Resourceful Ruth

Innovative and inspirational Christian support in South Africa for Israel through WIZO

By Galya Tregenza Hall National Administrator and PA to WIZO SA President

“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death part me from you”.

Ruth 1:16, 17

Story of Support. Widow Ruth (right) follows her also widowed mother-in-law Naomi (left) from Moab to Bethlehem to remain at her side setting in motion the ‘direction’ of early Judaism.

WIZO South Africa, like all the WIZO Federations around the globe, actively supports and promotes the work of WIZO in Israel through various projects and fundraisers that take place throughout the country. However, unique to the make-up of WIZO SA is a branch of Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town that is called the Ruth Branch.

Who are these generous members and what makes them so special?

Over the last five years, Christian Zionist friends have been welcomed into the fold of the WIZO family through the Ruth Branch and what a success it has been! They have become the fastest-growing branch globally and as their chairperson Elizabeth Campbell says:

We are so thankful that our Jewish sisters have opened up their hearts and given us this amazing opportunity to join hands and work together to support the nation of Israel through WIZO’’.  Elizabeth points out that many Christians know and understand that you cannot separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. We are living in difficult and unprecedented times but these Ruth Branch members are committed to Israel – just like the widow Ruth would not leave her widowed mother-in-law Naomi’s side, Elizabeth will not leave Israel’s side as she truly feels that this unity of Jew and Gentile together is the key for future success.

Healing Hands. Following the inspiration of Elizabeth Campbell (centre), a journey of togetherness in the spirit of Ruth and Naomi, began with husband Jamie (right) and popular entertainer Erez Shaked (left) leading to the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts’ vision.

Elizabeth is a dynamic and passionate woman who leads her WIZO Ruth Branch with tremendous energy and vision!

Where did it all begin for her?

Her family were farmers and she grew up in a nominal Christian home in the Eastern Cape. She was first introduced to Judaism and Jewish culture through a Jewish friend she made at school. From an early age she would enjoy sleepovers at her friend’s house and subsequently learnt more about Shabbat (the sabbath)and the different chagim (Jewish festivals). At the age of nineteen, her fascination intensified after a surprise holiday to Israel, where on her arrival she was bowled over by an uncontrollable love for the land and its people.  So powerful was this ten-day experience, that once back home at art school, she chose JERUSALEM as the theme for one of her projects.  Little did she know it was going to stir a hornet’s nest. Her “crime’’ of loving Jerusalem resulted in shocking abuse from her lecturer and it was then that she experienced her first bout of horrendous antisemitism. In Elizabeth’s words:

I was shocked to the core. After the trauma I heard a voice in my deepest kishkas (in the depths of my soul) and I realized that this was HaShem talking to me – ‘Will you stand up for my people?’.

Little did I know back then what a tremendous calling this would become and nor did I realise all that I was going to have to endure for the love of His people and land. Every moment has been worth it’’.

Fertile Future.With the backdrop of the beautiful fertile Western Cape, members of the Ruth Branch (“The Ruthies”) and Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town Executive set on a fertile partnership of working together for needy causes in Israel.

‘Art’ of Coming Together

About twelve years ago, Elizabeth began to think about how she could get the Jewish people and those Christians like herself who love Israel to work together. She had a vision of the two communities coming together through the arts.  The idea of a musical concert popped into her head and suddenly the words ‘JERUSALEMWOVEN DESTINY CONCERTS’ resonated throughout her being. From that moment, a wonderful journey began.

Elizabeth and her husband Jamie, reached out to their friend, the popular entertainer Erez Shaked, who needed no encouragement to get on board. He too has a heart for oneness and could clearly see the potential and significance in Elizabeth’s revelation. A partnership was formed and the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert vision started to become a reality.

If Music be the Food of Love, Play On.  Inspiring their ongoing journey into the future, a celebratory concert organised in 2019 by Liz Campbell and Erez Shaked with WIZO and Christian friends in support of  Israel held in the majestic Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town.

Twelve years later and with six concerts under their belts, they have most definitely come up with a winning formula to celebrate together through music and song. Two years ago their concert was held at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and was a resounding success. However, with this years’ concert going virtual, it was possible to reach a much larger audience. The Concert was streamed by the Jewish Report via Zoom and Facebook live and was a beautiful collaboration between the Jewish and Christian communities, with approximately three thousand viewers being reached on the night and to date, thousands more people are still watching the production on YouTube and social media.

Six concerts have been produced and all of them have been musical extravaganzas that have made a deep impression and had a lasting impact. The President of WIZO South Africa, Shelley Trope-Friedman, rightly stated in her welcome address at the concert this year:

Sadly and most concerningly, we are living in times where we are witnessing a rapid rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric the world over. Therefore, the spirit of unity and cohesion that this concert brings is greatly needed and deeply appreciated. I thank you, our Christian Zionist friends, for partnering with us in the fight against antisemitism and Israel-hatred. This concert is giving a platform to the voice of friendship, love and solidarity and I know that together, we can make a difference.”

Ruth Reverberates. This past Sukkot, saw on the 26 September 2021, the Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles Woven Destiny Concert performed at the Jerusalem Theatre.

It is clear that the concerts have indeed made a tangible difference in bringing awareness to this serious matter.

The Woven Destiny Concert chose this year to help fundraise for the wonderful work that WIZO does in supporting and assisting those in Israeli society who need it most. Elizabeth is very passionate about WIZO, especially after attending the World WIZO Centennial Celebration Conference in Israel in January 2020 where she saw for herself the magnitude of the life-changing help that WIZO offers the Israeli people through their incredible facilities, ranging from shelters for abused women and houses of safety for children at risk.

Elizabeth and all the ‘Ruthies’, as she affectionately calls her Ruth Branch members, are committed to the Jewish people, committed to WIZO and committed to Israel. They seek to be a force of change and agents of love and hope.

“Agents of Love and Hope”. Come Friday, rain or sunshine, ChristianZionist members of the WIZO Ruth branch stand outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town in support of Israel.

’Being a Christian chairperson of a global, all Jewish women’s, Zionist organization called WIZO is stranger than fiction to say the least, but I am so thankful for the opportunity. Together with the help of my countless Christian friends, we will stand by the Jewish people and speak up for Israel. There are so many untruths and misguided beliefs out there when it comes to Israel and as antisemitism rises, I trust and thank HaShem for this ongoing formula of the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts which so clearly makes a difference. For Zion’s sake, we will not remain quiet and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not remain silent’’.

When it comes to support of Israel, the “Ruthies” do not adhere to the ancient proverb “silence is golden”. As Elizabeth says, “We will not remain silent.”


2021 Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert South Africa



About the writer:

Galya Tregenza graduated from the University of Cape Town with a post-graduate degree in Jewish Studies. She spent four years living and working in Israel in the charitable sector and several years in the UK. Currently residing in Cape Town with her husband and three daughters, Galya is a lover of Israel and works for WIZO South Africa as the National Administrator and PA to the WIZO SA President.





For those of you who missed the concert you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9-ls5qnJ5s

Any donation to the work of WIZO will be most welcome. For more information please contact: wizosouthafrica@gmail.com




JERUSALEM: Woven Destiny Concert – Jews and Christian celebrate together. Sukkot is the time of year when people of faith join together in song to celebrate the inspiration of Jerusalem and the shared destiny of all of us who consider Jerusalem as our spiritual home. Together with WIZO and the Gardens Shul in Cape Town.



While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Monumental Man

A tribute to the passing of Israel’s internationally renowned sculptor – Dani Karavan

By David E. Kaplan

Internationally famed for making his monuments blend into their environment, Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan – who died this past May 2021 at the age of 90 – blended into the public, hardly recognized when walking about his native Tel Aviv.

Monumental Man. Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan became recognized for making his monuments blend into their environment.

I put this question to the artist in a  co-interview with Moshe Alon in 2013 when we asked:

“While you are an internationally acclaimed artist, admirers of your work might not recognize you standing alongside one of your masterpieces? Does this bother you?”

Not at all. I think you hear about the noisy ones more than the quiet ones but this is true of any group. People hear about the extroverts and less about the introverts. Some artists prefer to create their work in peace and quiet, and you don’t hear much about their personal lives.”

Karavan’s work can be found across Europe, Asia and Israel. It’s hard to escape his distinctive style that blends sculpture, architecture and the landscape into unique and monumental pieces. Through molding and meshing of the environment, Karavan’s works showcase the urban or natural elements of their respective surroundings. As such, his materials range from concrete – in the construction of large geometrical structures – to the lands natural offerings – trees, water, grass and crusty surface.

We noted that “Your works are not ‘sculptures’ in the traditional sense – pieces that are exhibited in a museum or placed in the middle of a public square,” and asked. “You integrate the natural environment using the land – as if sculpting the landscape?”

That’s correct. This is what characterizes my work which is rooted to a physical environment and not to an atelier [artist workshop]. I was once privileged to meet the distinguished sculptor Henry Moore and observe him work in his environment – how he molded a model the size of a suitcase handle and enlarge it ninny-nine times its size.

For me it’s the opposite, because the large environment where I work emerges as part of my composition.

One example is the wall at the Knesset, rooted to the environment –  physically and conceptually. Another is the Negev Brigade Memorial – my first big piece as a sculptor – and which was a groundbreaking project. Up until then, “site-specific” environmental sculpture did not exist. To some degree, it is similar to architecture, where the architect designs specifically for a particular environment.

Monumental Impact. The Monument to the Negev Brigade is in memory of the members of the Palmach Negev Brigade who fell fighting on Israel’s side during the 1948 Arab Israeli War. The perforated tower alludes to a watchtower shelled with gunfire and the pipeline tunnel is reminiscent of the channel of water in the Negev defended by the soldiers. Engraved in the concrete are the names of the 324 soldiers who died in the war, the badge of the Palmach, diary passages from the soldiers, the battle registry and verses from the Bible and songs.  In addition to its strengths as a memorial, it was a precursor to the land art  movement.

In effect, I am a sculptor that does not search for a place, but rather the place seeks me. Michelangelo said that the statue already exists within the stone; I say that the sculpture already exists within the environment. I just unearth it. This is essentially my contribution to the evolution of sculpture. I wanted that sculpture be something people can climb and children play on – that it will be full of life and not pieces where people visit once a year to lay flowers.”

How true when I think of Karavan’s massively monumental work at the Edith Wolfson Park on the eastern edge of the city of Tel Aviv. If its Tuesday, “we, the grandparents”, are usually there with our grandson. Perched high, the park offers a magnificent view of the city from its most iconic KaravanThe White Square”, the monumental work overlooking “The White City” as Tel Aviv is famously known because of its white Bauhaus architecture. Karavan’s sculpture is a complex geometric work that is an ode to the city itself.

