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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’

Researchers Find Ancient Fabrics in Colors Noted in Jewish Sources

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Centuries-old fabrics identified by Israel Antiquities Authority researchers include one that may have been made by means of a technique similar to making the tekhelet (blue)in tzitzit, the fringes that the Bible commands be worn on four-cornered garments.

To date, only two pieces of fabric treated with actual dye-murex have been found in Israel

The fabrics identified by Dr. Na‘ama Sukenik represent the most prestigious colors in antiquity – indigo, purple and crimson, – that are mentioned in Jewish sources

Thousands of fabrics dating to the Roman period have been discovered in the Judean Desert and regions of the Negev and the Arava. So far only two were colored with dye extracted from the murex snail. Now, within the framework of a study conducted by Dr. Sukenik, three other rare fabrics belonging to pieces of prestigious textiles were exposed that might have been used as clothing in the Roman period.

Dr. Sukenik’s doctoral dissertation was supervised by Professor Zohar Amar and Dr. David Illuz of Bar-Ilan University, and the textiles were examined by Dr. Orit Shamir, Curator of Organic Materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

These prestigious textiles, from the Wadi Murabba‘at caves located south of Qumran, were revealed in a study that analyzed the dye of 180 textiles specimens from the Judean Desert caves. Among the many textiles, most of which were dyed using substances derived from plants, were two purple-bordeaux colored textiles – parts of tunics that were double dyed utilizing two of the most expensive materials in antiquity – Murex trunculus (Hexaplex trunculus) and American Cochineal insect .

Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Photo: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

A third textile, made of wool, indicating the thread fibers were dyed by exposing them to sunlight or heated after having been dyed, represent another use of the murex snail for achieving a shade of blue, and it is possible that the item in question is an indigo fabric made by means of a technique similar to making the tekhelet (blue)in a tzitzit.

The importance of this fabric is extremely significant as there are practically no parallels for it in the archaeological record.

Dr. Sukenik, assisted by Dr. Alexander Varvak, examined the colors using advanced analytical instrumentation for identifying dye substances (HPLC).

The testing of the fabrics, performed by Dr. Orit Shamir of the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealed that the two purple textiles were spinning in a unique manner characteristic of imported textiles, whereas the blue textile was spinning in the same fashion as the local textiles.

Of all of the dyes that were in use, purple is considered the most prestigious color of the earlier periods, but it seems the public’s fondness for this reached its peak in the Hellenistic-Roman period. The purple dyed fabrics attested to the prestige of the garment and the social status of its owner.

There were times when the masses were forbidden from dressing in purple clothing, which was reserved for only the emperor and his family. These measures only served to increase the popularity of that color, the price of which soared and was equal to that of gold.

It is difficult to know for certain how such prestigious fabrics came to be in the Murabba‘at caves. They might have been part of the property belonging to Jewish refugees from the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt and demonstrate their economic prosperity prior to the outbreak of the uprising.

Another possibility is that they were part of the possessions of a small Roman unit, which on the basis of the artifacts was stationed in the Murabba‘at caves following the Bar Kokhba revolt.  It is likely these same soldiers brought some of their belongings from overseas to Israel and others they purchased from the local Jewish population during their service in the country.

Google Cultural Institute Presents Jewish Content in 1st Exhibits

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Google introduced a new online historical collection of digitized material, highlighting several Jewish themes, events and institutional partners in its first wave of exhibits.

At least 13 of the Google Cultural Institute’s inaugural collection of 42 featured exhibits consist of materials from the Anne Frank House, the Polish History Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Foundation France Israel and Yad Vashem.

Highlighted exhibits announced Wednesday include the testimony of Jan Karski, the World War II Polish resistance hero who tried to convince Allied leaders of the horrors of the Holocaust; as well as the saga of Edek Galinski & Mala Zimetbaum, the couple who unsuccessfully attempted to escape Auschwitz.

Visitors to Google’s new online multimedia museum can also see the last known photograph taken of Anne Frank, and browse featured historical events that include the Nuremberg Trials, the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta.

The new resource comes one year after Google published the Dead Sea Scrolls online, the result of a partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dead Sea Scrolls on Display in Philadelphia

Monday, May 14th, 2012

On Saturday, the Franklin Institute will launch its exhibition “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times.”

The collection consists of more than 600 figurines, altars, coins, pottery, menorahs, bone boxes, and incense burners, and a giant stone from the Wailing Wall. The exhibition was created in cooperation with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Discovery Museum, and the Franklin Institute. It will be open seven days a week through mid-October.

The heart of the exhibit is the large, round display table of 10 Dead Sea scroll fragments, the jewel of which is a small parchment with the oldest surviving biblical account of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. …”

Visitors first walk into a “pre-exhibition experience” in a room lined with six giant screens showing the Dead Sea at sunrise.

Fantastically Real Kabbalah Paintings

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Artexpo New York

February 28-March 3, 2008


Javits Convention Center, New York



 


Some artists’ iconoclastic, bohemian behavior gets them into trouble. But David Gafni’s 1972 run-in with the law was more of a freak accident than an indication of his self-destruction, and it gave him a religious epiphany.

 

While he was involved in designing Israel’s Yad Vashem museum, Gafni, 66, was driving to Jerusalem when a bee flew into his car and so distracted him that he swerved and collided with a police car. A father of three young children, Gafni was badly injured and vowed to pray every day if he recovered. “I have done so since then,” he said.

