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A new exhibit presents works by Jewish immigrants from Germany who shaped Israel’s advertising industry and consumer culture from the 1930s onwards.

By Rachel Neiman

The term “yekke” (or “Jecke,” if you want to be a yekke about it), according to, “refers to Jews originating from Germany. Sometimes used in a derogatory or cynical manner, it refers mainly to their attention to detail…The origins of this title are unclear, ranging from referring to their short jackets… to a conjugation of the Hebrew dayek – to be precise.”

Between 1931 and 1939, 100,000 new immigrants came to pre-state Israel, most of them German Jews fleeing the rise of Nazism. Unlike the previous four waves of aliyah, the members of this Fifth Aliyah were not for the Socialist lifestyle. They lived in proper private residences in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, spoke in German, published German-language newspapers, and held German cultural and social activities.

They also brought an entrepreneurial work ethic. German-Jewish immigrants founded Nahariya, home to some of the leading families in the Israeli business sphere: Strauss, Soglowek and Wertheimer.

Fittingly, it was visionary industrialist Stef Wertheimer who inaugurated a new exhibition, “And Now the Commercial Ads,” opened recently at the Jeckes Museum, part of the Tefen Open Museum in northern Israel. The exhibit presents works by German-Jewish immigrants who contributed to the development of the advertising industry in Israel and the shaping of Israeli consumer culture from the 1930s onwards.

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The graphic artists who arrived in Israel preserved the principles of a connection between content and form and the modernist approaches taught at the Bauhaus and other schools in Central Europe. Another important contribution of the Fifth Aliyah was in the field of typography and new designs for Hebrew letters that are still in use.

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The exhibition features posters by prominent graphic artists including brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir, Franz Kraus and Otte Wallish. These artists also worked extensively with the Zionist movement and, later on, with the government; Wallish was responsible for the calligraphy and design of the scroll for Israel’s Declaration of Independence and also designed Israel’s first postage stamps, the Shamir brothers designed the State of Israel coat of arms, and Kraus created the now-famous “Visit Palestine” poster of 1936.

However, the exhibition emphasizes their work in advertising consumer goods made by companies like Assis, ATA, Dubek, Elite, Osem, Prigat, Shemen, Strauss, Tnuva, Tempo and more.

Curator and Museum Director Ruti Ofekwrites, “The exhibition presents the joint work of advertisers and graphic artists. The advertisers were gifted with the ability to give verbal expression to advertising concepts… graphic artists knew how to give those ideas visual expression. The works display the color and brightness of Israel coupled with the magic of launching advertising activity in Israel, in the early stages of the country’s development, and the establishment of consumer habits.”

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Ofek also notes that, due to the new immigrants, the field of advertising became more professional in Israel in the 1930s. This goes hand-in-hand with the Jeckes Museum’s stated mission “to tell the story of German-speaking Jewry in central Europe up until World War II, and their influence on the western character of the State of Israel.”

“This aliyah — which could also be called ‘the advertisers’ aliyah’ — changed the face of advertising in [Mandatory] Palestine in the 1930s,” write researchers Yehiel Limor and Osnat Roth-Cohen in a paper entitled “The Fifth Aliyah and Its Impact on the Development of the Advertising Industry”.

In the early 1930s, there were 15 advertising agencies operating in Tel Aviv, and by the end of the 1930s their number had risen to 25. The Germans also established the Palestine Publication Association, the Association of Hebrew Painters of Applied Graphics in Eretz Israel, and the Committee for the Publication of Eretz Israel.

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According to Limor and Cohen, Israeli consumer culture had its roots in the Rhineland. “The immigrants from Germany also brought with them norms of culture, consumption and daily life, centered on the ‘self’ and hedonism — values contrary to the collectivist outlooks that prevailed in the Land of Israel in those years — and these norms also found their way to the contents of advertisements.”

They also introduced the strategy of segmentation according to target markets, with some ads appearing only in German and others in Hebrew and German versions.

After 1948, advertising“served not only as a sales tool, but also as a means of imparting language to new immigrants. Alongside the text were bold images, or clear, easily understandable metaphors,” write Limor and Cohen.

“And Now the Commercial Ads”was produced with assistance from the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin (AICEO) andwill run for a year. The exhibition is open to the public free-of-charge.

For more information, click here.

German-Israeli Advertising from the 1930s Onwards

Camel rides at Genesis Land. Photo via Facebook

Camel rides at Genesis Land. Photo via Facebook

Understanding thousands of years of history is so much more fun when you get into costume and try working and eating as the ancients did.

By Abigail Klein Leichman  

Museums show you things, and sometimes let you handle things, which demonstrate a certain subject or era. Living history museums, on the other hand, invite you to immerse yourself in a recreation of a certain time and place with the help of costumed guides and interactive experiences in an authentic setting. It’s the closest thing to getting in a time machine and going backwards.

Next time you’re touring Israel, especially with children, consider putting one of these living history museums on your itinerary.