Fun in the Sun. An activity all to familiar to the writer, a father and son slide down the sundial of Dani Karavan’s ‘White Square’ sculpture at Edith Wolfson park, overlooking Tel Aviv. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

If Tel Aviv is a city not so much to see but to experience, then so too is Karavan’s sculpture where it is less viewed than it is walked, climbed, roller-skated and rollerbladed upon. I invariably join the “kids” in sliding down the sculpture’s colossal “sundial” on carboard as well as scampering up the large “pyramid”. The sculpture exudes physicality  – it is a metaphor for Tel Aviv of open-ended action befitting its reputation as “the city that never sleeps.” If you are generally “into art”, then visiting The White Square you literally, “get into” this art as you climb in, over, upon and through it!

Feeling his Way

On several occasions, he was commissioned to create memorials for victims of Nazi Germany.

The horrific atrocities suffered by Jews, and others during World War II, was a key theme in Karavan’s work, not least because his parents’ families lost many members during the Holocaust.

On Track to Death. Dani Karavan poses on part of his installation “Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs” during the presentation of his exhibition “Dani Karavan Retrospective” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin. After the Vichy government signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, Gurs became an internment camp for mainly German Jews. (Courtesy of Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images).

Another notable example is the “Way of Human Rights” at the Germanic National Museum in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Karavan’s  “Passages” memorial in Portbou, Spain, also became well-known since its unveiling in 1994. It commemorates the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who died in the small Spanish border town in 1940 while fleeing from the Nazis.

It was named “Passages” in remembrance of Benjamin’s final passage from France to Spain, as well as his enormous unfinished work Passagenwerk (Arcades Project) on 19th-century Paris. The name also refers to the several passages visitors make during their time at the memorial, from the journey down the steps to the glass view of the ocean whirlpool and back up to the rectangle of sunlight in the dark.

War and Remembrance. Inaugurated on 15 May 1994, marking the 50th anniversary of his death, “Passages” in Portbou, Spain  pays homage to  the philosopher Walter Benjamin in his failed flight from the Nazis.

Taken from Walter Benjamin’s On the Concept of History, etched in German are the words:

It is more arduous to honour the memory of anonymous beings than that of the renowned. The construction of history is consecrated to the memory of the nameless.”

That “nameless” Dani also ‘rectified’ in his memorial created in 2005, depicting the foundation of the Regensburg Synagogue in Bavaria, Germany that was destroyed during a pogrom in 1519. On February 21, 1519, the Jewish community of Regensburg  –  that had lived in the city for 500 years – was ordered to leave but only after its members had demolished the interior of their 13th-century synagogue.

Demolishing more than a synagogue, they were forced to demolish their past.

Despite his international fame, when asked which award among all those he has received touched him the most, he answered unwaveringly:

The Israel Prize which I received at the age of 46. It stands today as my greatest honour. I received it during a very special year and the person who shook my hand at the ceremony was Yitzhak Rabin… an added honour. While I hardly mention the international awards I have won, I am never reticent about my Israel Prize.”

Visitors surround the memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims in Berlin
Remembering Roma. The Berlin memorial for the Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis during World War II Many relatives of Dani Karavan were killed during the Holocaust and the atrocities and those affected by them became an important theme for the Jewish artist.

‘Portrait of an Artist’

The recurring flower motif  in Karavan’s work is reminiscent of his memories of his childhood and of his father’s garden. The ‘sights and smells’ of nature from his home in Tel Aviv – before it was the bustling city it is today – continued to influence the artist’s’ work.

Dani probably drew his inspiration from his father who had been a landscape architect. He studied art in Israel (at Bezalel), Florence, and Paris. During his youth, he was also involved in the establishment of kibbutz Harel, located in the Jerusalem Corridor. A week following our interview in 2013, he travelled to Berlin to dine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A man of the world, he relished in recalling “raising mice and lizards” as a child and “weeding my father’s garden in order to earn a small allowance to buy falafel and soda.”

Forgotten People Remembered. Dani Karavan and Chacellor Angela Merkel at the opening ceremony on October 24, 2012 of the Memorial for the Murdered Sinti and Roma. (Photo Stephanie Drescher)

Known for creating poignant monuments in Israel and around the world, Karavan’s most recognized local work is the huge wall carving in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, named “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”.

While Karavan could mold material to articulate his dreams and visions, he lamented “an inability to influence better relations with our Arab neighbours. My father arrived in Israel in the 1920s. He came as an idealist, and I inherited that idealism and what better vision to work for, than the pursuit of regional peace and happiness. If you ask what I still want to do, yes, I need to finish my autobiography but also, to collaborate with a Palestinian artist on a project toward peace.”

Writing on the Wall. To inspire all before it at work on guiding Israel’s destiny, Israeli artist Dani Karavan’s ‘Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem’ on the wall of the plenum hall at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, May 13, 2015. – REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Not all endeavors “towards peace” are invariably fulfilled. However, that task, even though Dani Karavin has passed on, still maybe possible. If Dani Karavan is no more, his most notable work in Israel, the huge wall carving decorating the plenum of the Knesset – is.

Appropriately named, the stone mural of an abstract Jerusalem landscape depicting surrounding hills and the Judean desert, faces the elected members of ALL the people of Israel – and under the shadow of Dani Karavan’s creative mind and hands, they can continue his ‘unfinished work’  – to pursue peace.




Some of Karavan’s important works:

A walk in the park7 The “Path of Peace” sculpture by artist Dani Caravan. An environmental sculpture which is one of the attractions of Nitzana


A Walk In The Park5


UNESCO Square of Tolerance – Homage to Yitzhak Rabin, Paris, France



A Walk In The Park6
The Axe Majeur, Cergy-Pontoise, France









While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Music to Our Ears

Separated by more “land” than “water” but far too much “trouble”, Israel’s Shalva band sings ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ with artists from the United Arab Emirates

By David E. Kaplan

The horizons of the people of the Middle East are constrained by self-inflicted ‘limitations’ but all share similar dreams and aspirations. This coincides with the message from Israel’s famous band made up of musicians with disabilities that this month collaborated with Emirati artists to celebrate the nations’ 2020 Abrahams Accords normalization deal.

“WE HAVE LIMITATIONS, BUT WE ARE ALSO LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’ was the bands message when they first broke into the national spotlight in 2019, competing in Israel’s top TV talent show Kochav Haba (“Rising Star”) before making it internationally.

Rising Stars. The Shalva Band takes to the stage on The Rising Star in Israel in the hopes of representing the Nation in May 2019 at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of Shalva)
 

Today, with its music heard worldwide, its message of hope and overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges is resonating internationally.

This month’s groundbreaking performance took place on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, better known as Shalva. Performing with United Arab Emirates singer Tareq Al Menhali; and accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” classic  – sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English – resonated far and beyond. The celebration was held under the theme – “Building Bridges to the Future”.

Building Bridges. ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ performed for the first time in Arabic , Hebrew and English.
 

Guest speaker the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said:

 “The United Arab Emirates shares Shalva’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In the UAE, those with intellectual disabilities or special needs are referred to as people of determination in recognition of their achievements across different fields. The collaboration to create the special rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ demonstrates how we must all continue to work together – regardless of nationality, religion or culture – to promote positive social change and foster more inclusive societies.”

Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba at an event with then-US House speaker Paul Ryan, at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 25, 2018. (AP/Jon Gambrell)

With Shalva actively engaged with its UAE counterparts aiming in advancing the field of disability-care across the region, its founder and president, Kalman Samuels explains:

We have chosen ‘Building Bridges to the Future’ as the theme for our 31st Anniversary Celebration to reflect the way in which Shalva is inspiring a more inclusive society, building bridges between individuals with disabilities and their broader community with a particular focus on our newly developing relationships in the Arab world as part of the Abraham Accords.”

“We are Family”

The journey of Shalva Band is one of those ‘only in Israel’ stories’.

When Shalva Band – whose 8 members all have disabilities – took Israel’s top TV talent show ‘Kochav Haba’ – Rising Star – by storm in 2019 and may have gone onto to win and represent Israel in May in Tel Aviv at the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s most watched live music event – it was not to be!

Shalva Sensation. Seen by global audience of 200 million at the 2019 Eurovision in Tel Aviv, Shalva Band with Eurovision Host, international Israeli supermodel, Bar Refaeli.

Israelis will recall that they withdrew from the competition due to suddenly discovering that the European Broadcasting Union’s insisting that  they had to rehearse on the Shabbat (the Sabbath or Jewish day of rest). The organisers refused to budge on the group’s request not to perform on Shabbat.

By refusing to break the Shabbat and turning down a chance to represent Israel in the 2019 Eurovision, the popular band, several of whose members are religiously observant, won the bigger competition – placing one’s values above all else. It was not only about religious observance – one member in the group is an atheist – it was respect to for those that are and standing together as a team! As the band members remarked after the fateful decision:

 “We are family.”

The Shalva Band’s two lead singers are blind, the lead keyboard player is visually impaired, and of the bands four percussionists, two have Down Syndrome, one has Williams Syndrome, and another is a disabled war veteran. The pioneering Jerusalem-based Shalva National Center where the band was born, provides services for thousands of children and young adults with disabilities.

Inspirational Outreach. Located in the heart of Jerusalem, Shalva’s headquarters is Israel’s beacon of inclusion and an international leader of innovative programs and research.

Providing care, education, vocational training, and community for people with disabilities, Shalva gives equal access and opportunity to all participants regardless of religion, ethnic background, or financial capability. It was established In 1990 by Rabbi Kalman Samuels and his wife, Malki, after their son Yossi – who was born healthy in 1977 but was rendered blind, deaf and hyperactive after receiving a faulty DPT vaccination – achieved what they call “a Helen Keller breakthrough”, showing that he can communicate. Yossi has proudly shared the Shalva Band’s progress on his Facebook page.

Expanding Family. A journey that began for one son emerged a journey for many sons and daughters. Founder and President of Shalva, Rabbi Kalman Samuels Samuels and son Yossi . (photo Marc Israel Sellem) 

And so, what began as an after-school programme caring for eight children out of an apartment, today serves over 2,000 people, including its house band of eight musicians – Tal Kima, Dina Samteh, Yosef Ovadia, Anael Khalifa, Yair Pomburg, Guy Maman and Naftali Weiss, under the directorship of Shai Ben-Shushan.

It’s through music that I can be an equal,” says singer and percussionist Yosef Ovadia who has a developmental disorder known as Williams Syndrome and began attending Shalva at age seven. “Music lights up my life,” he asserts as it does fellow band member Tal Kima who has Down Syndrome and whose talent for the drums was discovered at the age of six during music therapy.

