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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Israel Museum’

Israel Museum Buys 1,500-Year-Old Persian Coin Collection

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

The Israel Museum has bought more than 1,200 silver coins that were used in Persia in the 4th and 5th centuries and which includes several rare coins.

Referring to a rare silver artifact called the “first Jewish coin” because of the inscription of the word “Judea” in Aramaic, the museum’s chief curator of archaeology, Chaim Gitler, told the Times of Israel, “It’s the earliest coin from the province of Judea.”

The “Jewish coin” was reportedly found in the southern Hevron Hills, between Hevron and Be’er Sheva, and was bought by New York collector Jonathan Rosen, who agreed to donate his collection to the Israel Museum.

Kite-Flying Festival

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The Kite-Flying Festival, held annually at the Israel Museum, has become a Jerusalem tradition. Professional and amateur kite lovers from all over the country gather in Jerusalem every summer to fly kites that they designed themselves or created at the workshops held at the museum during the festival.

During the festival, the museum’s skies are transformed into a vivid display of color and shape that is visible from miles away.

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel to Show Off to Obama Hi-Tech ‘Robot Snake’ (Video)

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week will show President Barack Obama a series of technological products by Israel’s high-tech industries in the framework of a special exhibit that will be set up in President Obama’s honor.

The products that were chosen are in the fields of renewable energy, the war on traffic accidents, medicine, search and rescue, and robotics.

After touring the “Israeli Technology – For a Better World”  exhibit at the Israel Museum, President Obama will meet with the next generation of Israeli scientists – young people from Haifa, who won an international robotics competition that was held in the United States last year.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will present to President Obama seven products that were chosen by a professional committee from among proposals presented by Israel’s universities.

National Information Directorate head Liran Dan said, “There are two principal messages that we would like to emphasize during the visit.  First and foremost is the deep connection between Israel and the US. Alongside this, we would also like to present to the world the products of the future that originate in Israel and which will be used in many places around the world.”

The chosen products are, in the field of energy alternatives – Phinergy;

In the field of the struggle against traffic accidents – Mobileye;

In the field of medicine – BNA technology by ElMindA , MiniDesktop and Rewalk; and

In the field of search and rescue – robot snake

The seventh product is a “robot waiter” that was designed by Haifa junior high school pupils and which was developed with guidance from Technion researchers.

The device was the winner in an international robotics competition that was held in the United States last year. It shows how a robot might serve a handicapped person in his home. The robot is 35 centimeters tall and uses sensors to orient itself in its surroundings and perform tasks that it has been programmed to do.

Phinergy has developed an aluminum-air battery designed for electric vehicles, and which allows a significant increase in travel range – three times that of a regular electric vehicle. The technology will allow for a reduction in

Mobileye, a global pioneer in developing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), is to develop and market vision-based systems that will help drivers keep passengers safe on the roads and decrease traffic accidents by warning about dangerous situations and even braking the vehicle when necessary. To date, Mobileye’s technology has been implemented and launched by BMW, Volvo, GM and Ford in over one million vehicles.

ElMindA’s Brain Network Activation technology platform provides a non-invasive tool for the visualization and quantification of BNAs of specific brain functionalities, disease development and rehabilitation from injuries, reactions to treatment, psychiatric and neurological problems, and pain.

The robot snake is designed to enter spaces in collapsed structures with minimal disturbance. The robot assists in location and rescue operations and is unique in its manner of crawling and is very flexible thanks to its great number of segments.

Each joint is motorized and has a computer, sensors, wireless communications and batteries. Its head carries a camera. Thanks to its flexible structure, the snake is able to crawl through wreckage without causing additional structural collapses and provide vital information about inaccessible areas.

The  Rewalk approach aims to give persons with lower limb disabilities, such as paraplegia, an experience that is as close to natural walking as possible. The ReWalk exoskeleton suit uses a patented technology with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement. Battery-powered for all-day use, ReWalk is controlled by on-board computers and motion sensors.

The MiniDesktop is a headset that enables computers to be controlled by brainwaves or facial movements. The computer is controlled without a mouse or keyboard by means of a headset that images the user’s brainwaves from 14 separate points. The system, which was developed by three software engineering graduates from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is designed to serve the physically handicapped who could not otherwise operate a computer or other devices.

King Herod Exhibition Tracing the Life of a Builder and a Murderer

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

In 2007, after a 40-year search, renowned archaeologist Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered King Herod’s tomb at Herodium on the edge of the Judean Desert. The site included a fortress palace and a leisure complex with gardens, large pools, decorated bathhouses, and a theatre with a royal box. In his final years, Herod reconfigured the architecture of the complex to prepare the setting for his burial procession and site, and constructed a magnificent mausoleum facing Jerusalem.