1. Genesis Land

Genesis Land is situated in the Judean desert on the way to the Dead Sea. As its name suggests, this venue offers a guided biblical experience to visitors – while dressed in period costume — that includes a camel ride to “Abraham’s tent,” fresh pita baking, shepherding, mosaic making, drumming, pottery, scribal arts and other hands-on workshops as well as authentic kosher meals served in a tent. You can reserve a spot for overnight desert camping, guided jeep rides and camel treks, or book the site for an event. Information: 972-(0)2-997-4477.

Ein Yael living museum is a former archeological site across the valley from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, dedicated to conserving ancient crafts found during digs here. Mostly it’s open by reservation. During the summer and school holidays, it features festivals and a recreated ancient Roman street filled with craftsman demonstrating arts of ancient times. There’s an animal corner with donkeys and goats, and workshops in wool weaving, basket weaving, mosaics, pan flutes and more. Groups of up to 30 people can arrange a private tour and two workshops, suitable for young children to adults. Information: 972-(0)2-645-1866.

Tour a reconstructed Talmudic village at Ancient Katzrin Park. Photo via Facebook

Tour a reconstructed Talmudic village at Ancient Katzrin Park. Photo via Facebook

4. Kfar Kedem

Located at Hoshaya, a Jewish community near Nazareth and Zippori (Sepphoris), Kfar Kedem involves visitors in recreating ancient day-to-day life in the Lower Galilee. Dressed in biblical garb, you’ll ride the rolling hills on a donkey, thresh grain and bake pita bread, milk goats and make cheese, spin wool, press oil from olives and juice from grapes.

The experience ends with a rustic kosher meal inside a typical shepherd’s tent. There are year-round and seasonal activities for individuals and groups, and the venue also can be booked for group events of up to 250 guests. Information:, 972-(0)4-656-5511

5. Nazareth Village

This open-air museum in Nazareth reconstructs and reenacts village life in the Galilee hometown of Jesus. The village features recreated houses, terraced fields, wine and olive presses on authentic sites. The scenes are brought to life as “villagers” populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used. There’s an option for partaking of a biblical-style meal and a “parable walk.” Information: 972-(0)4-645-6042;

6. Neot Kedumim

Late-afternoon guided tours for individuals and groups in English can be arranged in advance at this unique biblical nature reserve in the Ben Shemen Forest between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Along the way are hands-on stations where participants can crush olives, thresh grain and perform other agricultural tasks as they were done in biblical times. Information: 972-(0)8-977-0770

Six Fabulous Museums to Experience History First Hand

Band-aids, a telltale sign that Tel Aviv street artist Dede was here.  Photo courtesy Israel21c

Band-aids, a telltale sign that Tel Aviv street artist Dede was here.  Photo courtesy Israel21c

With numerous commissions and exhibitions, consumer products and documentaries, Israel’s renowned street artists are in the limelight worldwide.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

When Israeli street artists are exhibiting in galleries here and abroad, when their work stars in videos and walking tours, when makers of clothing and furniture are incorporating their urban designs, you know that graffiti has grown up. 

When Israeli street artists are exhibiting in galleries here and abroad, when their work stars in videos and walking tours, when makers of clothing and furniture are incorporating their urban designs, you know that graffiti has grown up.

“Seeing the street art in Tel Aviv is a major activity on the list for tourists,” says street artist Mitchell Blickman, founder of the Tel Aviv Street Art & Graffiti website.

“A lot of the people who have been doing in-the-dark street art a long time have actually been becoming more refined, doing exhibitions and commissioned work for bars and clubs, even high-end galleries,” Blickman tells ISRAEL21c, citing examples such as DiozKnow Hope (Addam Yekutieli)Adi Sened and Mas.

DIOZ’s bold murals cover entire walls of Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

DIOZ’s bold murals cover entire walls of Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

The Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin is the epicenter of Israeli street art. You can see it on the walls, in the parks, and in galleries such as Urban Secret Gallery, Tiny Tiny, Under 1000 and Meshuna.

However, it would be a mistake to overlook street-art culture in other Israeli cities, as some of these artists are getting international recognition as well.

Top billing in this category goes to psych-pop collective Broken Fingaz Crew of Haifa.

Broken Fingaz and other established Haifa crews, like 048 and NRC, have inspired a younger generation to go outside and paint. Now in their late 20s and early 30s, Broken Fingaz members Desa, Kip, Tant and Unga spend half the year doing exhibitions and commissions in cities such as Los Angeles, London, Rome, Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Amsterdam, Chengdu, Osaka and Hong Kong.

Broken Fingaz’ Unga recently did this drawing in Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook

Broken Fingaz’ Unga recently did this drawing in Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook

Speaking to ISRAEL21c from Tokyo, Unga said the crew is “figuring out what we want to say when we’re inside; it’s a different aesthetic or overall approach. Just taking something you did outside and putting it inside doesn’t always work, because street art and graffiti is all about context. Inside, you have to find a way to do something strong enough that can stand alone without the context of the street. So we jump in the water and try new stuff. It’s important to keep things interesting.”