It’s my favourite thing to do!” he says.

“People of Determination”. Members of the Shalva band perform Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water,’ accompanied by Emirati musicians and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, March 2021. (YouTube screenshot)

Dare To Dream

Their compelling story is one of overcoming adversity and coming out on top, literally, ‘on a world stage’!

Despite initial reservations of the band members of competing ‘live’ on one of the most watched television shows in Israel, with each progressive stunning performance on Season 6 of The Rising Star, there was not a dry eye amongst judges and audience as they captivated the hearts and minds of a nation that rooted for them  -“to go all the way”.

Although they did not “go all the way” having pulled out from the competition, they nevertheless took to the largest live music event in the world – Eurovision 2019 as entertainers and totally blew their audience of almost 200 million away. It was a performance that dominated the Eurovision conversation and the applause was heard around the world. BBC Eurovision tweeted it; newspapers from around the world highlighted them, and the performance was #2 TRENDING on YouTube, garnering more than double the views of most of the other contest participants.

The Eurovision organisation called the band “inspirational” for “inspiring us to think differently about challenges and acceptance,” while many viewers at home said the performance brought them to tears.

Their performances changed how millions of people view and embrace disability. They strengthened children and families to believe in their amazing potential.

Now their talents  are combining with their Arab counterparts with disabilities in the UAE.

Shalva on Tour. The Jerusalem-based Shalva Band released its first professional music video ahead of its world tour to Canada, the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom in October and November 2017.

Shalva’s Global Chairman Kalman Samuels is very upbeat about

the upcoming special cover version which “we believe for the very first time, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic represent the coming together of our respective countries and the optimism we share that with love, understanding and co-operation we will make the world a better place.”

To paraphrase The Bard:

 “If music be the food of love, play on, Shalva Band”






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavors to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

“From Slavery to Freedom”

Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?

By Justine Friedman

Here in the northern hemisphere, the start of spring is tangible and with it comes a sense of shifting from a winter mindset which lends itself to cocooning and insulation, to the newness and openness to growth that comes with the advent of spring. Globally, we are still in the throes of the corona pandemic. What an interesting year it has been and so incredibly challenging on many levels.

When we first entered lockdown, the impression I had was of a temporary closure with return to normality after about a month or so. In fact, when the world first stopped, I was relieved. It gave me an opportunity to breathe and pause the usual rushing around that life had become. As lockdowns have extended and become part of regular life, the halt on a rushed life is still appreciated, however the new reality has opened the door to some introspection that I find myself experiencing as well as many of my clients.

Passover during a Pandemic. Medical personnel sit down for a Passover Seder at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba on April 8, 2020. (Health Ministry)

I would like to share some of the areas that my clients and I have spent time unpacking, which is particularly relevant to this time of year as we enter spring and move towards the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). This festival is marked in the Jewish calendar as the liberation of the enslaved Children of Israel in Egypt over 3000 years ago following some 200 years of slavery. Imagine what it must have been like to be enslaved for such an extended period.

Each year, we celebrate this freedom from slavery with a 7-day (8 days outside of Israel) festival where we are forbidden to eat bread. In its place, we eat the very flat and often tasteless matzah (unleavened bread seen as a symbol of our freedom from slavery. Many of my clients’ experience panic over the limitations of foods and the dread of what they are not able to eat over this time. I find it eases their concern to rather focus on what is still permissible (which is quite considerable when you start to list the foods).

Is the concept of freedom from slavery relevant to our daily lives? Are we able to use this as an analogy for our own lives? Could this shift in mindset and breaking of shackles be representative of self-transformation that can enhance the quality and very fabric of our lives?

How can we understand this slave mentality better? Another way of describing it is being locked into a fixed mindset which is synonymous with feeling constricted. In this frame of mind, there is a general feeling of experiencing obstacles and lack of flow in our lives that often seem insurmountable. It is a sense of being stuck in habits, thought patterns, belief systems and situations that we cannot see our way clear of. Often the feeling of being stuck presents itself repeatedly with similar situations coming to challenge us. Often, we feel a sense of frustration and helplessness in the face of them.

The opposite of this is a freedom or growth mindset. The nature of which immediately allows one to draw a deep breath, as with this comes a sense of expansion, flow, and a sense of being able to rise above challenge, accomplish and thrive.

Awareness of how this plays out in everyday life is the starting point to transformation. Setting an intention to move towards establishing habits that fit the freedom/ growth mindset model is really what gets the process going. It is very normal to be able to face certain situations in life from one mindset and others from the complete opposite.

An example of this is an esteemed businessman or woman who is soaring in their career but finds that they cannot break the pattern of bad eating habits and negative self-talk. Their own inner taskmaster/ critic runs like a radio in their mind analysing how they are handling eating experiences and their bodies. In their work life they thrive on challenge and work well to meet deadlines and stay focused, and yet in their private life they do not believe that they are capable of making the changes necessary to lead a life of health, vitality and wellness. What spurs them on in their work area, breaks them in their personal area.

Passover Under Lockdown. Three siblings in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, wave to their grandmother in Haifa as she joins their Passover Seder via Zoom as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus in April 8, 2020. (Photo Dan Williams/Reuter)
 

I often find that one of the greatest obstacles my clients face which keeps them stuck and enslaved to poor habits, is linked to negative self-talk and a feeling that on some level they are not worthy of wellness and taking care of themselves. Oftentimes, eating and food is used as a punishment and overindulgence. This can either be due to restricting intake as well as from overeating. It is so common to use food as a means of soothing emotions or repressing emotions, and situational triggers constantly keep one stuck in these negative cycles which leads to despair.

How does one move out of this mindset of enslavement, of behaving towards oneself as a cruel taskmaster?

Self-awareness is the first cog in getting the proverbial wheel to turn. This works best when locked into another forward moving wheel, that of an experienced practitioner who can mentor one each step of the way. There are many techniques available to assist in breaking the shackles of slave mindset and each is unique to the individual.

Where in your daily life do you find yourself feeling successful and rising to the challenge? Where do you feel the opposite? Stuck, enslaved and feeling blocked? How would you feel if the situations that you are currently feeling enslaved were to be removed? What would this mean for your daily life and for your future? Can you picture what that may look like?

This is a wonderful picture to have in one’s mind and despite your inner critic telling you otherwise it is very achievable to get there. All you must do is take that first step.

If given a choice between wellness and illness, I can confidently say that most people would opt for the former. It is this picture of wellness that can be used as the goal. How does one reach that goal? One micro-step and micro-achievement at a time. Try this on for size the next time you are faced with a choice involving food options that usually challenge you. Ask the question, is this moving me towards my goal or away from my goal?

I encourage you all to use the energy of this time of year to propel yourselves from feeling enslaved in your life, to experiencing freedom in those same areas.

May this bring a new meaning to your Pesach seder and allow for the usual recitation of a historical and biblical story, to spark the story of your own redemption.



About the writer:

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Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky), is a South African trained, Licensed Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor who has run a successful clinical private practise for over 20 years. She made Aliyah with her husband and two children in November 2019. Justine educates patients with the skills and tools of how best to develop a wellness mindset and adopt behaviours that lead to the integration and maintenance of healthier habits. She is based in Modi’in, Israel and is also available for online consultations via zoom.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavors to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Under Lockdown, Israeli University Unlocks Ingenuity

Educating through a Global Pandemic, IDC Herzliya turns Challenge into Opportunity

By David E. Kaplan

They say when the “going gets tough, the tough get going,” but in the Start-Up Nation of Israel that is never quite enough, you also need to be SMART.

Tough, smart and add in entrepreneurial,” asserts  Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya, and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School. “This is how the IDC has come through 2020 with the Corona pandemic. We have put IDC philosophy into practice by welcoming the challenges of Corona as opportunities. Overcoming hurdles and obstacles is what we teach here. It’s in our DNA.”

Flying Colours. Flags representing the international students’ countries of origin wave along the ‘Raphael Recanati Avenue of Flags’ (Photo: Herschel Gutman).

Nurtured in a country that has survived and thrived in adversity, Israel’s first private university, the IDC Herzliya was founded in 1994 by its President, Prof. Uriel Reichman to train the future leadership of the State of Israel via “a unique model of excellence in research and teaching” alongside an emphasis “on social responsibility and community involvement”.  

“Wonder Woman”. Famed Israeli actress Gal Gadot and Miss Israel 2004 studied law at the IDC university , while building her modelling and acting careers.

Its students are trained to “Dream Beyond” and its former students can be found at the pinnacles of their professions fulfilling their “dreams” in fields all over the world. Look no further than Hollywood’s “Wonder Woman”  Gal Gadot, who after serving two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat trainer, studied law at the IDC Herzliya before she began her modelling and acting career. Even with 2020 being the year of the Corona, Gadot is ranked in the top three highest paid actresses in the world – quite a leap from the once young girl from Rosh Ha’ayin!  

Impact on the World. “It is our responsibility to shine hope and light for a better future for our children,” says IDC former student famed film star, Gal Gadot.

While the supernatural powers of a “Wonder Woman” could have come in hand in 2020,  the IDC dug into its own innovative talents and optimized its abundant expertise to come up with solutions.

Meeting of Young Minds. A regular day at the IDC before Corona. Students at the international school who study in English, hail from over 90 countries from all over the world.

When the Corona pandemic struck in March 2020, “We rapidly responded to the new educational realities,” explains Davis who has been responsible for the health and welfare of eight hundred international students from over 90 countries. Having to adjust to a world knocked off its proverbial axis, it has been non-stop for Davis and his energized “A-team” arranging transportation for these mostly foreign students, ensuring that health regulations were strictly adhered to, quarantining the foreign students upon arrival in Israel, and remaining in touch with anxious parents.

Time Out.  The outdoors coffee shop is the social hub on campus. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

We held frequent Zoom conferences with as many as six hundred parents at a time, from the Far East, Europe, North America, and Latin America,” says Davis. “Felt like the United Nations but with one big satisfying difference – we resolved issues!”

Corona Connectivity. A IDC Zoom meeting of students from all over the world with international school head, Jonathan Davis (centre top)

Countering Corona

Confronting the pandemic as if it were a war, the IDC set up on its campus an “Operations Room”, which maintained constant contact with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and Ben Gurion International Airportto ensure that things went smoothly,” says Davis. Running 24 hours a day, “We had to field requests from North and South America, South Africa, Australia, across Europe and even China; after all, we have students here from over 90 countries. As we were bringing these students into Israel, the regulations and rules of Corona were changing from one minute to the next. It reminded me of Mohamed Ali – it was not good enough to carry a touch punch; one had to be nimble on the feet – to adjust to constantly changing conditions.”