The late Prof. Ehud Netzer displaying a shard from a 2,000-year-old amphora bearing King Herod’s name.

The late Prof. Ehud Netzer displaying a shard from a 2,000-year-old amphora bearing King Herod’s name.

On Tuesday, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem premieres the world’s first exhibition on the life and legacy of Herod the Great, one of the most influential – and controversial – figures in Jewish, Roman, and Christian history. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Professor Netzer, who died in 2010 at the site of his seminal discovery.

“Professor Ehud Netzer capped his decades-long excavation of Herodium with his discovery of King Herod’s tomb in 2007, and over the past five years, archaeologists excavating the site have made remarkable discoveries that have deepened our appreciation of Professor Netzer’s remarkable achievement and enriched our understanding of Herod, his reign, and his role in the history of the region,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director. “We are proud of the extensive restoration work that our conservation staff has been able to complete and thrilled to present these important finds to the public for the first time in an exhibition that will illuminate a pivotal period in the history of the Land of Israel.”

On view, through October 5, 2013, the landmark exhibition “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” will present approximately 250 archaeological finds from the king’s recently discovered tomb at Herodium, as well as from Jericho and related sites. They shed anew light on the political, architectural, and aesthetic impact of Herod’s reign from 37 to 4 BCE.

Among the objects on view—all of which have undergone extensive restoration—will be three sarcophagi from Herod’s tomb and restored frescoes from Herodium, his private bath from the palace at Cypros; never-before-seen carved stone elements from the Temple Mount; and an imperial marble basin thought to be a gift from Augustus.

Lionized as “the greatest builder in human history,” King Herod was also demonized for his uncertain ethnic and religious pedigree, controversial political alliances, the execution of his wife and three of his children, and—according to the Christian Bible—the “Massacre of the Innocents” in Bethlehem.

King Herod is known for his large-scale building projects, which required enormous resources and transformed the landscape of the Land of Israel. He built elaborate palaces, fortresses, public buildings, pagan temples, and cities which reflect the integration of local building traditions and materials with Roman technology and style. Herod’s extensive building activities is illustrated in the exhibition through architectural elements and archaeological fragments from several Herodian sites, including Jerusalem, Jericho, Cypros, and Herodium.

According to Rabbi Ken Spiro, the most ambitious of Herod’s projects was the re-building of the Temple, which was almost certainly an attempt to gain popularity among his subjects who, he knew, held him in contempt and also to make amends for his cruelty toward the rabbis.

It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is merely part of that 500-meter-long retaining wall that was designed to hold a huge man-made platform that could accommodate twenty four football fields. When it was completed, it was the world’s largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

“Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” seeks to provide a better understanding of this ancient figure through the monumental architecture he created and the art and objects with which he surrounded himself. The exhibition will examine Herod’s remarkable building projects, complex diplomatic relations with the Roman emperors and nobility, and, finally, the dramatic funeral procession from Jericho to the mausoleum he constructed for himself in Herodium.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Soda Bottle Sandals And Post-Library Shelving

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Solos: New Design From Israel

January 27-April 23, 2006

The Cooper-Hewitt National

Design Museum

2 East 91st Street, New York

http://ndm.si.edu/

 


A poor child’s feet parade crude sandals, straps affixed to soda bottles with the caps still intact. Sheshbesh (backgammon) players become images of men in black hats praying at the Western Wall. Street scenes of the old city of Jerusalem, glowing with dramatic light worthy of Caravaggio, merge with photographs of streets in the old city of Safed, with all of its deep blue painted doors and walls. Hasidim at the tomb and mikvah of the 16th century Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Ari), juxtapose with a street sign for Rehov Ha-malakh (the Street of the Angel) and images of Masada. One image even appears to represent a hasid playing ping-pong. And perhaps the most inventive fadeout shows an image of the Lubavitcher Rebbe turning into a series of Byzantine portraits and then an image of a poster for the Breslover Hasidim that declares “Nachman M’uman!”


Ezri Tarazi’s photomontage (executed with Moshe Ronen, Yaron Meiri, Sharon Gil and Maya Vinitsky) entitled, “Is-Reality: People, Places, Things” is exhibited on six screens, arranged with two rows and three columns. The leftmost column is entitled “people,” the middle “places,” the rightmost “things”. At any given time there are six images simultaneously showing, which lends the work the feeling of a Ringling Brothers’ circus, in which the viewer tries in vain to catch all the action. But the moving slideshow is most interesting for its transcendence of boundaries.