Broken Fingaz’ “Reality Check” exhibit in Rome’s Gallery Varsi. Photo by Blind Eye Factory

Broken Fingaz’ “Reality Check” exhibit in Rome’s Gallery Varsi. Photo by Blind Eye Factory

Shutters and shoes

Solomon Souza, 23, has attracted media attention for spray-painting some 200 shop shutters so far in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market (shuk) with portraits of everyone from his grandmother to Bob Marley to famous Israeli Muslims, Christians and Druze.

“We try to pick characters that would inspire anyone,” Souza tells ISRAEL21c.

This Solomon Souza work in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market was sketched out by his mum. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

This Solomon Souza work in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market was sketched out by his mum. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Souza also sprays in downtown Jerusalem and hipster neighborhood Nachlaot and in the cities of Safed (Tzfat) and Tel Aviv.

Souza says he’d love to collaborate with other Israeli street artists such as One Love of Ashdod and Spine B7 of Beersheva.

A work of Spine B7 of Beersheva. Photo via Facebook

A work of Spine B7 of Beersheva. Photo via Facebook

French lifestyle brand Bensimon has introduced three new shoe models in collaboration with Israeli street artist and designer Pilpeled(Nir Peled), available in Israel and online.

Pilpeled was the first Israeli artist to design a bottle for Absolut vodka, collaborated on a clothing brand with Puma, drew billboards for a Coca-Cola Zero ad campaign, and did two commissioned murals for WeWork Tel Aviv.

ROS, a Bensimon shoe featuring Pilpeled’s signature white eyes. 

ROS, a Bensimon shoe featuring Pilpeled’s signature white eyes. 

Trends in street art

A Staypuff work on the streets of Tel Aviv.

A Staypuff work on the streets of Tel Aviv.

The styles and motifs of Israel’s street artists are instantly recognizable to those in the know.

If you see a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man or a creatively altered stop sign, it’s a sure bet that Staypuff has been there.

Simian images are the calling card of Wonky Monky.

Stylized Band-Aids on walls in Tel Aviv, London, New York or Berlin indicate Dede, whose new art book can be purchased online and in shops including at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

As the better-known street artists mature beyond the walls of Israel, new ones are taking their place.

A Wonky Monky work. Photo via

A Wonky Monky work. Photo via

Shay “Tra” Litman, at only 15, has already been the star of a documentary and several exhibitions.

#Tag, working in Florentin, “is mixing classic art with social media, like an image of the Madonna and child taking a selfie,” says Blickman.

Israeli street artist #Tag titled this “Will you take my banana?” Photo: courtesy

Israeli street artist #Tag titled this “Will you take my banana?” Photo: courtesy

Tiny Tiny owner Murielle Cohen, whose puzzle poems, framed dancers and other series appear in Florentin and environs, says up-and-coming artists are even incorporating technology.

“Street art has changed a lot from tagging, from the pioneers with spray cans,” Cohen tells ISRAEL21c. “It evolved to stencil work and images, and now people are doing out-of-the-box things like digital collages, printed out large and pasted onto walls.”

Murielle Cohen with one of her works in Florentin. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Murielle Cohen with one of her works in Florentin. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Beadwork, knitting and other 3D elements are seen in the works of artists such as Mr. Leaf (Mati Ale) and Yifat Raz, who places patches of velvet or fake grass to create petting corners around Tel Aviv.

Beadwork graffiti by Mr. Leaf in Tel Aviv. Photo via Facebook

Beadwork graffiti by Mr. Leaf in Tel Aviv. Photo via Facebook

As the old carpenter shops and seedy apartments of Florentin are gradually being gentrified out of existence, Cohen says developers plan to incorporate street art to keep the area’s flavor and tourist appeal fresh as was done in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.

“The world is going in the direction of accepting street art but putting it into a modern context,” says Cohen.

Israeli Street Art: Not Just Writing on the Wall #streetart

Debbie Kampel’s “Waterboys/Water Heart Face” for the Jerusalem Biennale. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

Debbie Kampel’s “Waterboys/Water Heart Face” for the Jerusalem Biennale. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

The Biennale runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 16, 2017, encompassing 25 Jewish contemporary art exhibitions in several venues across the city.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

If you’re in Jerusalem between October 1 and November 16, don’t miss the third Jerusalem Biennale, encompassing 17 group and eight solo exhibitions interpreting the theme “Watershed” through the lens of contemporary Jewish art.

The show includes photography, video, installation and performance art created by 200 artists hailing from diverse locales: New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Singapore and of course Israel.

“We’ve really become international,” Jerusalem Biennale founder and director Ram Ozeri says with pride. “This fulfils the vision we had from the beginning, to create a meeting point in Jerusalem for all those interested in the intersection between contemporary art and the Jewish world of content.”

The first Jerusalem Biennale in 2013 featured 60 artists, mostly Israelis. The biennale in 2015 attracted many artists from outside Israel but few from Europe. The third time was the charm, as Ozeri and his committee fielded 95 exhibition proposals from hundreds of artists across the world, not all of them Jewish.

The theme this year is “Watershed,” Kav Parashat Hamayim in Hebrew.

“In Hebrew, kav parashat hamayim is the drainage divide, the line at which raindrops split. If they fall west of the line they go into the Mediterranean and if they fall east of the line they fall on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea. Jerusalem is that line,” Ozeri tells ISRAEL21c.