One of the many overseas students the IDC assisted in returning to Israel during Corona was Jessica Rubens from Belgium. Stuck at home because of the pandemic, this Communication’s student was finding it frustrating studying from home. “I had been trying since March to return to Israel; it was not easy but finally, the IDC knowing the right levers to pull, helped me get back safely. This is where I need to be. It’s been quite amazing.”

Studying Communications is Jessica Rubens from Belgium.

Responsible for quarantining over 800 students,  many of whom went either to the IDC’s new dormitories or apartments off-campus and “We had to check those apartments to make sure that everything was according to the rules and regulations.”

Campus Beat. The IDC’s new dormitories on campus before Corona (Photo: Hershel Gutman)

Tapping into Talent

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the students, the focus shifted to education, and what proved “smart”  was to tap into the talents of its students. To ensure the IDC was able to continue effective teaching, meant training hundreds of lecturers and professors in the art of online teaching in the most innovative and creative way.  “We took two hundred students from the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science, who became the mentors and tutors of these professors and lecturers, to assist them with technical aspects,” reveals Davis.

If one is tempted to raise an eyebrow at the sudden upside-down practice of students counseling lecturers, it is well known that IDC computer science students receive an average of three job offers from the biggest high-tech companies during their last year of studies. “They are trained to perform, and perform they did during Corona,” says Davis. “These guys were the cavalry.”

As 2021 dawned, and Israel became the first country in the world to vaccinate 10% of population, it is understandable that its universities are the breeding ground of its superlative successes. It needs to be!

Through entrepreneurial and innovative ways, we found ways and means to make lectures more interesting,” says Davis who directed the writer to interview a number of students.

Top Diplomat. Priding itself on having lecturers and professors active in their disciplines, seen here on campus is Israel’s top diplomat, the former Ambassador to the UK and the UN, Ron Prosor and today head of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya with Jess Dorfan (L) from San Diego and Kelly Odes (R), Argov Fellow alumni, from JHB two students in 2017. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

I began with a group from South Africa, a country facing increasing isolation as more countries ban travel there over the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.

For Noah Marks from Johannesburg, being under lockdown did not mean “my mind was ‘quarantined’.” Studying Business and Entrepreneurship, Covid-19 allowed Noah to use his time “profitably” as he began to work “on a number of venture ideas I had been toying with for some time.” He says it made him think “how crises are not to be seen as all negative but rather that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout this Covid-19 pandemic, I have been exposed to new ways of creative problem solving and these lessons have indeed helped me to further become the entrepreneur that I wish to be.”

The  IDC could not be better geographically situated to suit Noah and his aspiring hi-tech peers. Located between Ra’anana and Herzliya, in the midst of Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’, with the most hi-tech companies per capita of any region in the country, “the IDC enjoys a very strong connection with these companies,” says Davis. “They provide cooperative hands-on education as well as offering internships.”

From South Africa (Left to Right ) Jordi Rubenstein studying Psychology, Tali Kadish Psychology student, Noah Marks Business and Entrepreneurship.

While for second year Psychology student returning to Israel and leaving her family behind in Johannesburg was “a daunting and emotional experience,”  Tali Kadish says she knows “I made the right decision.” At least surrounded by classmates in the dorms “allowed the online lessons to feel somewhat ‘normal’.”

In agreement is her compatriot and also Psychology student, Jordi Rubenstein who says the IDC “has gone to special efforts to make our online lectures interesting and productive. This period has no doubt been difficult, but the extra resources laid on has ensured that my education is on track and enriching.”

From ‘Down Under’, Computer Science student, Arora Attenborough from Australia’s Gold Coast, is up and energized being back in Israel. Using underwater parlance to describe learning ‘under lockdown’, Arora is looking forward “to start deep diving into my Computer Science and Entrepreneurship courses knowing that the skills we are acquiring and the challenges we are overcoming today will make us better and more prepared for the changed world after Corona.”

Warmly welcomed back to the IDC is Arora Attenborough from the Gold Coast, Australia studying Computer Science.

There is an understandable sense among the students that the post-Corona world will be different and that the education they are receiving at the IDC is preparing them for that proverbial, ‘Brave New World’.

This phenomena came from one man’s dream – Prof. Uriel Reichman and after whom the IDC will soon be renamed.  It was this esteemed Law Professor who during the early 1990s – without any state financial support – deflected the skeptics and transformed a crumbling British Mandate military base into an educational oasis in the center of the country. That short saga from decay to enterprise, encapsulates the spirit of the IDC. As students walk through the picturesque, verdant grounds of their campus, they can look upon the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to the British and marvel at modern day Israel’s accomplishments.

Men with A Mission. Founder and President of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Prof. Uriel Reichman (left) and Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School.

With the shackles of past rulers an artwork on their pathways to lecture halls, “We train our students,”says Reichmann, “to free themselves from the shackles of convention and take responsibility for their future. We encourage them to pursue their dreams and not to succumb to the status quo.”

Viewing his IDC academic experience through a Corona prism, Government and Sustainability student Lee Ortenberg from Newton, Massachusetts is quite philosophical:

 “I came to IDC to have an international community surrounding me during my studies. I think one of the most amazing things about IDC is the diversity you find among your peers and professors; everyone has completely different life experiences to offer! Oddly enough, the coronavirus aligns almost perfectly with what we study in Government and Sustainability. From the nature of the virus, to how globalized economies handle shutdowns, to how cities and governments may come out of this pandemic greener and more resilient, it all has to do with our degree, making it a truly interesting time to be studying. Our professors share so much passion with our students, which is so inspiring to be around, and have been there for us every step of the way during the pandemic.” 

Lee Ortenberg from  Newton, Massachusetts USA is studying Government & Sustainability

While praising the administration and faculty in providing “an excellent job in adapting to online teaching,” Business Administration and Economics student Eitan Dooreck-Aloni from Miami, Florida articulates what all the students are hoping for”

Eitan Dooreck-Aloni, from Miami, Florida in the USA is studying Business Administrations-Economics

 “I can’t wait for life to get back to normal, so that we can all enjoy IDC’s vibrant life on campus.”

Now that’s a sentiment that everyone, everywhere can truly relate to!

Pathway to the Past.  Walking to classes, students pass the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to Great Britain.





*For more information about the IDC, please contact Stephanie Miller at smiller@idc.ac.il Or 972-9-9602841. 




While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

A Brush with the Past

The brushstrokes of Nachum Gutman reflect and reveal Tel Aviv’s rich and colourful journey from sleepy city to the ‘city that never sleeps’.

By David E. Kaplan

The art of Nachum Gutman is a colourful and vibrant roadmap into the past. It offers a visual narrative of days gone; but also an understanding of where we are today. If we marvel at the creativity and unpredictability of Tel Aviv today, explore the art of this great artist to best understand this great city.

Window into the Past. A visual tapestry of early life in Tel Aviv at the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art in Neve Tzedek.

Located in Neve Tzedek – the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the ancient port of Jaffa – the location and setting of the Nachum Gutman Museum could not be more idyllic. Perched on the east end of the narrow cobbled Rokah Street, with its quaint old, restored homes and lined with trees, the area exudes the ambiance of an artist colony.

Blue and White. The colours of Israel emblaze the walls exhibiting life in the “First Modern Hebrew City” – Tel Aviv.

In this aesthetic locale, the Nachum Gutman Museum is at home. Comprised of two buildings, the main one houses Gutman’s permanent collection called Beit Hasofrim (Writer’s House). Built in 1887, “It was one of the first buildings in Neve Tzedek and is the oldest in the neighborhood,” says Monica Lavi, the Director and Chief Curator of the Nachum Gutman Museum, whom I met in the foyer of the site.

Bright and Beautiful. Interior of the Nahum Gutman Museum, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv.

In the early years, Tel Aviv’s intellectuals favoured this new neighborhood,” says Lavi, “and Writers House acquired its name due to the impressive number of famous writers who lived here and gathered for literary meetings and discussions.” Such literary luminaries included the famed Jewish poet Hayim Bialik, S. Y. Agnon, who would later win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Joesph Aharonovitz, Dvora Baron, and Nachum Gutman’s father, a renowned Hebrew writer and educator who wrote under the pen name S. Ben Zion. The Gutmans too lived in this neighbourhood, “so Nachum grew up here, absorbing as a child the local lifestyle and intellectual culture of a young city on the move.”

Street Scene. Colourful life in Neve Tzedek where the artist grew up.

Between the years 1907 and 1914, the museum was home to the weekly newspaper, Hapoel Hatzair (The Young Worker), founded by A.D. GordonYosef Ahronowitz, and Yosef Sprinzak, that followed a Zionist socialist agenda and sought to establish a Jewish foothold in Palestine through personal labour in agriculture. “These pioneering idealists,” says Lavi, “were active from 1905 until 1930. So, as you can see, this building was an intellectual powerhouse, a natural home for the art and writings of Nachum Gutman whose art captured all the trends that were shaping the emerging nation.”

Visually Vibrant. A watercolor of ‘Figures in Neve Tzedek’ with the Mediterranean in the background.

We learn how intimate Gutman was to the historical sources from his contribution to the ‘Book of Tel Aviv’, which the Tel Aviv municipality commissioned his father, S. Ben-Zion, to write in honor of the city’s 25th anniversary. “Sometime after he began to work, S. Ben-Zion died,” says Lavi, “and the editing work was completed in 1936 by editor and translator A. Druyanov. Gutman produced eleven illustrations for the book, one of which was his father sitting and writing at night.”

As I reflect on Gutman’s father “sitting and writing at night”, I think of the lights of Tel Aviv’s commercial skyscrapers  – separated by a century – indicating the young and the ambitious, working well into the night.

After all, Tel Aviv is now known as the “City that never sleeps.”

‘Good Morning, Tel Aviv’. The artist capturing in this oil on canvas a new dawn in a young city.

Streetwise

The first work that greets the viewer is a large colourful painting of Tel Aviv. A juxtaposition of images, it captures its iconic architecture, its outdoors way of life and that it’s a coastal city. With the sea in the background and ships coming in to dock – this was still the age when the docks at Tel Aviv still operated – one can identify Allenby Street as it reaches the seashore. We see outdoor cafés with people sitting around tables on the sidewalks, chatting, reading and watching the passing show. This is quintessential Tel Aviv – a vibrant city with people on the move. In this sense, little has changed. Gutman captured the essence and spirit of a city that stands the test of time.

Tale about Transition. The pastoral and the urban mesh in an emerging Tel Aviv sprouting north of the ancient port of Jaffa  replete with ships at sea and ‘ships of the desert’ – camels.

