Learning About Israel’s Complex Issues Through the Arts

By Georgina Kolber, Curator

As I sit at my desk here at the Mizel Museum in Denver, tasked with writing about Art & Culture in Israel, the Museum’s first group tour of Israel, it’s difficult to imagine that the seemingly heavenly places we visited—the dusty hillside village of Umm al Fahem aglow in honey-toned washes of seemingly endless light, the gritty artist studios of downtown Tel Aviv buzzing with creative promise, the sublime yet hospitable desert city of Mitzpe Ramon—are now staring down the ugly face of war. It’s hard to imagine Israel in any other way than how our group experienced it this past October. My heart feels heavy, and I can only hope that by the time this article reaches you, the strife has ended. I speak on behalf of the Museum in wishing for an end to suffering for the people of Israel and Gaza.

Because I can’t possibly cover everything we experienced in the short yet intense ten days we spent in Israel, stay tuned for our April 2013 community Shabbat dinner, when I’ll try to cover the rest.Ettystudi0

Starting from the very beginning, “fresh” from the airport and 14 hours of travel from Denver to Tel Aviv, we found ourselves at the entrance to the Nalaga’at Center, which sits right at the picturesque old port in Jaffa. The itinerary said that we would be “sculpting in the dark,” and with jetlag settling in, I was slightly worried about our ability to stay awake. We were greeted by a sweet young man who prompted us to hold hands and follow the leader into a pitch-black room where each of us was guided into a seat. A small clump of clay awaited each of us. The man asked us to imagine a scenario: a blind person suddenly gains his/her sight and each of us was to sculpt the thing we wanted that person to see when the world became visible. It was quite a task, but one that yielded a variety of results ranging from a mountain range to a bird to a starry sky. Once back in daylight, we viewed each others’ (and our own) visions in clay. It was a truly interesting way to get to know each other a little better.Jaffaboats72

The Gottesman Etching Center at Kibbutz Cabri also hosted us for a session on unleashing our inner artistry, with a two-hour printmaking workshop. To properly whet our creative juices, we first toured the center with its myriad of professional prints from notable artists such as Yehiel Shemi (whose estate and collection is also housed at Kibbutz Cabri) and Yigal Ozeri. Known as a venue for artists from Israel and abroad, the center is a goldmine of historical and contemporary prints. After a healthy dose of inspiration, each of us received the proper material: a square piece of plastic, an etching tool and a helping of black ink. Some of us were mildly scolded for our over-consumption of ink, which yields the same problem as applying more than a dab of Elmer’s glue to a craft project. Yet once again, our group rose to the task, each print an impressive piece, an expression from within, a small treasure that served to fuel our journey—both in Israel and back at home.

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