“In English, a ‘watershed moment’ changes the course of history. Jerusalem is a city where so many watershed events have changed the course of Jewish and world history.

“The theme allows us to ask metaphorical questions about identity, about the places in which we split into separate streams as human beings,” says Ozeri.

Venues include the Tower of David, Van Leer Research Institute, Austrian Hospice, Bible Lands Museum, Bezeq Building, Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College, Museum of the Underground Prisoners and Achim Hasid.

Umbrella of Peace

A group of nine Indian artists built their biennale exhibition, “War and Peace,” around a shared watershed moment: Indian and Israeli independence from the British Mandate, which occurred in 1947 and 1948, respectively.

“When I read the history of Israel I found a lot of similarities between India and Israel. And I have been working on watershed themes for years, inspired by events in New Delhi,” curator and participant Hemavathy Guha tells ISRAEL21c.

She had no trouble finding artists eager to join in the group exhibition even though they are not Jewish.

One of the artists, Arpana Caur, “has given two of her paintings which depict the dual concepts of love and war with the use of guns and flowers and also touch upon the relevance of Buddha. She loved the magical Jerusalem, which she had visited earlier and recommended strongly that I should visit too,” says Guha.

Guha will bring her “Umbrella for Peace,” created from a sketch she’d done years ago.

“Flags of different countries have been printed on cloth and pasted on an umbrella, and all the countries have been connected with stitches and lines. I wish this earth would be devoid of war, terrorism and border conflicts and we could all live peacefully as it was intended to be,” she explains.

Vessels explored

Israeli artist Ofer Grunwald came to Ozeri’s attention because of his critically acclaimed exhibition in October 2016, “Disconnected Medium,” using bonsai (living tree sculptures) as a platform for contemporary artistic expression.

“My emerging artist status is based on the shockwaves of that exhibition,” says Grunwald, an Israeli native and resident of Jerusalem since 2009. He currently is “reimagining” the bonsai collection at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens as part of a strategic partnership.

For the biennale, Grunwald created “Vessels,” a series of five installations that capture the tension inherent in waiting to see on which side of the divide the raindrops fall, or metaphorically the emotive sense of tension within the context of contemporary Judaism.

“The series tries to explore that by taking Jewish religious objects like tefillin and fetishizing their utilitarian attributes — for example, the tefillin’s leather straps have fetishistic overtones of restraint,” Grunwald says.

He made a tefillin-shaped cube with a sculpture inside, and peep holes operated by pulling the leather strap. “Opening one peep hole closes the other, and so the work creates a conflict between visitors to the exhibition, where one’s gaze negates the other,” Grunwald tells ISRAEL21c.

Private and group tours of the biennale are available in English. Information:

For general information, click here.

Jerusalem Biennale displays works of 200 global artists

Women at the Wall” by Iris Cohenian. Courtesy of Passage to Israel

Women at the Wall” by Iris Cohenian. Courtesy of Passage to Israel

Works of 21 noted Israeli photographers showcase unique and unexpected images of the land of Israel.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

“Soul of the Land” is an exhibition showcasing the stunning photos from the book Passage to Israel contributed by 21 Israeli photographers.

Last November, when the show opened at Anderson Contemporary Gallery in New York City, ISRAEL21c posted some of the unexpected sights, sounds and colorful people captured by Jewish, Christian and Muslim photographers. The show has been traveling the world and was most recently on display at The Brownstone in New York City and at Jaffa Salon of Art in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Below are a few more of the pictures.

Featured photographers include: Itamar Grinberg, Rina Castelnuovo, Yuval Yairi, Gadi Dagon, Elad Matityahu, Dor Kedmi, Tzachi Yaffe, Mario Troiani, Iris Cohenian, Elad Gonen, Laura Ben-David, Noam Chen, Luis Curiel, Udi Goren, Yehuda Poch, Nathan Marko, Markus Gebauer, Eli Basri, Baruch Gian, Ammar Younis, and Doron Nissim.

To book the exhibition or purchase any images from Passage to Israel, contact

To purchase the Passage to Israel book, click here.

Article courtesy of

Article courtesy of

21 Noted Israeli Photographers Showcase Unique and Unexpected Images of Israel

The roots of contemporary Israeli literature run deep, with important foundations laid, beginning in the 1960s, by prose writers such as Amos Oz, Yaakov Shabtai, Shulamit Lapid, and A. B. Yehoshua, and poets such as Yehuda Amichai and Natan Yonatan.

All these voices, in translation, have reached out to readers around the world.

These authors are joined, more recently, by David Grossman, whose novels often touch on Israel’s painful political realities; Meir Shalev, who spins fantastical stories set in the Israeli heartland; Etgar Keret, who concocts surreal, and sometimes jarringly short, tales that juggle hilarity and tragedy; Orly Castel-Bloom, a postmodern experimentalist; and Zeruya Shalev, whose work often focuses on intimate family dynamics—to name only a few.