I gravitated to a nearby computer screen where I waded through a most colourful compilation of Gutman’s paintings of Tel Aviv. All bright and expressive – the streets were bustling with honking cars, horse and donkey drawn carts, people standing around and talking in the middle of the streets ignoring the traffic. There were the residents of apartment blocks sitting sunbathing on rooftops reading newspapers, and in the distance in many of these paintings, one can see the port of Jaffa. The contrast from old and new Tel Aviv was startling. Relatively high-rise buildings in the foreground of a modern 1920s Tel Aviv with ancient minarets in old Jaffa in the far off background, convey the trajectory of a journey from the past to the future. Israel was changing and Gutman captured this transition in animation and vivid colours.

Family Man

Moving to a mock up of the artist’s studio with his original chair and upright easel, one’s eyes gravitate to a huge black and white photograph of the artist sitting on the same chair, hard at work painting on a large canvass on the same easel now on display. The alignment of props and photographs is such, that one ‘feel’s the artist’s physical presence as well as his close feelings towards his family: on the wall is a painting of his wife Dora, one of many on exhibit.

Room with a ‘Vision’. A recreation of the artist’s  studio  in the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art.

The writer then moved along a wall mostly taken up with oil paintings of Gutman’s only son Hemi sitting on his mother Dora’s lap. Preceding these is a self-portrait of the artist with Dora sitting on his lap as if a pleasing portend of what was to follow – son Hemi. In each painting, ‘baby Hemi’ is dressed in a different baby outfit as is his mother – the affection between mother and son is so emotively evident.

Cuddling Couple. Dora Gutman intimately seated on the lap of the artist.

Clearly, the artist was expressing himself as a loving family man. This sense was reinforced when curator Lavi explained some background to understating these paintings: “Nachum was twelve when his mother died and his father took another wife and left. Nachum was left with his grandparents who raised him so when he became a family man, he painted over and over again his wife and child, as if to show that he was the father that his own father was not.” The titles speak for themselves:

Dora, Hemi and a toy’, ‘Dora with Hemi on her lap’, ‘Sleeping baby (Hemi)’ and so on.

Mother and Child. The artist’s wife Dora and son Hemi.

He wanted to show through his art,” said Lavi that “he was a loving husband and father, and that the family was united.”

Looking Back

Ascending the stairwell between landings in the museum, I notice a large Gutman self-portrait standing before his easel but looking back over his shoulder, towards the viewer. It’s a powerful painting, all the more so when one understands that the artist was constantly in a retrospective mode. He was painting not so much what he was seeing in the present but what he remembered of the past.

‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. A relaxed Nahum Gutman reclining in a chair.

It is easy to forget that Gutman was only 11 years old when Tel Aviv was founded,” says Lavi. “Apart from one immature drawing, we have no childhood sketches by Gutman depicting the city. Even in that single sketch we see the houses in a built up street and not virgin sands. The Ahuzat Bayit and Tel Aviv that we know from his paintings and stories are all from memory, from his knowledge and historical materials. They were painted when he was in his thirties, decades after the city was established.” For this reason, explains Lavi, “when we tried to organize his body of work chronologically, we discovered that it was hard to arrange along a timeline. What we had believed to be an early work was actually a later one. His own adventures, together with historical events were written many years later and were based on written sources, and what seems as if it might have been painted as an observer at the time of an event, was actually painted from memory.”

Dreaming on the Dunes. A city founded on sand dunes north of Jaffa in 1909, Nahum Gutman’s idealistic impression of a sun soaked Tel Aviv depicting icons of the Zionist enterprise.

Out of Africa

There were once few children in Israel unfamiliar with Nachum Gutman’s illustrated book ‘Lobengulu, King of the Zulu’. It was written during his visit to South Africa in 1934 when he was sent by the Municipality of Tel Aviv to paint a portrait of General Jan Smuts, who would later emerge as that country’s Prime Minister and a great supporter for a Jewish national homeland. The book in Hebrew was serialised in 1935-6 and became a children’s bestseller. Apart from the many prizes Gutman won for both art and literature – for over 30 years he was also the illustrator for the ‘Davar for Children’ newspaper – he was awarded in 1978 the country’s most prestigious civilian award, the Israel Prize for children’s literature.

Out of the Wild. The front cover of ‘In the Land of Lobengulu, King of Zulu’, Nahum Gutman’s popular book about his adventures in Africa (Courtesy Nahum Gutman).

In the museum there is a room dedicated to Lobengulu King of the Zulu, which is an adventure story, written in the first person, of the author and his friends searching for the treasure of the Zulu king. While they fail to discover treasure, the author does discover in his first of many books, something far more enriching – the ability to reach the minds and hearts of children; especially at a time when they needed an infusion of faraway fantasy.

Explains Lavi:

 “It was during the turbulent thirties. The Arab Revolt in British Mandate Palestine was in full swing, and Gutman provided with pen and brush a valuable service by taking the minds of young children away from disturbing events in their daily lives to a land far removed, where they could indulge their imagination in adventure and fantasy.”

The room is replete with colourful paintings of tribal and wild life in Africa, set in forests, mountains, open veld and rivers, crocodiles, elephants, monkeys and hippos engage the viewer. “The kids love this room,” says Lavi who is most proud of the museum’s commitment to children’s education in art.

Adventure in Africa. Artist, writer and illustrator, Nachum Gutman brings the mystique of Africa to the Jewish children of Palestine with his popular ‘In the Land of Lobengulu, King of Zulu’. (Courtesy)

The wondrous warm character of the artist is revealed here not by his brush but by his pen:

“Have you ever paid attention to how much the word tzayar (painter) is similar to the word tzayad (hunter)?
When I was a boy, I wanted to be a hunter,
And even now I’m a kind of hunter. I have the character of a hunter.
Not to kill the animal,
But to capture its soul on the canvas.”

Hello Hemi

Noting my interest in the many paintings of the artist’s wife and their child Hemi – all painted in the 1930s – Lavi asked: “Would you like to interview Hemi, he is a professor emeritus biophysics at Tel Aviv University?” I jumped at the opportunity, and Hemi was no less excited: “visitors are a museum’s oxygen,” he expressed at the beginning of the interview.

What was it like growing up in the Gutman household?” I asked the retired professor, who until then I only knew as a toddler on his mother’s lap.

It was like living with a legend. While on the one hand he was a normal father, I was constantly fascinated by what he was doing.” Smiling he adds, “I think I was a little jealous at times. I remember thinking that he was so busy writing, painting, and meeting important people that he was spending too little time with me.” He agreed that in a way he is destined to spend all eternity with his illustrious father being immortalized in so many of his paintings.

Age of Reflection. The artist in later life.

While Gutman immigrated with his parents to Eretz-Israel in 1905 at the age of seven, he was truly a product of his new environment “and as a student, he soon rebelled against the European style of painting at the Bezalel Art Academy,” said Hemi. “When my father attended Bezalel, all the teachers there were of European descent, and their entire treatment of subject matter was based on European landscapes and even on European lighting. Dad’s group rebelled; believing that the different landscapes in Israel, one in which summer days are often gray and filled with blinding light from dust, required a new and different treatment.”

In this way, Gutman was the leading ‘light’ – the operative word – in creating a uniquely Israeli style of art.

Before Gutman, “there was no such thing as Israeli art,” says curator Lavi. “Yes, you could say there was Jewish art and Judaica would fall into this category, but no Israeli art as such.  This would be left to Nachum Gutman – one of the first children to live in Tel Aviv and one of the first students at Bezalel. His contribution to Israel’s culture is immeasurable.”

1912 Overture

I concluded the visit by staring at a huge photograph taken of an art class of aspiring students at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem. The year was 1912 and the students in the class, all fourteen of them, are painting while their teacher, Abel Pann appears in the front right corner, sketching. The large photograph appeared to me like an orchestra practicing with the teacher at the head looking like a conductor.

Artist on his Way. While many in this 1912 art class at Bezalel Academy of Art turn to face the photographer, Gutman, seated at the back, remains transfixed on his canvass.

Seated in the back of this ‘composition’ was the emerging ‘maestro’ Nachum Gutman immersed in his work. While many in the class turn to face the photographer, Gutman’s eyes remained transfixed on the canvass in front of him, too busy capturing others to be concerned with others capturing him.

With each brushstroke, the young student was on his way to become the founding figure of Israeli art.





While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (O&EO).

Scoring Hanukkah Goals

Follow in the ancient footsteps that gave birth to the Jewish “Festival of Lights” to this Hanukkah’s surprise at Jerusalem’s premium football club

By David E. Kaplan

Celebrating the start of Hanukkah today, I am watching my two grandchildren, Ariel and Yali enjoying their sufganiot (doughnuts). They may not know the history or understand the significance of this “festival of lights”  but these two and three year-olds  are enjoying the fun of Hanukkah roaring with laughter as they play with their spinning tops, known as dreidels (‘sevivon’ in Hebrew). One legend had it that during the time of the Hanukkah story,  Jews would grab a dreidel and start to play if Syrian soldiers entered the house while ‘illegally’ praying or studying Torah study. In the Diaspora, the four-sided dreidel displayed  four Hebrew letters –  ‘nun’, ‘gimel’, ‘hey’ and ‘shin’ representing the words ‘ne’s ‘gadol’ ‘hayah’andsham’, meaning “a great miracle happened there.”

In Israel, the last letter is changed to a ‘peh’, representing the word ‘po’, “here,” with the resulting declaration:

 “a great miracle happened here.”

And it sure has as modern day Israel – the Start-Up Nation testifies too. So what happened back then?

In around 168 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the Hellenistic King of the Seleucid Empire stepped up his campaign to quash Judaism, so that they would share the same culture and worship the same gods.

Marching into Jerusalem, he vandalized the Temple and decreed that studying Torah , observing the Sabbath, and circumcising Jewish boys were punishable by death. To ensure his policies were carried out, he sent Syrian overseers and soldiers to villages throughout Judea to viciously enforce his edicts.

Entrance to Hasmonain Village.

When these soldiers reached Modiin, northwest of the capital, they demanded that the local leader, Mattathias the Kohein (a member of the priestly class), be an example to his people by sacrificing a pig on a portable pagan altar. He refused killing the King’s representative and with the rallying cry “Whoever is for God, follow me”, Mattathias and his five sons (Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Yohanan) fled to the hills and caves of the wooded Judean wilderness and founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion and reduced the influence of Hellenism on the indigenous Jewish population.

It is to this beautiful area I visited during a Hanukkah before Corona in the center of Israel. It lies amidst historical heritage sites and the national forest of Ben Shemen, all home to the ancient Maccabees and present day Israelis mostly living in the modern day city of Modi’in, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Past and present merge in a colourful kaleidoscope  of nature and history.