 

Gafni’s work is currently on display at Artexpo New York. A graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Gafni was chief designer of the Western Wall Tunnels for 16 years and worked at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. He has designed a museum and several exhibitions for Chabad(which were personally approved by the Lubavitcher Rebbe), and he has created exhibits for Orthodox communities in Jerusalem.

 

In the course of his studies, Gafni became attracted to the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, which was founded in the ’40s as an offshoot of Surrealism and Art Nouveau and combined techniques of the Old Masters with religious and mystical iconography. The movement inspired Gafni with its “optimistic view of imagination and fantastic reality,” and “rich, happy colors and realistic execution.”

 

Gafni infused his abstract work with Jewish content, and he was influenced by Mordechai Ardon, then-director of Bezalel who used Kabbalistic motifs, and Shmuel Beck, whose work centered on the Holocaust. For his final project in calligraphy at Bezalel – which required designing a hand-written and painted book – Gafni created a prayer book based upon ancient Jewish art. He drew the typography from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and incorporated ancient Kabbalistic paintings, including one with a seven branch Menorah whose pedestal was made of the feet of the lion, eagle, bull, and man from Ezekiel’s vision.

 

 



David Gafni. “The Throne of God and the Creatures of the Chariot – Merkabah”


 

 

The animals from Ezekiel’s vision surface in Gafni’s “The Throne of God and the Creatures of the Chariot – Merkaba”, which shows the three animals and the man near the heavenly throne in the seventh palace of Paradise. The four, who are essentially disembodied heads attached to the cloud formations, contemplate a menorah with orange, green, blue, and purple branches. Gafni plants two mountains in the foreground, so the viewer only experiences the vision from a distance.

 

“Jerusalem at the End of Days: Gog and Magog” is the first of five omens, “which shall be revealed to all, to usher in the revelation of the ‘King Messiah,’” according to Gafni’s website. The landscape depicts Jerusalem’s Old City in black and gray, but the city rests on an unstable foundation that resembles tree roots. The Tower of David has twisted almost beyond recognition into a configuration that resembles a corkscrew, as a blue, red, and white form, which evokes the Caduceus (the ancient astronomical sign of a staff with two intertwined snakes, which is used as a symbol of medicine) hovers above the city. An accompanying text on Gafni’s website cites Zecharia 14:8 and interprets it: “The Mount of Olives is cleft in two, and water gushes forth from the depths of earth, forming two streams, one flowing towards the ‘Primeval sea,’ i.e. the Dead Sea, and one towards the ‘Last Sea,’ i.e. the Mediterranean.”

 

 



David Gafni. “Jerusalem at the End of Days: Gog and Magog.” All images courtesy of the artist.


 

 

In “The Crimson Star and Flame of Fire,” the fourth of the Messianic signs, Jerusalem is again comfortably resting on solid foundation, but the sky is ablaze and a large meteor-like object seems poised to smash the buildings. The painting’s reliance on a palette of mostly primary colors heightens the piece’s dreamy look. Gafni’s website identifies the reference as the Zohar‘s commentary on Balak 22, “And then a terrible crimson star shall arise in the firmament and shall burn and glow throughout the day for all the world to behold.” Gafni adds that the star faces a flame of fire for 40 days, when the two wage war upon each other. “In the end, the star engulfs the flame. The star remains in the sky, where it drifts about for 12 days,” Gafni writes on his site.

 

 



David Gafni. “The Crimson Star and Flame of Fire”


 

 

A star waging a battle against a flame and a sea gushing forth as mountains are split in half might sound a bit unusual, but Kabbalistic and apocalyptic symbols have figured in many artists’ works, perhaps most significantly that of painter and poet, William Blake. In his very detailed etchings of Biblical and mystical scenes, Blake depicted angels and demons often with human faces, which serves to make Kabbalah more accessible and recognizable. Where previous artists depicted demons as black creatures with horns and cloven hooves, Blake chose to represent his demons as men, often even wingless.

 

Gafni’s works, in their quotations of Surrealism, address Kabbalah from more of a humble distance. By positioning his Kabbalistic scenes in landscapes that are fantastical, Gafni presents narratives that are gripping and lifelike, but also dreamy and unnatural. If Blake causes the viewer to fear she or he will wake up to an apocalypse tomorrow, Gafni’s apocalypse is a little further off in the future.

 

 



David Gafni. “The War of One Star Against the Seven Stars”


 

 

To be clear, not all of Gafni’s work is religious. He has designed many exhibits and exhibition spaces, including shows for the Israel Aircraft Industries, NASA, and a memorial exhibit for the Israeli Intelligence Community. But even as he has achieved distinction as a designer and painter, Gafni has always returned to the “basic art of the Jewish nation,” which expresses hope and “a vision for the reinstatement of the Jewish people and world peace.” Gafni sees his work as an heir to the Judaica tradition of painted synagogues, religious artifacts, and holy books. “I believe I continue to contribute my share to this industry in my way and with my openness towards any viewer, Jew and non-Jew alike,” he said.

 

For more information on David Gafni’s work, please visit his website at: http://www.davidgafni.com.

 

Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.  

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/fantastically-real-kabbalah-paintings/2008/02/27/

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