All these voices, in translation, have reached out to readers around the world, giving deep insights into Israel’s complex mind and culture. The range of styles and concerns is endlessly wide, but issues of identity, responsibility, and confrontation are present throughout.

David Grossman on Amazon >

Meir Shalev on Amazon >

Orly Castel-Bloom on Amazon >

Zeruya Shalev on Amazon >

Contemporary Israeli Literature: A Sampler

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Photo by Ron Shoshani, courtesy Creative Commons

Israel’s is, to say the least, an old story, and a layered one. Scratch the surface of nearly anything here, and you will find yourself going back in time: Ottomans, Mamluks, Crusaders, Early Muslims, Byzantine, Roman—on and on, a bewildering litany of civilizations that have come and gone. The many tels that dot the landscape provide a perfect metaphor for the nation’s past: giant mounds of earth that represent multiple strata of human occupation, human bravado, human thinking. Many of the towns and cities are a historical jumble of architectural styles—nowhere more clearly seen than in Jerusalem, where Santiago Calatrava’s gloriously contemporary Chords Bridge soars toward the sky from streets that lead to some of the world’s oldest and most venerated structures. Or consider the proximity of Tel Aviv and Jaffa: at just over a century old, Tel Aviv is the infant sibling of Jaffa, whose foundations are thousands of years old.

The so-called White City of Tel Aviv was deemed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

In its single century of life, Tel Aviv has developed from a discouraging line of sand dunes to one of the most beautiful and thriving seaside cities on the planet. In the 1920s and ’30s, as the metropolis began to flare into activity, it served as an open field for many Bauhaus and International Style architects, among them Genia Averbuch, Dov Karmi, Erich Mendelsohn, Josef Neufeld, and Arieh Sharon. The handiwork of such designers—more than four thousand still extant buildings—sets the architectural tone to this day throughout the city: pale stucco; simple, curving balconies; and solid, minimalist building blocks. Because of these stylish Bauhaus-inflected buildings, the so-called White City of Tel Aviv was deemed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

Contemporary architects have taken up the mantle from their innovative forebears, bringing new shapes and ideas to Tel Aviv’s streets and plazas. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, designed by American architect Preston Scott Cohen, is a stunning example: it soars out from the original building like a white marble prow of a ship, dotted with small triangular and rectangular portholes. Its interior is filled with architectural motion: angles and trajectories that direct the roving eye and the roving feet—leading visitors from one gallery to the next.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art > 

Preston Scott Cohen Inc. > 


Tel Aviv’s Architecture: Bauhaus and Beyond

Dani Karavan’s Way of Peace (1996–2000), 100 sandstone columns leading from Nitzana 5 into Egypt. Photograph by Neil Folberg

 Many of us live our lives at the computer screen—here we are, in fact—and that can get us quite a distance. But our time spent in the blue glare gives us, perhaps, a new kind of appreciation for encounters that are straight up and live, unmediated: that is, for experiences in the world.

Each column in Way of Peace is inscribed with the word peace in a different language, representing all the peoples who have traveled through or lived in this area through the course of history.

Dani Karavan’s magnificent site-specific sculpture Way of Peace (1996–2000) can of course be admired with the help of the Internet, but to experience it in reality is something else entirely. The work consists of a hundred sand-colored columns, running from the hills of Nitzana in the Western Negev Desert to the Israeli-Egyptian border—about three kilometers. Each column is inscribed with the word peace in a different language, representing all the peoples who have traveled through or lived in this area through the course of history. If you are lucky enough to be here—with your feet in the sand and the warm air in your mouth—as the sun sets in the wild desert sky, you will see the shadows cast by the columns, running far into the distance. The engagement with place, time, and history here is intense, even electrifying. Straight up and live. It is for this kind of experience that we travel.

Dani Karavan’s Way of Peace

On a green hillside in the western Galilee is the Gottesman Etching Center. It is housed in a vast, clean space at Kibbutz Cabri that hums with a hive-like vibe of peaceful, focused productivity. The workshop’s large windows overlook mountains and sea, the light pours in on the streamlined structures of printing presses, and the walls are pinned with etchings in progress, experiments and successes. Founded in 1993, the workshop offers residencies and classes with artists from both Israel and abroad; over the years, their lineup has included Menashe Kadishman, Jim Dine, Zadok Ben-David, Hila Lulu Lin, Hannah Farah-Kufer Bir’im, and many others. Gottesman also produces exquisite portfolios and artists’ books, and their building includes a pristine exhibition area where prints are shown to the visiting public.

Art acts as a stimulus, and contributes to the community.
— Gottesman Etching Center

The Gottesman Center’s role as part of a busy kibbutz is integral to its mission: “Art acts as a stimulus,” according to their motto, “and contributes both to the community and its individuals as well as to enterprise.” The perspective here, as throughout this forward-looking nation, is that creativity must be fostered, and that through an open exchange of ideas and a willingness to see beyond preconceptions—that is, by thinking artistically—Israel may follow a course to a successful and peaceful future.

Gottesman Etching Center >


The Gottesman Etching Center, Printmaking Residencies on a Kibbutz

 Jerusalem’s Old City, Al Wad. Composite photograph by Neil Folberg 

Jerusalem is a vortex. What might a newcomer expect here? Stones resounding with unfathomable history. An intimidating mix of inflexible faiths and truths. The holiest place on the planet for legions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. A much-contested hub. Jerusalem is certainly all that. It is also a thriving city, in many ways not so different from other urban hubs: big, heterogeneous, and filled with the unexpected.  

Artists are inspired by the complexity of Jerusalem, where the ancient and the modern are in constant touch.

Here, the ancient and the modern are in constant touch: the glow of laptops illuminates faces in cybercafés tucked under ancient archways. A boy balancing a tray of freshly baked bagels on his head winds his way through a crowd of hipster tourists. Young soldiers in uniform gaze into pastry-shop windows. In the Old City, an Orthodox man hurries down the stone steps toward the Western Wall, wrapping up a conversation on his cell phone. And artists are here, inspired by the complexity of the city’s energy.

Jerusalem is a maze of cobbled alleyways, hidden courtyards, and grimy industrial zones, with countless corners where artists have set up shop. The Mamuta Art and Media Center is situated behind a low stone wall in Jerusalem’s Talbiye neighborhood, in a historic former hospital. The Center provides studio spaces for artists in various media and is a venue for exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, conferences, and a residency program for contemporary Israeli and international artists. The venerable Vision Gallery, tucked into a side street off busy Jaffa Road, is run by our friend the photographer Neil Folberg, whose stunning images grace this project. The Museum on the Seam—located, as its name suggests, on what was once the official border between East and West Jerusalem—presents innovative exhibitions that fearlessly take on sociopolitical issues. And the city is also the home of Israel’s premier art school, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; its students help keep the creative vibe of Jerusalem young and vigorous.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design >

Mamuta Art and Media Center >

Museum on the Seam >

Vision Gallery >  

Jerusalem: A Vortex for Artists and Arts Venues

Shenkar College's Instagram feed

Israel is a land of pragmatic innovation. It comes at you from all sides, and a fundamental understanding of design plays an important role in that fact. Yuli Tamir, the president of Israel’s Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, understands this well.

Shenkar challenges young people to think and create, and that is what education is all about.
— Yuli Tamir

Tamir has a regal bearing and somewhat stern features that light up when she is interested, amused, or delighted. A former politician—among several governmental posts, she was Israel’s Minister of Education from 2006 to 2009 and served as a longtime member of the Knesset—she is an outspoken peace activist. Today, Tamir brings her knowledge of education to bear in a new way at Shenkar. As she said in a speech early on in her post as head of the school:

In many ways, Shenkar is what Israel should be about: a center of culture and creativity that relies on cutting-edge technological know-how in order to produce and reproduce a new way of life: whether in fashion, art, textile, chemistry, technology, or design, Shenkar challenges young people to think and create, and that is what education is all about.

Founded in 1970, Shenkar’s main campus is located in two buildings in Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv. Hallways buzz with the mechanical sounds of 3-D knitting machines and printing presses; in classrooms students give presentations to one another and bear up to critiques. Vitrines showcase recent experimental designs by student.  Everything at Shenkar is about new ideas, moving things forward. As Tamir says:

You think, “Okay, innovation in Israel, that’s the Weizmann Institute, the Technion”—and those places certainly do have a high level of innovation. But when you look at where unusual industry starts, it’s usually here rather than there. . . . We are hands-on. [Here at Shenkar], we are strengthening the entrepreneurial spirit among students, to give them a platform to develop and initiate their own ideas.

Shenkar College of Engineering, Design, and Art > 

Shenkar College Instagram >

Shenkar College: Training Tomorrow’s Creatives

Ayala Serfaty’s Entudia. Courtesy of Maison Gerard, Robert Levin 

The border between fine arts and applied arts is not always distinct. Designer/artist Ayala Serfaty’s work lives on that frontier. She has long been known for her organically inspired shapes in light known as Soma, works that have been exhibited at museums and galleries from Tel Aviv to New York to Milan. These delicate pieces, made of glass and silk, recall the strange wonders of undersea life—graceful jellyfish, proliferating corals—all lit from within, ethereal, seeming almost to breathe. Serfaty’s light works have become so popular that they are now produced in a steady stream, with her oversight, by a team of fabricators at her Tel Aviv workshop, and sold in high-end design stores around the world.

I really like the parameters of design.
— Ayala Serfaty

One body of work (and body is the operative word) called Rapa is driven by the same organic impetus but yields a very different outcome: massive pieces of furniture. Instead of gossamer strands of glass, with silk and light, the material here is thick, chunky felt: soft as moss, earthbound, comforting as an animal’s warm hide.

  Serfatystudied art at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and started out as a fine artist, but moved into design: “I really like the parameters of design. A chair—okay, it can be anything, but it does have to be comfortable to sit on. With a sculpture, there is no such requirement.” After years of producing and selling the Soma work, what led her to shift gears so radically into the felt furniture? The curse of success:  Serfaty found herself directing a fabrication business, instead of making things with her hands. “To run something is different from creating art. I had to figure how to make the split.” And furthermore, she was very ready to try out a new sensibility: “With the Soma work, I can’t let anybody touch it. With the felt pieces—you can put your feet on them, you can do whatever you want. You can jump on them! They are so solid, nothing will happen to them in two hundred years.”