Welcome back to the Past. The brainchild of Zohar Baram and his late wife Naomi, Zohar explains Hasmonian Village as a reconstruction of life in ancient times. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

Genesis

To get a taste of “authentic Israel” where the ancient Maccabees once lived and worked, I visited the reconstructed Hasmonian Village in Shilat and met its founder and Director, Zohar Baram.

He explains how it came about.

“After a tough day of fighting in the Sinai  during the Yom Kipur War in 1973, we were sitting around our tanks and armoured cars and turned on the radio when we heard the famous British actor, Peter Ustinov say that it had been “a mistake to create the State of Israel” and that “the Jews have no historical connection to the land – it’s a myth!” I was shocked.”

Voice in the Wilderness. The English actor, Peter Ustinov, whose tirade against Israel heard in the Sinai, spurned Hasmonain Village.

Only the year before he met and got to know the British actor when Ustinov stayed in Eilat for the filming in the Negev desert of a British-Israel film Big Truck and Sister Clare. Baram was taken on as Ustinov’s official guide, ‘So you can imagine we spent a lot of time together and we got to know each other quite well”.

Well, not quite!

A tank commander and fearless in battle, Zohar was brought to tears. “Hearing his tirade in that unmistakable voice, I made an instant decision. It was not enough to defend the land; I needed to defend our history. I realized in the sand dunes of Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments that I had to dedicate my life to the education of future generations of the historical connection of Jews to the Land of Israel.”

The result of this ‘revelation’ is today Hasmonaim Village which Zohar Baram established with his late wife, Naomi. “I love working with the youth and it is so important to show and explain to Israeli children who live in apartments what the homes of their ancestors over 2000 years ago looked like. How did they dress; what furniture they had; what decorated their walls and how they made a living.” The village which has a main road and homes on either side “is typical of the size of a village at the time.”

Back to the Grind. Zohar Baram showing the writer how people during the period of the Maccabe ground
 wheat with an ancient stone grinder. (photo D.E. Kaplan)
 

He passed me some wheat, placed it in an ancient stone grinder and then left it to me to produce grain that I placed in a plastic bag to take home. We then walked to the village mint, where Zohar hammered three coins “for your children” with motifs from ancient Judea. “The children love this and get the feel what life was like here two thousand years ago,” said Zohar.

Home Truths. At the time of the Hanukkah story, a sense of inside a home showing the furnishings and clothing worn at the time.

Leaving the village, I noticed the words taken from the Bible and inscribed in Hebrew, which translated reads:

When you see it, your heart will be happy”.

I left the village with a ‘happy heart’ and could well understand why filmmakers – mainly American – use it as a location for movies and documentaries. The most celebrated filmmaker that Zohar has worked with is the American Ken Burns noted for such documentaries as The Civil War and The Roosevelts. “When I work with such celebrated artists, I too enjoy a “happy heart’ when thinking back to that British actor in 1973 whose venomous words directed me on my life’s mission.”

Coining it. Activities include minting coins the ancient way. Zohar Baram passes me a newly minted ‘ancient’ coin. (photo D.E.Kaplan)

Field of Dreams

No visit to this area is complete without a visit to the Biblical Nature Reserve called Neot Kedumim, which in Hebrew means “pleasant pastures (or habitations) of old.” Covering an area of 2,500 dunams (2.5 km2; 0.97 sq mi), Neot Kedumim is a recreation of a biblical landscape.

A Visual Visit of the Bible. The Biblical landscape of Neot Kedumim near Modi’in, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In 1964, land was allocated for the project with the help of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and today comprises: the ‘Forest of Milk and Honey’, the ‘Dale of the Song of Songs’, ‘Isaiah‘s Vineyard’ and the ‘Fields of the Seven Species’. Signs are posted throughout the garden quoting relevant Jewish texts in Hebrew and English.

On arrival, my tour guide explained that when Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni immigrated to Palestine in the 1920s, they dreamed of developing a biblical landscape reserve that “embodied the panorama and power of the landscapes that both shaped the values of the Bible and provided a rich vocabulary for expressing them.”

Their son, Nogah Hareuveni, a physicist, dedicated his life to implementing his parents’ dream. To build the park, thousands of tons of soil were trucked in, reservoirs were built to catch runoff rain water, ancient terraces, wine presses and ritual baths were restored, and hundreds of varieties of plants were cultivated.

It started in 1964 with Nogah and we teach,” continued the guide, “what he taught us. Working with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other – he made the connection between the scriptures and nature.”

Noting how Jewish festivities have to do with a certain time of the year and a particular type of fruit, “he planted only those trees and plants that were indigenous in biblical times. He wanted visitors to understand the text of the Bible better by using their senses – seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting.”

He reasoned that because the Bible conveys abstract ideas through parables using images from everyday life thousands of years ago, it had less traction in the 20th century, where people are more attuned to the imagery of consumerism. The idea of Neot Kedumim is to ‘experience’ the Bible in the context of an authentic Biblical landscape.  Nogah wanted Neot Kedumim “To be the photo album of the bible.”

Tapping into the Past. Extracting water the ancient way at Neot Kedumim. (Photo by Reut Shai Dror)

It was not surprising that in 1994, Neot Kedumim and Nogah Hareuveni, were joint recipients of the ‘Israel Prize – Israel’s most prestigious civilian award.

“I always tell my groups that while Israel today is known for its innovative start-up companies, it emanates from our past. To survive in this harsh land one had to come up with ideas; so, the tour will stop at the cistern and see how water was stored; different types of oil lamps and how someone had to think of the idea that one could extract oil from the olive to fuel the lamp, and the type of plant that provided the wick. Here at Neot Kedumim we see how ideas were nurtured in nature and how the ancient Israelites survived and thrived. Here is the beginning of Israel’s status as the Start-Up Nation.”

Seeing the Light. A guide explaining how the sage was the inspiration for the Menorah

Walking along the path feasting my eyes on the exquisite scenery, my guide suddenly raises his hand to stop a tractor coming towards us. Its driver Zachariah Ben Moshe stops, climbs off with a jump and introduces himself as being in charge of tree planting.  Explaining that I will be writing an article, he quickly points to the branches on a sage tree.

Holy Moses! Is this what Moses saw? The image of the Menorah is unmistakable in this flowering sage. (photo by Noga HaReuveny)

What does this remind you of?” he asks.

It stared at me in the face – it was so obvious.

The Menorah,” I answered. Described in the Bible as the seven-lamp ancient Hebrew lampstand made of pure gold, the Menorah was used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil was burned daily to light its lamps.

Exactly,” replies Ben Moshe. “The Menorah was taken from the sage. We read how God instructed Moses on how to build a Menorah who said: “Go out to the mountain and see its image.” Clearly, it was the sage he saw and as we say , the rest is history.”

Scoring a Goal for Normalisation

After endless enmity and divisions on the land, “history” was surely made before this Hanukkah with the announcement that the UAE royal family bought half of a top-tier Israeli soccer team –  but not just any team. It was Beitar Jerusalem Football Club – an Israeli soccer team with an anti-Arab reputation amongst its fan-base!

Cowers for an Enlightened Future. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family (left) and Beitar Jerusalem F.C. owner Moshe Hovav pose for a photo in Dubai.

This barrier-shattering deal is among the fruits of Israel’s nearly three-month-old normalisation agreement with the Emirates and  sends a strong symbolic message – that “winds of change” are blowing across the Middle East. The deal puts a Muslim Sheikh at the helm of Beitar Jerusalem, the only Israeli team that has never fielded an Arab player.  

So no Arab player, but now an Arab co-owner.

Times are changing – the will and optimism is there.

Says Beitar Jerusalem’s owner, Moshe Hogeg about the deal:

On the eve of Hanukkah, Beitar’s menorah is lit in a new and exciting light. Together, we will march the club to new days of coexistence, achievements, and brotherhood for the sake of our club,  community and Israeli sports.”

With the belief of influencing hearts and minds, UAE’s Sheikh Bin Khalifa, a first cousin of the de facto Emirati ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, proudly asserted that his investment represented:

 “the fruits of peace and brotherhood between the nations”.

When asked in a live video-linked interview about the reputation of the fan-base of the club he had invested, Sheikh Bin Khalifa replied in the spirit of Hanukkah:

They are mostly young, in their twenties. We should extend them the hand and show them the light.”

Setting New Goals. Israeli Arab midfielder Diaa Sabia (right) with a club official during his presentation at Dubai’s Al-Nasr club.

The new Emirati co-owner added that the Israeli soccer club was open to recruiting Arab players. Already an Israeli Arab midfielder, Diaa Sabia has signed for a Dubai club.

There is this Hanukkah, a movement, momentum and message in ‘play’ – shining  LIGHT on a path ahead towards greater understanding and outreach.



While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (O&EO).

The Oscar Winner and Plungė

Recent passing in the UK of celebrated Academy award-winning scriptwriter brings back memories of his Lithuanian roots

By Danutė Serapinienė

First appeared in the local Lithuanian newspaper and translated into English with the help of the writer‘s  daughter, Rita Williams.

On September 8th 2020, at the age of 85, the South African-born British author, playwright, and screenwriter, Sir Ronald Harwood passed away. Best known for his plays for the British stage as well as the screenplays for The Dresser and The Pianist, for which he won the 2003 Acadamy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Harwood‘s roots trace back to Plungė (in Yiddish Plungyan).

Cape Town born, Sir. Ronald Harwood in his study in London.

The writer‘s  father was born and spent his childhood in our city and this year marks the 15th anniversary of this celebrated writer‘s first and last visit to his father’s homeland.

Two classmates from Cape Town

Ronald Harwoods father was Isaac Horwitz. As a teenager, in 1902 he arrived in Cape Town in South Africa, and in 1934, his son Ronald was born. The boy found himself in the same class throughout his schooing at Sea Point Boys School as Abel Levitt, whose father was also from Plungė, but the two were unaware of this at the time. After matriculating, the friends parted ways.

In 1951, Ronald moved from Cape Town to London  to pursue a career in the theatre, and following an English master telling him his surname was too foreign and too Jewish for a stage actor, he changed it from Horwitz to Harwood.

In 1959, he married Natasha Riehle (1938-2013), the granddaughter of a 7th generation descendant of the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great and had three children – Anthony, Deborah, and Alexander.

From 1993 to 1997, Harwood was president of the International Club of PEN (Poets, Essays, Novelists),  and from 2001 to 2004, he served as president of the Royal Literary Society. The creative legacy of this writer would span 24 stage plays, 20 screenplays, 33 books and publications. Nominated 32 times for various awards, Harwood won eight, his most presigious being the Oscar for The Pianist, which revealed his strong interest in the Nazi period, especially the situation of people who either chose to collaborate with the Nazis or who faced strong pressure to do so and consequently had to work out their own personal combination of resistance, deception and compromise.

