Monday, May 30, 2011

Promised Land Posting

The days are blending to together and there’s so much jam packed in during sunlight hours, there’s barely time to digest before we’re off and running. It’s an exciting swirl. I'm still not able to upload images...

Yesterday was an especially touching and inspirational day. We visited Kibbutz Gaaton, which world-renowned now deceased Shmuel Katz (1926-2010) and his wife Naomi helped to found. I’ve seen Katz’s work—political satire, children’s books, landscapes. Shemul Katz is perhaps one of the most famous artists to come out of Israel. Exodus the book and 1960 epic war film with Paul Newman is based on the events that happened on the ship Exodus in 1947 and dealing with the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. This is his story. A Holocaust survivor, pioneer, fine artist, leader & fighter, we had the unique opportunity to meet his wife, Naomi who hosted us in his studio, untouched from his passing just a year ago. His palettes, hats, art, files, assemblage of things locked in time—like a mini museum. I think other groups and visitors have come to visit her since Katz’s death, but she was especially moved by our crowd-- the questions asked, the interest in his well documented life as an artist—she shared books upon books of his original art, cartoons, illustrations & photographs—every drawing from the voyage to the detention camp of Cypress and finally Israel. It was an intimate experience and the first time I was moved to tears since I’ve been in Israel—sort of unexpected, but even with a language barrier the emotions of love & gratitude glistened though.

Part of Kibbutz Gaaton has been transformed into dance studio and performance space which Naomi Katz found after she made a promise to herself if she were to survive the Holocaust--she would support the future of dance. We saw a practice with the KCDC2 dance ensemble. The members are 18-26 and incredibly talented--I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the troupe. Their performance was a high energy expression of our fast-moving, multi-tasking, mobile phone, high-tech world with a send up of some commercials from my Gen X childhood: Slinky, Alka Selzer (plop plop fizz fizz), Dr. Pepper (Be a Pepper).

This week I had an opportunity to work for 2 mornings in an Arab school called Sheikh Danun where the computer lab there at the community center is made possible by an endowment from the Jewish Agency. Here is an example of peaceful Arab/Israeli relations. I worked with fellow Photographer Dena Eber teaching some fundamentals of photography –framing, angle, composition and Photoshop with a dozen 16-year old Arab girls. They are teenagers—giggling, wearing skinny jeans, hip hop music taste, signing on Facebook when no one’s looking…The ‘camera’ they used was their cell phone cameras. We were able to doqwnload their images, cop and manipulate their images. The theme of our workshop was identity—show us ‘you’ without you being in the picture. I really enjoyed my time with them.

5.28.11 Spotty Internet makes for sluggish communication, catching a bug in a foreign country makes me lethargic. Combine those two with a Saturday in Israel, and you arrive at ‘STOP’. This Shabbat I am quiet, perhaps even by default, but here I am writing a post (finally) from Nahariya in Hotel Frank --going ‘live’ with this is another story, but at least I have electricity.

I don’t mean to insinuate that Israel isn’t a Westernized country—it is, however, there is still an under-current reminder that I’m in the Middle East. Sure, we have WiFi if you call one bar ‘access’. Granted we are in a Northern beach town, a couple hours from the more metropolitan Tel Aviv.

OK I admit it, this VIP treatment is working for me and in fact, it will be hard to be just another American tourist the last few days of my stay—but that’s next week. For now, I am with a group of interesting artists of varied backgrounds from the Southern consortium partnership. There are a couple other photographers, glass artists, art therapists, painters, a vocalist and art activist (Artist for Israel).