Researching Israel’s Culture and Legacy

By Deanne Kapnik, Director of Special Events and Projects

Creating the narrative for the Mizel Museum’s new exhibit about the life and culture of Israel has been fascinating – and a great challenge. The question before us is: How do we, in limited space and of limited means, lift the veil that has been created by conflict, politics and media to reveal the complex and evolving organism that is Israel?

Thankfully, we have access to more information than any other time in the history of the world. In some ways, that’s the good news and the bad news, since an additional challenge comes from the task of sifting through all the information made available through the internet, books and magazines, input from friends and colleagues, and a few well-meaning family members. (Remember, “Two Jews, three opinions”)

Though I’ve visited Israel several times, I’ve never been so aware of the diversity and richness I’m exposed to through this research. The physical distance has allowed me to have a new perspective on Israel’s culture. It has become apparent over and over again that it is a culture of risk-takers –and that shows up in the art, the science and daily life.

I’ve become a regular on the website: Israel21c. It is a constant feed of scientific and technological advances. Just this week, there was an article about the Israeli vaccine that is being used worldwide to save bees, as well as news about the “Heart-healing seaweed gel” that was invented there, and sold to a New Jersey firm to develop.

I watched a video of Shai Agassi, an Israeli who now lives in California speaking at one of the TED Conferences. His company, Project Better Place has announced its partnership with Renault-Nissan. Agassi forged an agreement with Israel, making it the first nation in the world to commit to an all-electric car infrastructure by 2011.

One of my leads took me to an Oren Lavie music video on YouTube. It is called, Her Morning Elegance. It is unlike any music video before it, and that is reflected in the fact that it’s been available for only six months, and has registered over 6 ½ million views!

Moment, Jerusalem Report, Zeek and Hadassah magazine, to name a few, are all publications ripe with information about the burgeoning art and cultural world of Israel. The Denver-based organization, ActionIsrael sends out periodic emails with links to articles, lectures, and happenings relevant to learning and supporting Israel.

The writer I’ve come to respect most on the issue of the state of the State of Israel is Daniel Gordis, a scholar and brilliant analyst of the country. He is one of the founders of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His most recent book, Saving Israel is inspirational.

We don’t know yet how the exhibit will look. It seems we’ll need the most sophisticated means to keep it current and vibrant, like the country. Perhaps, this is a job for an Israeli!

The Heymann Brothers Film Co has been operating for almost ten years. They specialize in long term documentary projects with a social and political orientation. The company was founded by Tomer Heymann, one of the leading documentary directors in Israel. Tomer and Barak have been described as “the Israeli Coen Brothers,” though their films are documentaries, there is a dose of sardonic wit in each one. Look at Netflix for their films.

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