Sir Ronald poses with his Best Adapted Screenplay award for “The Pianist” during the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003 (Credit: Getty)

His schoolfriend Abel settled in Israel. Together with his wife Glenda, they pursued a path of honouring the memory of Abel‘s relatives and other Jews of Plungė killed during the Holocaust in Kaušėnai, and helped to establish the Tolerance Education Center at the Saulė Gymnasium. For their outstanding efforts in preserving Jewish history and culture in the Plungė district, Abel and Glenda Levitt were awarded in 2014 our Municipaliy‘s Badge of Honor. This was followed in 2019, when the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel awarded the Levitts‘ the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs badge of honor, the “Star of Lithuanian Diplomacy” for fostering relations between the Republic of Lithuania and the State of Israel and perpetuating historical memory.

Relations between the two classmates were resumed when Abel read Harwood’s novel “Home” and learnt that Ronald’s father had emigrated to South Africa from Plungė. Abel called Ronald and suggested “What about you and Natasha joining us in a trip to our shtetl Plungyan?” They immediately agreed.  

“Our Shtetl”. Plunge before World War II from where the fathers of both Sir. Ronald Harwood and Abel Levitt came from before emigrating to South Africa.(Photo Collection, 181co)

Returning to their Roots

On May 25, 2005, Ronald and Natash Harwood and Abel and Glenda Levitt arrive in Plungė and visit Jakov Bunka, known as “The last Jew in Plungė”. Next, they visit the Kaušėnai memorial, where 1,800 Jews from Plungė were murdered in July 1941. Although Ronald’s family had allready left before the Holocaust, he walked in silence, deeply moved, shrouded in the sanctity of the moment.

Next, our  guests visited Saulės Gymnasium, where in an open lesson held in the Assembly Hall, Ronald addressed the gathered students and teachers and spoke about the making of the film “The Pianist”, basing his script on the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist living in Poland. After the Nazis occupied Warsaw, the musician, separated from his family, went into hiding for several years. The idea of ​​the film, explained Ronald, was not to give in to the terrible force of events and to remain a spiritually unbroken person. The screenwriter recounted how the lead actor, the talented American Adrien Brody, had to starve to appear physically like a hunted and hungry man. Not eating normally, the actor was naturally and constantly melancholy – contibuting to the realism of his performance. Admitting that he had  initially agonised how to begin the screenplay – the opening being so important –  he revealed that it was the film’s director, Roman Polanski whocame up with the idea of the main character playing the piano in the opening scene. The screenwriter took advantage of that advice – then came the inspiration to ‘compose’ all the frames and present the protagonist playing the piano in the finale. This film won three Oscars – Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Harwood took questions from the audience.

Somber Note. Adrien Brody in the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life concert pianist who spent two years hiding in the ghetto of Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland in World War II seen here in Roman Polanski’s Holocaust The Pianist, screenplay by Sir. Ronald Harwood. 

Visiting that afternoon the Samogitian Art Museum, Harwood was met as he entered the hall with a melody by Frederik Chopin played by the pianist of Plungė‘s Mykolas Oginskis Art School. It was a moving introduction to his next encounter as it was the same melody from the opening sequence in The Pianist. It powerfully resonated; after all, the movie’s soundtrack symbolises a belief in life and human purpose that man can find in himself the strength to restore a shattered world even while enduring the horrors of Nazism.  

Music was his Passion, Survival was his Masterpiece. Poster for the award winning film, ‘The Pianist’ about Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Again speaking about the making of the film, Harwood also spoke  about himself and his father who came from Plungė, and answered questions from the audience. The meeting concluded with a photograph of all the participants.

The next day, the Harwoods and Levitts visited Kazys Vitkevičius, the last surviving rescuer of Jews in the Plungė district.

In 1941, at the age of 14, he helped his mother Emilia Vitkevichienė hide and feed Jewish girls. He did this by digging pits in which he hid the girls covered by branches, and bringing them food. Both his mother and Kazys were honoured by Yad Vashem as ‘Righteous among the Nations‘. Ronald and Natasha were visibly moved by the experience of meeting this special man.

At the special reception for our guests at the Municipality, Abel and Glenda Levitt were most impressed by Harwoods words to Algirdas Pečiulis, the mayor of Plungė:

Mr. Mayor, I know you have difficulties with the budget. I appeal to you no matter what you decide, don’t cut the cultural budget so as not to harm your community.”

These words inspired Abel and Glenda to organize with the Saulė Gymnasium Tolerance Centre, “The Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art competition”. Since that time, the Competition has grown from a local, then to a regional and presently to a national event.

Exposing the Past. Drawing by Karolina age 14, a participant in the annual Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition. Note the open eye, an admission of seeing and knowing.

Seeing Light Beyond Darkness

The aim of the Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition is to encourage students to explore a dark chapter in their history and to  express their understanding of it through art. Simply put, school children would be invited to dance, sing, write or paint their insights of the Holocaust.

Confronting History. ‘A Stain on History’ by student Bernadetta Plunge a participant in the annual Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition.

In the spring of 2007, the final event of the first competition took place, which was attended by students and their teachers from Plungė, Palanga and Mažeikiai. Abel and Glenda Levitt came from Israel to assist in judging the competition, while Harwood, who was unable to attend due to commitments of work, sent a letter to the participants, which was read aloud to everyone. He wrote of his strong family roots to  Plungė and the memories from his last visit that gave him strength in his daily life. He believed that his late father, “would be deeply moved, knowing that I could breathe the same air he breathed as a boy and that I could look up at the same sky he did.”

Gone Forever. “Oblivion” by student Albertas from Plunge captures generations of young Jews lost forever in the Holocaust.

He recounted the impact it had on him hearing of the massacres and seeing the graves in Kaušėnai and meeting the heroic rescuer of Jewsish girls – Kazys Vitkevičius:

 “I learned that, despite the horror he experienced, he has survived as a bright example of goodness and courage. He showed the light where I saw only darkness.”

Your Ronnie”

In 2010, Ronald Harwood was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England and became Sir. Ronald Harwood and his wife Lady Harwood. The Tolerance Education Center at the Saulė Gymnasium congratulated  Sir. Ronald Harwood who replied with thanks ending his email – “Your Ronnie”.

Signing off with such familiarity from someone who mixed in social circles from world leaders to celebrity film stars, as well as being hosted  for a dinner by Prince Charles and Camilla on the occasion of the writer’s 80th birthday, truly resonated with the people of Plungė.

Sir Ronald Harwood receives a knighthood for Services to Drama Investitures at Buckingham Palace (Credit: Rex Features)

In the 13 years of the Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art Competition, over 800 students have participated. Over the years, interest in the competion has expanded geographically with particiation from schools in Ariogala, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Vilnius, Alytus, Marijampolė and Kėdainiai. Such support for the goals of the competition offers hope that the current generation can help to create a more beautiful world.

In countries and cities abroad, Abel and Glenda Levitt have exhibited many of these fine artworks by students at schools  confronting the haunting question of “What happened to our Jewish communities during the Holocaust? ”

Towards A Tomorrow Of Tolerance. Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas (left) awards Abel and Glenda Levitt with the Medal of Honor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv on the 4th June 2019. (Photo D.E. Kaplan.)
 

They are confronting through art their past to seek a more enlighened future.

At these exhibitions  – which have been held at Plungė Public Library, Biržai, the Israeli cities of Tel Mond, Netanya, Kfar Saba, Jerusalem, Herzliya, Ra‘anana, Tel Aviv, South African cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, as well as London, Toronto and Washington – the Levitts speak about Lithuania and the Tolerance Centre in Plungė, which promotes the values of humanity and tolerance through art. So thank you to Abel and Glenda in helping to  bring the better angels of our city to the outside world. Let me end with the words that “Ronnie“ concluded in his letter to the first contestant of the art competition:

Politics is temporary, but art is eternal.”

It can be said too that the life of Sir Ronald Harwood was temporary but his message eternal. He has left us a legacy that illuminates the road ahead for those that remain to follow.

Revealing the Truth. The writer Danutė Serapinienė (centre) receives an award from the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda (right) for her contribution to educating about the Holocaust that took place in Lithuania.


The Lost Names of Lithuania. The first of two documentary films telling the story of the Jews of Birzai. This poignant film chronicles the astonishing group tour to BIrzai last year. The second documentary, now being made, will tell the depressing story of modern Lithuania (Click on the picture or caption).




About the Writer:

Danutė Serapinienė is a retired schoolteacher in Plungė. She recently received an award by the State President of Lithuania for her role in educating about the Holocaust in Lithuania.







While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

Beauty and the Beach

An architectural masterpiece  on Tel Aviv’s coastline canvas will enhance the city among the leading cultural capitals of the world

By David E. Kaplan

It is said that the 21st century is destined to be the century of cities rather than countries. This forecast is evident in the vocabulary of today’s tourists –  at least before Corona –  of visiting Paris, Barcelona, St. Petersburg or Shanghai rather than mentioning the countries in which they are situated – France, Spain, Russia or China!

Down by the Riverside. On the banks of the Yarkon River and a few steps from the sea, Tel Aviv’s future World’s Jewish Museum.

More than half the world’s population has already moved to cities and this is expected to rise to 80% by the middle of this century. With so many cities vying for center stage, Tel Aviv is now going beyond its branding of being the “Bauhaus Capital of the World” – reflecting early 20th century clean, utilitarian architecture – to an uncertain and exciting future of flirtations and fluctuations. This has given rise to one of the most poignant descriptions of Tel Aviv as a city “waking up each morning and deciding what it’s going to be.” The  new spectacular sculptures ascending to the heavens across the Tel Aviv landscape,  attest to this branding and in a few short years’ time, there will be a major addition that encapsulates the city’s essence and affirms its rising global status. That addition will be the new  World’s Jewish Museum designed by the legendary award-winning Canadian-born American architect – Frank Gehry, whose masterpieces have disrupted the very meaning of design within architecture. These “disruptions”  are powerfully projected in such monumental works as the La Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

It was hoped before the Corona pandemic that this world-scale museum, cultural and entertainment center would have been completed before May 2023, in time for the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence. However, when completed, the World’s Jewish Museum on the 22-dunam (5.5-acre) site overlooking the Mediterranean along the bank of the Yarkon River at the northwestern edge of Hayarkon Park and steps from the Namal ( Port of Tel Aviv), will be the hub of cultural and recreational activity and the heart of the city’s vibrant waterfront.

