine environment around it.
And so, for most of its life and for the past 30 odd years,
this could-have-been gem is a hollow shell slowly whittled away by the salty waves,
whistled through by the winds, bleached by the summer suns.
the text of the work reads:
with our incessant creation —
colossals upon the water —
the beating wind — and the two of us —
and should they dare enter the eye of the storm —
they will never be able — not for a moment —
to calm us.
Photo by Naftali Shoshani
A Facebook follower whose mother had just passed away
asked if we could place a heart at the mother’s house, in her memory.
It was our privilege.
Out & about in Haifa
We did this mural on the wall of abandoned shop at Haifa’s Turkish Market.
In Ottoman days, the market was the city’s commercial center.
Several phases later, and as city-cycles go, it degenerated into neglect
but is nowadays experiencing an attempted resuscitation that is only somewhat successful,
hence the abandoned shop(s).
Here’s hoping this place, its alleys imbued with history and magic,
rises again to be all that it can.
It does usually take more than one electric-shock to revive the patient.
This photo and the featured one at the very top, by: Naftali Shoshani
Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa has a history spanning more than 3,000 years,
all originated down by the seaside, by the port. This area today is a mishmash of modern, old and ancient;
of active commerce, culture, food and education but also of abandonment and decay.
It’s weird how the city’s center seems to drift further and further away,
opting for newer, blander neighborhoods and businesses
while in many ways leaving behind its oldest structures, in essence its heart and soul.
As we were figuratively putting some healing touches on the cracks of time,
a young man passing by began to fervently explain to us the futility of our actions,
that we should be using cement if we’re trying to really put things right.
He went as far as ripping a few pieces off, to prove his point.
We tried to explain the use of metaphors in art and about the soul inherent in all things,
but he quickly moved on to pitch us his own music, Ethiopian pop, on his mobile-phone.
Our first artistic expedition in our new city.
Moving to Haifa after 15 years in Tel Aviv was surprisingly not dramatic,
and has felt more like the natural course of things.
The two cities are vastly different.
Haifa is laid back and somewhat dormant, whereas Tel Aviv is the hub of activity.
Haifa is green and wild and mountainous, while Tel Aviv is flat and somewhat arid.
And Haifa is multicultural, in a way that no other place in Israel can match.
Muslims, Jews, Christians, Bahá’ís, each group composed of people from a multitude of nations,
all just live here.
There’s a term in Hebrew, “dual existence”, which aims to describe
a somewhat Utopian future where Jews and Arabs live, side by side.
There is no dual existence in Haifa.
Here it is mutual existence, not side by side but simply together.