Ayala Serfaty >

Artist Ayala Serfaty’s Organic Forms

Crowds near a Crusader-period fortress during Akko’s Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre 

Every fall during the holiday of Sukkot, a remarkable gathering takes place in the seaside city of Akko: the Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre.

Audiences flock in the thousands to see open-air theatrical shows as well as concerts, street performances, crafts workshops, acrobatics, and dance.

The old city of Akko is one of Israel’s more heterogeneously populated urban areas, a 70–30 percent mix of Jews to Arabs (coexisting for the most part harmoniously but sometimes—perhaps it goes without saying—in friction). It is a fascinating architectural and cultural hodgepodge, and its long history offers a humbling lesson in the transitory nature of power and dominion. The city provides a stunning physical setting for a gathering of artists.

Akko’s performing-arts festival, founded in 1980, every year features a competition for original plays, along with local and foreign theater productions and open-air theatrical shows as well as concerts, street performances, crafts workshops, acrobatics, and dance. Audiences flock in the thousands from all parts of Israel. The going, of course, is not always easy: funding is scarce, and in 2008 the festival was postponed by two months due to the threat of violent clashes. In general, though, the gathering has become a symbol of coexistence between the city’s Jewish and Arab inhabitants. Each year’s program showcases works by Arab playwrights and troupes, along with performances by music ensembles. Projects led by theater professionals provide training for local Arab and Jewish teens, including immigrant youth.

The Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre has served as an eye-opener to many about the provocative world of edgy performance and the potentials of collaboration.

Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre >


Akko: The Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre

Elstein Music and Arts Center Instagram

Today, a new institution, the Elstein Music and Arts Center, is a nucleus for both visual and performing arts—the brainchild of Lily Elstein, one of Israel’s most important arts patrons. The enter is part of the Elma Arts Complex, in the historic town of Zichron Ya’acov, on a ridge of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean. The main headquarters are in a beautiful building designed by architect Yaakov Rechter, originally as the Mivtachim Sanatorium/Hotel. (Built in 1968, it earned Rechter the prestigious Israel Prize for architecture.) Long, white, and gently curved, it rests horizontally on the hillside—as Lily Elstein herself describes it, “like an instrument: like the keys of a piano or an organ.” The renovated complex, set on nearly thirty acres, includes performance spaces and halls, art galleries and studios, villas to house artists in residence, and a luxurious hotel and spa for visiting audiences.

I really belong to this place. I belong to the art and the life of art in Israel.
— Lily Elstein

Elstein is an elegant and gracious woman, with a tenacious streak. Her connection to Zichron Ya’acov is long:standing she was born there, and her late husband, Yoel Moshe Elstein, and she both descended from the town’s fathers.  When Elstein expressed an interest in buying the old Mivtachim Hotel, she encountered a number of obstacles, from developers attempting to outbid her to objections against marring the local forest areas with construction. Ultimately, Israel’s High Court of Justice was called in to decide the fate of the land and building. Elstein says: “I explained to them: ‘I am third-generation Zichron Ya’acov. My grandparents were founders, and my parents were born there. I really belong to this place. I belong to the art and the life of art in Israel.’” Ultimately, she overcame them all, and today the Zichron Ya’acov community is well aware that her project is a boon to the area—and to the arts in general in Israel.

Elstein Music and Arts Center, Elma Arts Complex >

The Elstein Music and Arts Center and the Extraordinary Woman Behind It

Kartel collective poster

Haifa has a population that is notably mixed, ethnically and socially, as well as a growing youth culture (sometimes nicknamed “Haifsters”). Recently, the city has seen the emergence of a vibrant new “posse” of artists known as Kartel, who initially used an abandoned boathouse in the city as part-club, part-gallery, part-blank slate for street art: its tall exterior walls painted from bottom to top with wild hallucinatory images. Their venues feature live performances and pop-up exhibitions. The creative energy behind this endeavor comes from two local groups of underground street artists: GhosTown and Broken Fingaz (whose individual members, as of this writing, prefer to go unnamed).

Kartel initially used an abandoned boathouse in Haifa as part-club, part-gallery, part-blank slate for street art

The posse recently made a foray into Tel Aviv, setting up shop temporarily in a former slaughterhouse at the Carmel shuk. There the renegade artists and their associates painted the walls with acid-bright cartoons—stylized nude women, skeletons, and men in fedoras figure prominently—and hosted an international roster of musicians, including Adrian Younge, Free the Robots, and Kutmah.

If you can find a Kartel flash event, it may well be worth your while to lace up your boots and get to it.

Kartel Facebook page > 

Haifa’s Kartel: A Posse of Renegade Street Artists

Hila Vugman, "Amira", 2016, courtesy Indie Photography Group 

It is well known that Israel was founded with a spirit of collectivity and cooperation: people joining forces to find a way to entice life from a land that presented countless obstacles. A century ago, the first kibbutzim were established with a utopian plan of shared responsibility and shared benefits—a deep-seated mandate of teamwork.