Marvel on the Med. Adjacent to the Medetrrnean and the Hayarkon Park that attracts over 15 million visitors a year,  a model of Tel Aviv’s  World’s Jewish Museum.

While engendering great excitement, there are however, those that remind us that society cries out with so many pressing needs from education and health to socio-economic inequalities and criticize the need for such expansive and expensive adventures.

There is however a strong counter argument.

Look to Bilbao in Spain and what Gehry achieved for the status of that city and just as important – the benefit for Bilbao’s citizens!  

From Bilbao to Tel Aviv

Architects and city developers talk about the “Bilbao Effect” referring to the “WOW factor” that followed the opening in 1997 of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in northern Spain. From being a lack-luster industrial city totally off the tourist’s map, Bilbao emerged virtually overnight as one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Frank Gehry’s stunning monumental structure hailed as “one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture” and which the late esteemed architect, Philip Johnson, called “the greatest building of our time”, rapidly reversed the city’s fortunes which had fallen victim to an industrialization that had either aged or moved elsewhere. Within the first year, the museum with its distinctive titanium curves and soaring glass atrium attracted over 1,300,000 visitors exceeding all expectations and infusing $160 million into the local economy. In its first five years, the Museum generated more than a billion US dollars for the Basque country, more than ten times the museum’s cost. Whatever the staggering costs of financing alluring cultural magnets, the returns far exceeded the outlay. Widely credited in putting Bilbao on the map, Gehry’s masterpiece has subsequently inspired other iconic structures around the world, which will soon be joined by the World’s Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv.

Maestra and Masterpiece. Famed architect Frank Gehry with a model of the future World’s Jewish Museum in his office.

Back to the Roots

It may at first seem strange that Gehry, who doesn’t identify as Jewish, took on a uniquely Jewish project in the Jewish homeland?

His explanation is a long journey – nearly as complex as his architectural designs, but it includes this admission:

 “There’s a curiosity built into the Jewish culture. I grew up under that. My grandfather read Talmud to me. That’s one of the Jewish things I hang on to probably— that philosophy from that religion. Which is separate from God. It’s more ephemeral. I was brought up with that curiosity. I call it a healthy curiosity. Maybe it is something that the religion has produced. I don’t know. It’s certainly a positive thing.”

What intrigues the architect  – who was born Frank Goldberg – is that “The Talmud starts with the word ‘WHY’.”

So little surprise that on the model of the museum sitting in Gehry’s offices, the word Lamah (“why” in Hebrew) is carved into one of the buildings, although the architect remains usure whether it will be included in the final construction.  

 Reframing the Jewish Narrative and Showcasing Achievement. Gail Asper holding a World’s Jewish Museum folder in the Frank Gehry-designed Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in March, 2018. (Photo by Etye Sarner).

Fellow Canadian Gail Asper of the Asper Foundation – the visionary behind the museum – explains that “The site will have the greatest story that’s never been told about the Jewish people. It will celebrate the joys not the oys. The museum is more about how Jewish values have transformed and improved the world.” 

For Asper, having Gehry bring her vision to fruition “is like hearing angels sing,” she says. “Frank immediately loved the vision. I know that beautiful architecture inspires the soul and Frank designs incredibly breathtaking, inspiring buildings. I love Bilbao. I love the Disney Concert Hall. I love what he does. And for all the countries in the world to not have some extraordinary breathtaking Frank Gehry building, Israel absolutely deserves that. And Israelis deserve that. They put up with an awful lot living in Israel. They pay high taxes. They’re dodging rockets, even in Tel Aviv.” 

Inside Story. An artist’s impression of the inside of the World’s Jewish Museum Tel Aviv.

The Museum will provide a cutting-edge, educational and inspirational experience that explores the contributions that Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel have made to civilization in numerous fields over the past 3,500 years, from the Bible to enterprise, science, education, culture and social justice. Says Gehry:

Most of the buildings until this point to represent Jewish causes and issues have included the Holocaust  because that was such a searing, burning, terrible issue in our lives. This museum will really be about celebrating the achievements of this culture over time, and some of it is extraordinary, and a lot of it has not been told as it will be in this museum.”

Shape of things to Come

Gehry is passionate about restoring art back into architecture. He laments that “a lot of the world no longer considers architects as artists. So I think what’s needed is architects who are artists.” Historically, he asserts, “architecture was considered an art”, but that changed following WWII when “it got mixed up with other issues like commercial developers.” In the aftermath, a debate has persisted over whether architecture is an art or just the creation of a solid structure for the benefit of society.  For Gehry it is both as we will one day see and be bedazzled by the allure of his first building in Israel, Tel Aviv’s World’s Jewish Museum. Israelis and tourists from abroad will visit the museum to see the building  as much as its exhibits within. The packaging will be no less fascinating than its contents. This was the case of Bilbao.

Taste of Tel Aviv to Be. Gail Asper with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, center, and Moe Levy, executive director of the Asper Foundation in Winnipeg. (Courtesy)

Alluring Architecture

Since the Bilbao success –  a deliberate choice in using contemporary high-profile architecture as a tourist draw card – the term, ‘Architourism’ has gained currency. There is no doubting the seductive value of these highly photogenic and iconic buildings  to lure visitors. Apart from Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, one has only to think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, Danish architect, Jørn Utzon’s Opera House in Sydney, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur that has featured in movies and TV productions, most notably the film Entrapment, where the building ‘starred’ alongside the late Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.

The building was no less the star of the show!

There is no denying the power of man-made marvels capturing people’s imagination. From ionic structures in ancient times such as the Acropolis and Colosseum to the more  modern examples such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or Empire State Building, all achieved celebrity status as powerful visual metaphors of their cities. Imaginative architecture brands a city to lure visitors and commerce.

Success of Structure. Hardly any other city has benefited from a museum as much as Bilbao. The Guggenheim Museum has made Bilbao so alluring that it attracts millions of tourists annually  from all over the world.

In a few years, adding to this illustrious list of iconic global edifices, will be Frank Gehry’s World’s Jewish Museum that will further lift Tel Aviv to new prominence in the world of contemporary design.

I marveled at this thought when last Friday morning, I stared at the vacant sight where construction has yet to begin and with the model of the museum in my mind, thought  of Tel Aviv’s exciting tomorrows.


World’s Jewish Museum architect and visionary Frank Gehry discusses his vision for the design of the building.






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

From Drive-In to Sail-In

Tel Aviv-Yafo goes ‘retro’ with  Israel’s first “Sail-In” floating cinema

By David E. Kaplan

Those old enough, would well remember the “Drive-In”? Whether in the USA, South Africa, Australia and yes, Israel’s Tel Aviv, couples used to pile into their cars  to watch movies and snack at the same time, without someone bellowing “keep quiet!” Sound came from speakers clipped to the car window – not that the quality mattered too much in those days.

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Sounds of Silence. Remember when the speaker did not work and you had to move the car.

It was the age of motorcar romance and as one commentator so ‘fondly’ recalls, “Whether they watched the movies or not depended on how friendly they were.” And as I recall, those sixties and seventies horror movies were a ‘sure thing’ to engineer getting extra ‘friendly’.

No doubt, the Drive-In played its role in propagating our species.

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Oh, Those Were The Days.

Unlike today when Tel Aviv is in the vanguard for innovation, the “City that never sleeps” came late to the ‘Drive-In’’ party.

Only opening its first Drive-In in 1973 north of the Yarkon River with Disney’s Jungle Book, it remained open until 2000, finally giving way in 2014 to the Shalom Group Arena, the home ground for the Hapoel Tel-Aviv basketball club. Most important, it retained its huge parking area from the Drive-In era and to mark the annual romantic Jewish holiday – Israel’s Valentine’s Day – of TuB’Av (4th August) – it was back in business. In the City’s press release, it advertised the Drive-In’s opening with the anatomically suggestive “for the romantically inclined”!

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Adjusting to Corona. The parking lot of the Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball arena is repurposed for a drive-in theatre.

On select evenings of the week during the sweltering summer month of August, in conjunction with the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and the Tel Aviv Cinemateque, there will be screenings for 200 cars, strictly in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines and “purple badge” public health standards. Movie audio is transmitted in high quality via an FM radio frequency. “Tel Aviv is the ‘non-stop city’ but the coronavirus outbreak understandably halted a large share of cultural and leisure activity,” said Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai. “Nevertheless, we constantly searched for creative ways to grant residents access to culture. The return of the drive-in is another creative way to pass the hot August days, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines.”

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Tel Aviv’s legendary Drive-In Theater Returns. The screenings are exclusively for DigiTel Resident Card holders and tickets must be purchased ahead of time via the municipality website. (photo credit: AMIR YAKOBY)

The director of the culture department in the Tel Aviv municipality, Shavei Mizrahi, said that in light of the high demand for screenings, “a reassessment of the situation will be made, and the intention is to conduct more screening days, including weekends.”

Down By The Riverside

Tel Aviv is characterized by always taking things to the next level and in this case from land to water. Fresh off the successful return of Tel Aviv’s legendary drive-in theatre, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality was delighted to announce on the 9 August, the launch of Israel’s first “Sail-In” floating cinema at HaYarkon Park’s boating lake.

With the Coronavirus pandemic proving particularly challenging for the entertainment industry worldwide, outdoor initiatives represented almost the sole solution for cultural events.

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Floating Around. An illustrative image of the ‘Sail-In’ floating cinema at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park. (courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

Following Health Ministry approval for open-air drive-in events,  Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality again in partnership with Tel Aviv Cinematheque, will launch a “Sail-In” floating cinema under the clear night sky from August 22-28.

A total of 70 ‘socially distanced’ boats will be available to moviegoers, adults and children alike, seeking to enjoy a night of cinematic entertainment under the stars.

Like people in public, boats will be distanced two meters apart at all times opposite a large screen, ensuring a safe and fun experience, and allowing all ticketholders to float and unwind and escape the daily grind in a serene atmosphere between the water and the stars. If movie-goers are unlikely to hear other patrons crunching their popcorn, they may hear the night owls, crickets and frogs – nature’s divine soundtrack.

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No Dress Code. Feet out the window, relaxing and watching a flick at Tel Aviv’s Drive-In. (Photo: Avshalom Shoshani)

Tickets for eight screenings – four suitable for families and four suitable for adults – will be available exclusively to DigiTel Resident Card holders.

The launch of the “Sail-In” floating cinema joins a long list of municipal initiatives that include fitness classes on the roof of the Tel Aviv municipality building and musical performances on the roof of the Eretz Israel Museum.

Tel Aviv is in the forefront  of coming up with creative ideas during corona as befitting one of my favourite monikers:

 “The city that wakes each morning wondering what it’s going to be.”

 

 

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs