(note: the time stamp of all posts and comments on this blog is the time in umm el-fahem, israel)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

saturday, 29 october 2011

i physically will leave umm el-fahem: the gallery and my new friends and acquaintances, in a day and a half. but the connections are strong with a whole lifetime ahead to grow and, we all hope, bear witness to the success of Said, et. al.'s efforts.

i regret that i have not posted more frequently. i will use photos as the story line to post below, as usual in no particular order.

[NOTE: i will use another post to speak about the work that i have done here]:

the first two images below are large sculptures of household objects representative of welcoming guests and family members into one's home. they are on the road from the junction into umm el-fahem.
 the road/walk from the junction (highway) into the center of umm el-fahem/the gallery is about 1.4 miles (2.4 km). for a new yorker this is about 28 blocks, a daily routine. walking toward the junction from the gallery/our apt. is downhill. coming back up is thus uphill. however, not just uphill. UPHILL! the pull of gravity begins
a bit after the road splits -- go to the left and it is "main street" with cars vying for parking with other vehicles and pedestrians, stores, bodywork garages, restaurants and local fast food eateries (mac donalds and pizza hut are in one of the small mall buildings between the junction and the center of town).

go to the right, up to the gallery, and each step is as rich an experience as any fancy work-out machine. and so we go to the right instead of continuing left where we could instead simply walk into a large (all is relative) building housing google's offices, a bank, two different chupat cholim medical clinics, etc., take the elevator to the fifth floor and walk out to the street where the gallery is located. an even greater challenge occurs when we are carrying bakbookim (bottles) of soda water. sometimes we take the elevator up to our apt. on the third level from the street level but we still feel that we have done our daily exercise.

(note: while muscles formerly unused are getting used to the workout our bodies are fueled with delicious edibles in amounts also not customarily consumed at home. in the weight department nothing lost but also hopefully nothing gained.)
follow the car above right up to the gallery.

for almost three weeks i have walked by what i was certain was a bakery but confused by the lack of the unmatchable aroma of freshly baked bread. thursday afternoon i popped in. the two women who were working spoke arabic. we know what i speak and we all spoke a bit of hebrew. i found out that the baking begins at midnight and the machines are closed down at 10am, 7 days a week. so this morning i was up and out in time to watch the pita, as it turned out, being baked. it smelled yummy and i bough a sack of 12 or 13 "pitot" the smallest amount possible to purchase.

since i am back into talking about the local food i will share images from two parties joanna and i were invited to yesterday, friday 10/28.

the first was a family celebration welcoming month old achmed, third son of said's sister alia's daughter byan. byan's husband's family owns
the market is in the Abu Dagash building about half way down the road to the junction (highway). it is a brand new building housing a mini-mall -- in addition to the meat market, an italian restaurant, a cafe, clothing stores, a large orange cell service provider store, a name brand, expensive, eye glasses frames store, and a number of still empty store fronts. the meat is reputed to be THE best and for the celebration the women in the family made special spiced meat patties that were grilled with the usual lamb chops, and kabobs. the tables were laden with salads AND french fries!

women and men sat separately during the luncheon. we arrived later than most as siham, said's wife, mother of ruwan, was shopping to purchase items to set up ruwan's new apt. sat., today. they will be 5 apt-mates in university housing, the hebrew univ. of jerusalem. housing seems to be arab students with arab students, jewish with jewish, at least in the first year when the university makes the matches. ruwan who at 17 1/2 years old is totally comfortable in the company of all others told me when i inquired that she is happy that this was the case because  she will feel more at home living with other arab -- female -- students. she is the youngest but no doubt she will hold her own.

back to the party: there was a person in a clown costume as the m.c. for the kids, many quite young children. the hokey pokey, simon says, ... are the same all over the world. later we moved to the dessert and catch-up-with-family-members area & one of alia's sons began taking the boys (no matter how the girls pleaded for their turns) on speedy rides standing up on a hand truck, to the dismay of some of the mothers but to the total delight of the squealing children.

for dessert there were sticky, sweet pastries (but knowing that we were going to a dessert send-off party for ruwan at said and siham's at 5pm i did not have dessert although i did have a few sips of thicker-than-usual turkish coffee)

the weather was glorious and we stayed long enough for siham to catch-up on family goings on. while joanna and i missed most of what was being said the environment was warm and welcoming and being outside was delicious, listening to fabulous arab music a pleasure.

the weather:
       i had occasion to see the mini-blizzard in nyc today (29 october 2011, around 11am in nyc) when david and i skyped and he took the computer to the window
here it continues to be in the mid to high 70s Fahrenheit, going down to the low 60s F in the evenings.

desserts friday evening, 10/28

a gathering and sweets in honor of ruwan who would leave on sat., today, 10/29, to begin her first year of studies in the department of education (studying special education) at the hebrew university in jerusalem.

Said and Siham have 5 children: the eldest, a daughter is doing her PhD at McGill in clinical psych, the next, a son, is studying architecture in munich, the next, a daughter who i had the pleasure to meet, is studying dentistry in jordon, and the youngest, a sophomore in high school, knows that his field of study will be astronomy/space studies.
 above: Said, Siham, Ruwan
 above, Siham and Said (and the maple walnut cake still warm from the oven).
 Said writes each of his children a letter when they leave for school, something that no doubt will treasure more with each passing year.
 Lilah, far right, and Siham look on as Ruwan opens her presents.
 Joanna takes down the translation of the recipe for the chocolate walnut cake with cream filling. Center, Kamle, with Ruwan.
 Ruwan is enjoying herself.
 Above and below: Far left, Kamle, center Ruwan, & scd
 i am not posting a number of photos with others in them out of respect to the fact that they contain images of iman, a lovely young woman who does not want photos of herself floating around the web.

fearing a crash any moment i shall post this now as an installment with more anon.

oh, wait, one last thing. friday night we had the treat of viewing the video of  the engagement party of the second daughter, the dental student (i do not have the correct spelling of the names, and do not want to mangle them).

what a party. hours of dancing, first just the women of the future bride's family. then joined by the women of the future groom's family, then the men from both sides join the women. the dancing never stopped (3-4 hours) and when it did it was for the engaged couple to exchange rings and then accept gifts of incredible jewerly from  almost everyone there.

protocol of traditions/of the event reigned. if anyone ate it was not while the video was being shot (hours worth. we watched some of the party/the dancing fly by at high speed). women were dressed in everything from very traditional to quite revealing outfits. variations in head scarf styles seem infinite, some must have gone to scarf beauticians as headscarves were transformed into intricate and beautiful flower-like knots.

the guiding rules for headscarves: no hair showing, no ears showing, no neck showing. otherwise, as stylish or not as one chooses, and make-up runs from none to heavily applied. a noticible similarity between many orthodox women who wear sheitels and many orthodox muslim women who wear headscarves is while they are only to show their hair and beauty to their husbands the wigs and headcoverings are selected with great care and style.

the men all had on white shirts, ties and dark pants, the shirt and pants are (at least historically) standard israeli menswear for such occasions, but the ties set these israeli-arabs apart from jewish israeli men. (oh, and i only noticed one guy wearing jeans.)

the engagement party was held in Said and Siham's home (outside) and it was a family-only event. we all sat on the comfortable furniture cushions, there for over an hour clapping to the beat, entranced by the music, the dancing, the clothing, the whole experience. joanna and i ar still not clear though it has been explained, about the engagement and the wedding traditions. it seems that there must be an engagement (which means an exchange of rings among the other jewelry given, much of it gold and diamonds) in order for the couple to go out in public together without a chaperone. the wedding is a private religious ceremony followed by a party. it seems that the engagement is the required public notice and the wedding party simply a reason to have a party, but ... not sure.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

monday/tuesday 24/25 october 2011

note: i intended to post this last night, however due to technical difficulties i finally gave up trying to upload the images and shut down the computer. it is now tuesday evening and i will try with renewed energy.

thank you very much! to those who have posted comments. actually they do not seem to get posted but instead are sent to me through e-mail (and the terrible e-mail situation is why i decided to re-start the blog). mysterious.

my fingers cannot possibly work as quickly as thoughts to share with you are pouring out of my head. five days have passed since i last posted. i will continue to not write in the order of when things occurred, for i think that it does not really matter. certainly with each day i get to know, and appreciate, the people connected with the gallery (in whatever way) a little better as they too become better acquainted with me, and as they and i move together into the future trust will grow and that will make a difference. but it is my hope that simply the anecdotal information and snapshots will combine to create a rich, visual image of my time here and of the personalities and lives of some of umm el-fahem's residents.

on october 18th i wrote about the tragedy of the triple murder that had occurred the previous evening, monday the 17th. while the particulars of this story are terrible and involve so many of the people of this small city (e.g. Said's wife Siham, principal of a local elementary school, had to bring in psychologists this week to meet with the children in her school, for children of some of the extended families of both of the  families involved attend her school), it is the larger issue that has mobilized the people of umm el-fahem, neighboring arab villages, and other arab-israeli towns in israel.

the issue was brought up last thursday, oct. 20th, by visitors to the gallery: my friend, artist rosemary solan from jerusalem, and two of her friends who live on kibbutz meggido (among the many kibbutzim on their way to total privatization: complicated, fascinating, and raises the what makes a privatized kibbutz a kibbutz question) not far from umm el-fahem.

All had been to the gallery some previous time which speaks to the israel they would like to live in. They talked about the fact that arab on arab crime is not pursued by the police, and that it is thought by many (jewish and arab israelis) that it is not in the interest of the israeli police to spend time, resources, or energy to solve crimes that take place in arab-israeli towns (siting known instances of this seemingly accepted "policy").

It was with this conversation in mind that i determined when i heard friday morning about a demonstration planned for friday mid-day that, if it seemed not to be a stupid thing to do, that i wanted to participate.  joanna felt similarly.

we had been invited to said and siham's home for friday breakfast.

it is a family tradition that said prepares breakfast on friday, although the household was like any other with teenagers in that they slept late, then ran out, missing the feast that said and siham set before us,  grabbing something from the table halva -- halawa, haleweh, ħelwa, halvah, halava, helava, helva, halwa, halua, chalva, chałwa -- anyone?

 [an aside: one of siham's brother-in-law's family owns the local halva factory. given my limited time remaining here in u e-f i may not have a chance to go on a tour of the factory but will look forward to joanna's description. and this is as it should be as joanna loves halva while i love my childhood memories, & most of all the memory of benny (my father) enjoying it, more than i do actually eating it. for those who did not grow up with this delicacy, fresh, not packaged joyva, although that too, especially covered in chocolate, has known to be a tasty treat, it is basically sesame paste (tahini) and  sugar.

on the way to the abu shakra home we had asked said about the planned demonstration. it had been called by the mayor & city council for 12:30pm friday, after prayer ends. the point was to send the message that arab blood, arab lives are not not less valuable than jewish blood, jewish lives, that the citizens of umm el-fahem do not condone murder or violence and that they want the murderer apprehended and brought to justice. also when we asked him, said responded that it was perfectly safe for us to go and n fact the people of u e-f would  feel very good that those not from u e-f support their efforts.

ruwan (his  and siham's 17 1/2 year old daughter who we have gotten to know as she works in the afternoons at the gallery) was going and was happy to have us go with her and her good friend afnan.

we later learned that this was the very first time that ruwan (recently admitted to the hebrew university in jerusalem for the program of special needs in the dept of education) had participated in a demonstration, unlike afnan (now a student at the american university in jenin) who had gone to demonstrations as a child with her parents.

and so we ate, and ate, and ate some more (no dessert although siham had baked. simply no way to manage it after the fabulous omlette and multiple pita dishes (made in a special electric pan) with various toppings: wild zatar, onions and cheese, tomatoes, onions and tuna, and freshly made olive oil which tasted spicy, great hummus, etc.  ruwan and afnan were anxious to go and finally got us away from the table.

they took the care of us as their charges very seriously. afnan did not let go of me and ruwan held on to joanne.

we were with the women and children. the streets wind around and up and down and we had no idea where we were. at points we were basically running, with afnan and me getting further and further ahead. it turned out that at some point the heat and the difficulty of walking/running in inappropriate foot ware caused joanna to turn back and find her way to the gallery.

afnan heard her phone despite the roar of the women and we stepped out to wait fo ruwan and then again began looking for holes in thecrowd to squeeze through and move further and further toward the beginning of the throng of women, and then at last into the futbol (soccer) field for the speeches.

it was not always comfortable for me. i could not understand the slogans being chanted or the handwritten signs. i asked for translations throughout the demonstration,  yet still.

joanna'simage appeared on panet (web site:http://www.panet.co.il/online/articles/1/2/S-466582,1,2.html   )  and mine on bokra (web site:http://www.bokra.net/Articles/1148996/%D8%A3%D9%83%D8%AB%D8%B1_%D9%85%D9%86_%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%A9_%D8%A2%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81_%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1_%D9%81%D9%8A_%D8%A3%D9%85_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D8%AD%D9%85_%D8%B6%D8%AF_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%86%D9%81.html).
 joanna in the sunglasses, in the headscarf front right is ruwan
In the photo with me are, l to r, fatima, afnan and ruwan.
we are smiling as if posing because we were posing. the journalist asked us as everyone was leaving the field if he could take our picture.

the police have been advised by the mayor that if the murderer is not identified by sunday then demonstrators will set up camp outside of the office.

the police station is located at the entrance to u e-f. as i have previously mentioned, i have not seen even one policeperson inside of u e-f, other than yesterday when the police officer who heads the police dept.'s community service program for the area was invited to j's completion celebration (a feast j brought in for all of us for lunch,  served on the roof of the gallery to mark the last day of his three months of community service). don't know if the policeman's invited presence at the table counts as police in u e-f.

what i know is hearsay, i.e. i don't know the actual numbers but most seem to agree that the u e-f police force is made up of scores of  jewish-israelis  and at the most 4 arab-israelis.

the tension between the police and the local citizenry runs high. as we walked with teh demonstrators joanna and i felt people's anger at the situation and sadness at the murders and disappointment with the system, but we felt no tension nor were uncomfortable in the crowd.

it is difficult to believe that the police will begin to do their jobs as unbiased law enforcers. but perhaps the recent demonstration -- the largest ever in umm el-fahem or the area and the first time women have participated as a group will result in resident representatives of u e-f and the police sitting down at the table to talk about their concerns and what the police might do to correct them (but probably not).

o.k. so as to post this i will end with some photos of local foodstuffs, and the last image of an interesting positioning of stores in one of the new local buildings, a mini mall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

p.s. wednesday, 19 october 2011

post script to last two postings:

oops. sorry for the duplicate (?triplicate?) postings. it appears that one cannot edit without re-posting the entire entry.

i am now sitting in our darkened kitchen where i cannot feel the delicious breeze or the sun on my toes, but i can see the computer  screen which i need to do whether working on the blog or on the gallery's collection's documentation.

i have wnyc on in the background as i feel quite cut off from the news.  strange, sitting here in umm el-fahem, so far from home in so many ways yet so connected. Said and others here have mentioned to me how far away tel aviv can seem to the inhabitants of umm el-fahem while at the same time how close america feels because of technology.

we take so much for granted re: our world view(s) but minimize or ignore the complexities of the impact and ramifications of technology in 2011 on others whose point of reference is not western culture.

you who are reading my blog understand. but those among us, fellow americans as they say, who are not exposed through travel and experience to/do not interact with cultures unlike our own, who are not sensitive to the miscommunication and  "speaking" at cross currents that occurs among and between peoples. scary.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

wednesday, 19 october 2011. brief update

 short update: another sunny, gorgeous day, a bit cooler than it has been. i sit on the roof, the doors open to the open air gallery, hesitant to move inside the apartment to work even though the screen  is barely visible in the sunlight. the city is quiet. few cars on the roads/sidewalks generally crawling with cars, parked anywhere a driver can find space. walking on the sidewalk here in u e-f is a game, for one must dart out onto the road when cars block the pedestrian walk space.

if there is a demonstration going on we do not see it (we have  a great view of the main street and beyond from our roof) and we do not hear it. we hear only an occasional car driving on the road below. the gallery is closed and most stores appear to be closed. we will ask tomorrow for someone to explain to us what was hoped to be gained by today's strike/slow-down/closures.

it is an ideal day to work and perhaps i will even have time left to seach my computer for images for my second talk this coming  saturday afternoon (for the office staff/art instructors). i spoke last sat. about my "still lives" exhibit (2009) about the women among the first jewish community in nieuw amsterdam/new york and their female descendants. the question that surprised me most during my talk was "are you jewish?" i don't know why, perhaps because i can make myself understood a bit in hebrew, but i thought that everyone at the gallery, and on the streets when we spoke, assumed that i am jewish.

being here, welcoming each opportunity to experience life in umm el-fahem that is offered, or that i simply come across, and also sit down to write about what i have done, am doing, will do, is a challenge.

however, my apt.-mate, joanna liss, who arrived here the same day that i did and will remian here for six weeks -- teaching english & writing materials for the gallery, and she has also initiated the exploration of the development of a possible day tour of u e-f (the gallery & environs) through GoEco (the volunteer organization that she came through) -- IS diligent about keeping her blog up to date: http://bronxjo.blogspot.com/

so much happens daily that i most certainly will write in my usual stream of consciousness-mode. yes, i recognize that linear would probably not be a word most might use to describe me.

today was a very significant day in israel: the day gilad shalit returned to israel/his family. among the palestinians released in the swap was a man whose family lives in umm el-fahem. joanna and i had a conversation with j. (he is among the men doing community service at the gallery. his crime was being caught for the second time driving without a license).

j., who speaks english well, is a very hard-working man (+/- 40) from a large family. he imports meat from argentina for the arab community, in spite of the laws that make no sense but do make it  difficult. i.e., meat brought into israel must be kosher even if it is designated for the arab community. he has been successful in business and lives a middle class life-style. he has 4 children (3,4 8,10, i believe) who are all learning english. he and i worked together this morning, going through the individual art storage bins to record the locations of all of the works that belong to the gallery's permanent  collection (the creation of which is new for the gallery). this activity may sound straightforward but i must ask for a leap of faith for you to know that it was not.

we broke for lunch and went upstairs on the roof where the volunteer apt. is located and where the guys doing their community service sit and have their morning coffee and lunch. i learned that one of the palestinian prisoners being released today is from an umm el-fahem family. j., joanna and i began discussing this and j. was very clear that he does not feel that the returning prisoners should receive heroes' welcomes. he told us also that the family of the former prisoner has changed their views over the 20 years since he was arrested and he understands that they now do not agree that the murder he committed (of an arab who either worked for the israeli government or who was a spy for the israelis, i am not clear about this) was justified.

we spoke for a very long time about life in umm el-fahem, arabs and jews living together, the need for a palestinian state and the efforts that will be needed after statehood is achieved to go into making it a healthy, thriving country, how he teaches his children the importance  of the arab saying that what is most important is to feed the head not the belly. he spoke of his many israeli (jewish) friends, of one who his son misses when things are going on in umm el-fahem that keep this particular friend away. he also spoke of those who want to develop relationships (i.e., arabs with jews) but who are sometimes afraid that they will be ostracized by some in umm el-fahem if they do. most of all he stressed that while there are things in israel that he disagrees with that life is good here and how important it is for israel and the palestinians to make peace and get on with their lives.

i don't mean at all to make the conversation sound simple or obvious. j. shared many descriptive anecdotes and explained his feelings in a way that made clear the difficulties of being an arab in israel. but he also spoke of the comfort that he feels here (he is a citizen) and how he wants his kids to grow up here although he cannot understand why the arab schools, and the other services, or the lack of basic services, in umm el-fahem, are so awful and wanting as compared to schools, services, ... for jewish israelis.

he spoke of the village that has grown into a "city" (but is not really a city yet) of umm el-fahem as compared to the other (jewish) cities of israel and the lack of parity. the discussion was very fact-based and bottom-line he was positive and forward looking.

i relate this particular conversation at this particular time because it began when someone mentioned how happy people in umm el-fahem were at the return of the prisoners. i have heard views similar to j.s from others who want parity, want peace, have jewish friends, want to continue to live together arabs and jews and build a shared future.

i have personally felt no undercurrent of tension or attitude since i arrived in umm el-fahem. but i also understand that umm el-fahem has historically been a stronghold of radical islamists.

i have not yet gotten under the surface enough to understand how that impacts life for the people who i have met who are not guided by their anger and do not exist in states of aggression against israeli jews or other jews (e.g., joanna or me).

last friday around 5:30pm i walked back to the gallery building from the bus stop, having returned from haifa, where, with vivian's family, i was given an high level tour of the city, i guess they call it.

that makes sense as our guide was haifa mayor yona yahav. vivian, yona and i worked together in the early 70s: yona sat in london as the secretary-general of the world union of jewish students, wujs, and in a mouse crap-filled loft, ..., on west 27th street, nyc. vivan worked  for the jewish student press service and i for the north american arm of wujs, the north american jewish students network, "network"). traffic had been congested and i saw as i walked that there was a demonstration at the roundabout at the entrance of the road into
u e-f.

there were palestinian flags and placards with arabic writing. the demonstrators were young (college students?). there was a significant  police presence and while there was the chanting one expects at demonstrations there was no violence or physical activity.

so, while i do not mean to be naive i can only "report" on my experience, which is that there are many people in umm el-fahem that want normal relationships, value dialogue, and want equitable  conditions.

said abu shakar leads the effort to dialogue as he grows the gallery, develops plans for a museum, and brings community groups and school children -- through a formal program with the elementary schools -- into the gallery where they are exposed to art, culture, and much more.

as well as children's fee-based classes on saturdays.

o.k. i need/want to eat dinner. i have so much more to share: last  night we went to a huge outdoor celebration, before which we had coffee/tea in Said and his wife Siham's incredible home. and after the party we socialized with then two different sets of friends in their homes as Said and Siham were giving us a night tour of the u e-f views and while riding around they kept seeing friends out walking  (we also passed moshav me anni adjacent to umm el-fahem). but that  will all have to wait.

for after i eat i want to start entering (into the new format) the information that j. and i today and lilli and i yesterday were able to pull together.

and the details of my wonderful tale of unplanned exploration this afternoon will also wait.

a tragedy occurred here last night, the murder of a father and two sons -- ages 46/7, mid teens and 19. it had to do with a rich young woman falling in love with a poor young man, a mother who asked her husband to reverse his absolute no re: an engagement and marriage after the couple ran away and the daughter and mother were in touch by phone. it is suspected that the young woman's father contracted  someone to murder the family. because of the murdes and increased crime tomorrow there will be a total strike in the municipality. as i think that means that all stores and offices will be closed when Said was about to leave around 2:15pm i asked if he would drop me off at the entrance of the road to u. e-f (i believe 2.4 km from the gallery). the return walk was an up-hill walk that really gives one's calf muscles a workout. details on the excursion anon.

before i came lilli suggested that i bring many books as i would probably be bored after the gallery closed. while i am enjoying reading the books late at night as i try to relax to then sleep (never a strong point) there is not a chance of my being bored as the days of my short stay speed by.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

wednesday eve, 12 october 2011 (day 4)

i am sitting on cushions just inside the roof gallery (in order to plug in the computer), recorded arab music fills the crisp, cool air -- reached 80 however today, and tomorrow will be warmer --, the moon is amazing, and that gilad shalit is soon to be back in israel is quite wonderful.

the mosquitos are feasting on me however and so i will not sit here too much longer. last night i was reading (actually it was 1:30am this morning) when the building alarm went off. at first i froze. momentarily. i then jumped up, ran and knocked on joanna's door (our rooms share a wall). she was sleeping and had not heard it.

it was a shrill, constant sound that would simply have gotten on our nerves had we not wondered aloud if there was an intruder in the gallery. we had been warned by lilli not to wander into the gallery after hours as we would trip the alarm. but here we were, on the top floor in our quite comfortable set-up, not fancy but more than adequate, and the  adrenaline was pumping. after 5 minutes of indecision i called the founder and gallery director, saiid (he spells his name said, but i have added an "i" for the sake of clarification and pronunciation). he answered immediately. and of course with cell phones the voice on the other end is generally not a surprise since the caller's name comes up.