When artists get together, their thinking and ideas percolate in new and unexpected ways.

While collective strategies may be simply pragmatic on a farm or in an office workplace, they provide a different kind of advantage in a creative environment: when artists get together, their thinking and ideas can percolate in new and unexpected ways.  Israel is home to a number of collaborative organizations devoted to the arts, including Artspace Tel Aviv, Indie Photography Group, Hanina, and the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center in Tel Aviv, and the venerable Hutzot HaYotzer artists’ colony in Jerusalem.

Founded in 1968, Hutzot HaYotzer (which translates to “Potter’s Lane”) has nurtured many Israeli artists and craftspeople over the decades. Since 1978 it has been a hub of the Jerusalem Arts and Crafts Festival—which includes fine works by painters, sculptors, leatherworkers, fiber-artist, and silversmiths, and also hosts wonderful outdoor concerts.

ArtSpace Tel Aviv >

Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center >

Hanina >

Hutzot HaYotzer Artists’ Colony >

Indie Photography Group Gallery >


Artists’ Collectives: Inspiration in Numbers

Photographer Barry Frydlender in a still from the film Out in the World.

As anyone in Israel can attest, time is a preoccupation in this nation and the surrounding region. There are few topics that do not hearken back to ancient eras, and while the future is on everyone’s minds, history seems remarkably flexible, open to any number of perfectly viable versions of truth.

There’s a hidden history in every image.
— Barry Frydlender

Photographer Barry Frydlender has chosen to disregard the constraints of immediacy and the burden of history and instead engages time by practicing what might be called a “durational” form of photography. His images—composites made up of dozens, sometimes hundreds of individual visual facets—may evolve over a period of months in the making and the editing. The results are hyper-detailed vistas printed on a vast scale, often bringing us into the streets and social circumstances of Israel. “There’s a hidden history in every image,” says Frydlender.

It might be said that to photograph anything in Israel is to take a political position, so charged is the terrain with controversy. But Frydlender seems to maintain an observer’s detachment, even when his work is dealing with a topic as volatile as territory: his Israeli panoramas include Muslims and Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, secular and religious, young and old. In this sense, his photographs testify to a land of many peoples and faiths and types, interconnected by the situation of this country.

Frydlender is meticulous in constructing his visual assemblages, which are stitched together with the help of his computer. He finds meaning in each of the many pieces of his “mosaics”—shaking up traditional ideas of centrality and focus. In the film Out in the World, he explains to a group of young photographers that each piece in his iconic 2003 photograph The Flood has its own center point: the viewer’s eye can land anywhere and find fulfillment.

These stills are from the film Out in the World, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel

 Photographer Barry Frydlender and his work in a still from the film Out in the World.


Barry Frydlender: Exploring Time Through Photographs

A still of artist Sigalit Landau welding in the film Out in the World

Out in the World is a film about four artists making an impact on the international scene: Sigalit Landau, Barry Frydlender, Micha Ullman, and Michal Rovner. These artists embrace what seems to be an ongoing theme among Israeli artists: finding inspiration even in the dark and troubling aspects of life, forging from them works of art that help us, if not to reconcile, then to begin to understand.

Four artists making an impact on the international scene.

Sigalit Landau  explores her own body and the body politic in myriad media from sculpture to striking performances captured on video. Barry Frydlender is a photographic artist who assembles painstakingly crafted image “mosaics” that comment on time and place. Micha Ullman’s multi-faceted, minimalist sculptures often make use of the orange-red sand of the Sharon area north of Tel Aviv. And Michal Rovner’s monumental stone structures are at the center of her thinking and her art.

The stills are from the film Out in the World, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel

The Film: "Out in the World"

Nihad Dabeet’s Healer (2011), iron wire. Photo courtesy Avital Moses

Sculptor Nihad Dabeet keeps a studio in Ramle, where he spent most of his childhood before being accepted, as a young teen, to the prestigious Thelma Yellin School of the Arts, and subsequently moving to Bulgaria, with a scholarship to study sculpture at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. Dabeet has remained devoted to his work through easy times as well as rough ones, always staying circumspect. His work plays a crucial role in all this; for an artist, he says, “it’s very easy to go from bad place to good place. It’s more difficult to go from good place to bad place.”

Dabeet’s fascinating forms are hybrids of figuration and abstraction, the hand-wrought and the organic.

Over the years, Dabeet has experimented with various media, including discarded building materials (“rubbish” is his technical term for it), eventually honing a distinctive style of working with thick strands of wire, which he describes as “weaving.” The fascinating forms he renders seem to be hybrids of figuration and abstraction, the hand-wrought and the organic. For the Korin Maman Museum in Ashdod he created a extraordinary life-size sculpture of a horse for a show called Horses and Bulls. Though made of steel wires, it looks almost like a magnificent armature made of fine bentwood twigs.      

For Dabeet, beauty is only a beginning in art: it is “the first link,” he says. “But you must also have persuasion.” He says he believes in finding what is good and useful in even the most trying circumstances.