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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

Design Museum Holon (Ron Arad, architect)

A colorful riff on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Design Museum Holon is a small institution housed in what might be described as a colorful riff on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Designed by artist-architect Ron Arad, the museum’s exterior resembles swirling lines of ribbon in shades gradating from orange to deep rusty purple. The museum opened its doors in 2010; since then the themes of its shows have been wide ranging, including: the nexus of technology and fashion, Japanese master couturier Yohji Yamamoto, designer/illustrator Bruno Munari, 3-D printing, Bedouin women’s folk art, bicycle design, and an examination of the role of shade in urban settings (of particular interest in a country as sunny as Israel). The Design Museum is transforming the city of Holon into a cultural destination.

Design Museum Holon >

Design Museum Holon

 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

Model of Ancient Jerusalem at the Israel Museum. Photo by Matthew Shugart, courtesy Creative Commons

[The Israel Museum is an] experiential journey that is universal in nature and embracing of all time.
— James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum

Museum buildings are often showpieces for great architects (consider the Guggenheim’s monumental buildings in New York and Bilbao—proud examples by Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry respectively). The Israel Museum in Jerusalem undertook a three-year overhaul, nearly doubling the exhibition spaces and providing welcome new perspectives on its massive collection. Undaunted by the millennia of history on display here, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to works commissioned for the space by contemporary artists Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson, the museum’s director, James Snyder, describes it as providing an “experiential journey that is universal in nature and embracing of all time.”

Israel Museum >

The Israel Museum: A Collection that Spans the Ages

Exhibition space at the Tefen Industrial Park's Open Museum. Photo by and © Vision Studio

One observes in Israel a sincere respect given to creative thinking, which extends beyond the arts and into the sciences, industries, cuisine, agriculture, education, and beyond. It is a famously entrepreneurial nation, and it seems clear that this drive stems partly from the essential need to draw life from a challenging terrain, and from life to draw civilization, and from civilization to draw culture: a basic human requirement.

A museum, to me, is one factor that makes a place worthy of becoming a home.
— Stef Wertheimer

There is a pervasive understanding in Israel that none of this is possible without creative thinking and the inspiration that art can provide. Even some of the country’s industrial parks—hugely successful manufacturing plants—strategically include art museums at their complexes.   

The Open Museums at the Tefen Industrial Park in the Galilee, manifest the “Tefen Model” founded by business magnate Stef Wertheimer. The central museum is as sleek and impressive as any art space in any major city.  It features an art gallery, sculpture garden, industrial museum, car collection, and more—as well as educational and events departments.

While Wertheimer is not an artist or an art collector himself, he is deeply proud of this element of his working community. As Wertheimer says:

A museum, to me, is one factor that makes a place worthy of becoming a home. Schools, education, and security come first, of course, but a place without culture is not worth living in. A museum is a cultural need of the first order.

Art, in other words, benefits both the community and the morale of employees.

Open Museums at Tefen >  

The Open Museums: Filling a Cultural Need of the First Order

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

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. 

Thelma Yellin School of the Arts >

Korin Maman Museum
16 Hashayatim Street, Ashdod


The Remarkable Wire Sculptures of Nihad Dabeet

Expressive graffiti in Jaffa

The Jaffa seaport is one of the oldest harbors in the world; it has been in use, they say, since the Bronze Age. So today, just as they did nine thousand years ago, ships bring in cargo, and sun-baked fishermen pull in nets wriggling with mullet, grouper, and sea bream. The port is alive with crowds, shops, and restaurants—and naturally, it has its share of galleries.

One of the oldest harbors in the world

The artist-run Ilana Goor Museum, filled with a jungle of sculptures and objects, has been open to the public for many years, but there are newcomers to the neighborhood. Zadik—described by its director, Hana Coman, as “the people’s gallery of Jaffa”—is a long, pale-walled space hung with contemporary works; the gallery also hosts evenings of lectures and live music. Inga Gallery features conceptual artists from Israel and abroad, while Tempo Rubato presents everything from 2-D work to full-scale installations. As in Kiryat Hamelacha, many of the public walls in this quarter are covered with street art and graffiti: cartoon monsters, jaggedy boys and girls, fierce 2-D animals, and words in the Western, Hebrew, and Arabic alphabets. It is also home to the Jaffa Art Salon, a vast, cavelike gallery filled with works by a variety of artists from the area.

Ilana Goor Museum > 

Inga Gallery >

Jaffa Art Salon >

Tempo Rubato >

Zadik Gallery >

Lively Art Spaces at the Ancient Port of Jaffa

Sommer Contemporary Art on Rothschild Blvd in Tel Aviv courtesy of the gallery

Tel Aviv has a very fresh, inquisitive energy, and its arts scene is nothing less than cutting edge. Galleries abound here. On and around the stately, tree-lined central boulevard Sderot Rothschild, many of the streets are dotted with art spaces: including Sommer Contemporary Art, which showcases Israeli and international artists, and encourages budding curators by allowing them to organize small shows in their space. The Chelouche Gallery, located in a magnificent four-floor space on Mazeh Street known as the “Twin House,” features contemporary art of many media, from painting and sculpture to video and installation work.  Beit Ha’ir’s space on Bialik Street once served as a Town Hall building; now it shows work by today’s artists and also hosts cultural events on its roof terrace. The up-and-coming Florentine neighborhood is often compared to New York’s Williamsburg, with its young vibe and population of hipsters. It’s home to Hezi Cohen gallery, which represents Israeli heavy-hitters like Sigalit Landau, Ron Amir, and Aviv Naveh. Also located in Florentine is the dynamic new Meshuna gallery—with its grungy walls hung floor to ceiling with works, it stretches the definition of art space in a fascinating way.

Galleries abound here, showing work from the traditional to the abstract to the most provocative.

Tel Avivians and visitors from all over the world wander in and out of these exhibition spaces, some perplexed by the mysteries of the latest conceptual folly, some at home in the realm of the avant-garde, still others seeking a classic oil on canvas by an Israeli master such as Reuven Rubin—and such treasures can be found. 

Beit Ha’ir >

Chelouche Gallery >

Hezi Cohen gallery >

Meshuna > 

Sommer Contemporary Art >


Arts in Tel Aviv: A Fresh, Inquisitive Energy

Installation view of “9 Artists Walls”,  ArtSpace TLV. Photo by Yuval Chen Courtesy of the Gallery

Many young artists live and work in this area.

In South Tel Aviv, the neighborhood of Kiryat Hamelacha has all the elements of fertile grounds for art: a gritty, working-class area nowhere near gentrified (yet), where empty warehouses provide perfect studio spaces, and public walls serve as open canvases for the likes of Know Hope, Klone, and Zero Cents, three of Israel’s boldest and most energetic street artists. Raw Art, which opened in 2005, is a relative old-timer in the neighborhood. Rosenfeld Gallery, Feinberg Projects, and Litvak Contemporary are three exhibition venues nestled into the tiny HaMif’al street; all showcase Kiryat Hamelacha’s offbeat aesthetic. The Indie Photography Group Gallery focuses on work by contemporary artists working in photo-based media. Other new artists’ collective spaces—Hanina, Alfred, and Artspace Tel Aviv—serve as launch-pads for emerging young artists, many of whom live and work in this area. 

Alfred Gallery >

Artspace Tel Aviv >

Feinberg Projects >

Hanina >

Indie Photography Group Gallery >

Litvak Contemporary >

Rosenfeld Gallery >

Raw Art >


Kiryat Hamelacha, Where Public Walls Serve as Open Canvases