[FYI, i believe i mentioned earlier that saiid had been a member of the jerusalem police force until he took early retirement a number of years ago. he worked with juvenile offenders, and has continued that work here by offering community service placements at the gallery to first-time offenders. the group members begin their day in the room where i am now sitting and writing. it is a huge space with a wooden dining table, a small kitchen where they brew great cups of cafe turki (and generously bring a cup each to joanna and me to start our days with a strong shot of caffeine).]

i digress. saiid sounded as chipper as if it were the middle of the afternoon. he reassured me and said that he would come right over. about 10 or 15 minutes later we heard him telling us outside of our door not to worry, it was a short. he and another guy went through the gallery floors (ground,1,2, & 3 -- the rooftop floor) thoroughly and found nothing. but they were unable to stop the siren-like alarm. they surmised that a fire in the hills three days before had filled the air with gases that had affected the alarm system. it took a long time but finally they were able to turn it off. needless to say i read until 3am when i finally felt as if i might be unwound enough to sleep, which i did.

hoping for an uneventful night tonight.

i spent yesterday afternoon going through digital images of many of the gallery's own collection's works, filling in whatever info i was able on a form that i created to catalog the collection. on sunday souad, a woman who lives in haifa and who had been sent by the gallery to a curatorial course, will join me here to hopefully enable me to complete a form for each piece in the collection, or at least make headway in the project. as this is a priority for the gallery it is a priority for me.

there is also a group from the reform movement coming to visit the gallery sunday morning who i expect to chat with a bit.

today i spent hours researching the documentation of loans to, loans by, and donations of art to museums. i drafted three such documents for review by saiid and lilli, as the family of a deceased artist who had not too long ago donated an important piece of the artist's work to the gallery came back recently to borrow it back for an exhibit elsewhere. the gallery quickly wrote up an agreement and realized that this was something that needed to be standardized.

much, way too much, of my time in new york is spent on running the one-person business that being an artist necessitates. that i can use my research and writing skills here to benefit the gallery gives me great satisfaction.

the air has become nippier. the mosquitos braver. time to go inside and turn off the computer. later,...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

writing to you from the umm el-fahem art gallery, umm el-fahem, israel

tuesday, 11 october 2011 (day 3)

hi there - many happy returns of the day today to j.p.! but he is in ann arbor and here i am in umm el-fahem. i am going to post the incomplete posting i started yesterday as this morning we begin the cataloguing of the umm el-fahem permanent collection. this is an important step in the gallery's transition from gallery to museum. the road ahead is long, complicated, and to be sure will not be easy. but with said leading the effort and lilli and others at his side i have no doubts that it will happen at some future point. it is a journey that i am happy to now be a part of.

monday, 10 october 2011

before i left nyc for israel i was asked many times if i would be posting on scd abroad, the blog that i set up last year to share my experiences in yerevan, armenia. i have reversed my initial response and decided to post because of constant problems with e-mail and my understanding of how fortunate i am to have this opportunity and the responsibility (and pleasure!) of sharing the experience so that others might decide to come as volunteers, come as visitors, or simply just read and enjoy what i write.

your comments are of course welcomed.

i arrived yesterday at the binyamina train station where joanna liss, here as a volunteer english teacher (hailing from beverly, MA.) and lilli stern were waiting. lilli's responsibilities at the gallery include those of fund raiser for the planned umm el-fahem arab israeli art museum (the first of its kind, as the gallery was the first arab-israeli art gallery, now joined by others particularly in tel aviv) and volunteer liaison.

joanna arranged her time at the gallery through GoEco.
she will be teaching english to a few groups of children, a group of seven women who will rotate the bi-weekly lessons in their homes, and the staff at the gallery. while the gallery prefers volunteers to stay for a minimum of 2 months, which makes sense in terms of the impact one can make through their efforts and as it does take time to acculturate, they made exceptions for both joanna (who will be here for six weeks, one of which is the muslim holiday of the major feast Eid al-Alha), and for me as i was only able to commit for three weeks.

we both hope that we will be able to contribute as much to the gallery as they will give us. their interest in our understanding the people, culture, and history of umm el-fahem, and in feeling the warmth of their hospitality is very special (and we only arrived yesterday at noon).

umm el-fahem is in the wadi 'ara area in the center of the country.

as we drove from binyamina we passed groves of pomegranates and umbrella stands on the roads piled high with ripe pomegranate fruit.

to be continued...