The title evokes the childhood riddle game in which one party uses a series of questions (the number is subject to house rules) to identify something or someone about which the other party is thinking. The guesser inquires first if the object of thought is a person, place or thing (or animal, mineral or vegetable in another variety of the guessing game). But either-or scenarios are often the domain of youth. The riddle game does not account for objects that reside in more complicated realms: both, all, some or neither. In Tarazi’s photomontage, some images surface in both the place and the thing column. Though it seems that Tarazi has cast all of his images neatly into categories and boxes, in fact the purpose of the piece seems to be more about blurring the distinction between people, places and things.


This is a particularly interesting thesis to explore vis-à-vis Israel, a land that is so personified in the Bible, as in “the land disgorged its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25) or “a land that devours its inhabitants” (Num. 13:32). The whole notion of an Israeli design, though, is a mysterious one. In the catalog introduction, curator Ezri Tarazi of the Bezalel academy of art and design writes of a visit to New York where he saw an elderly couple braving the rain with umbrellas and raincoats. Tarazi “sensed these people were Israelis; when we passed each other – as I expected, yet still to my astonishment – they were speaking Hebrew.” Tarazi saw a curatorial opportunity. “The moment I experienced on that rainy street in New York made me reconsider the question of whether there is a singular style to contemporary design from Israel.”



So what does Tarazi’s Israeli design that is so recognizable (even from across the street) entail? A series of “functional” objects that don’t work.


Take Yuval Tal’s “Handle with Care” (2003), a series of drinking mugs. The mugs, though unlike the regular sort that you’d buy in a store, have had their handles broken off. Tal, somewhat mercifully, has reattached the handles, but they are either attached backwards or with new materials wholly unsuited to play the role of handles. Tal’s mugs then have vestigial remnants of handles, but the mugs don’t work.


Chanan de Lange’s “Post Library Bookshelf System” (2000) is also a nonfunctioning piece. An assemblage made from perforated steel posts, the bookcase is hardly a bookcase. It looks like a random assortment of metal beams crisscrossing and zigzagging through the gallery space. The only comment of de Lange’s hanging ominously beside the bookcase is the claim, “The books are more comfortable when they slant a bit.”


Several other pieces in the show highlight this anti-functionality. Raviv Lifshitz’s “Hubeza Seat” (2003) is a seat made of steel rods and a vinyl balloon. The balloon is blue with flower patterning on it, and by the looks of it – even in the unlikely event that it could support a seated person – it would prove a most uncomfortable seat. Tal Gur’s “Sturdy Straws Chair” (2002) is a green seat made of polypropylene drinking straws, heated until the straws joined together to form a chair. Needless to say, the sturdy chair looks anything but sturdy.


And finally, Yaacov Kaufman’s “Aluminum Containers” (2005) is an installation of dozens of aluminum cooking pots and pans, many of which are bent out of shape or cut apart beyond repair. This work recalls Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum’s series that questions the safety of the home. One piece of Hatoum’s (“Incommunicado,” 1993) shows a baby crib with stretched wires where the cushion should be. “Home” (1999) shows a kitchen with electrified utensils that prove more dangerous than useful. Hatoum, whose work is in the collection of the Israel Museum, also did work about peace in the Middle East. “Map” (1999) contains glass marbles arranged on a floor to form the world continents. As viewers walk around the room, the marbles shift. The implication is gloomy; people might be disrupting a harmonious map rather than improving it. “Plotting Table” (1998) was a similar conception. Hatoum used green UV lights to illuminate a wooden plank – with holes drilled in the arrangement of a world map – from beneath.


The “Solos” work recalls Hatoum’s conceptual art in surface, but Hatoum’s work has a way of convincing viewers that there is a lot at stake in the pieces. Even though the newly published catalog of the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Abrams Inc., 2005) hails Kaufman as “one of the most important designers and educators in Israel today,” the aluminum work – as well as much of the rest of the “Solos” work – ends up presenting fruitful postmodern meditations on function. But the objects are simply objects of the mind; the chairs, pots, and shelves do not work. The “Solos” body of work consists of design objects that are useless, and yet they demand to be accepted as art. This temperament is in no way endemic to Israel; it is a mode of curating and art making that is all the rage in contemporary museums of every sort. But the show is interesting simply for Tarazi’s photomontage alone, which uses the moving slideshow form to show the many faces of Israel form Bedouins to Palestinians to Jews, and from backgammon to bottle cap sandals.


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/soda-bottle-sandals-and-post-library-shelving/2006/03/29/

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