Thursday, 17 September 2015
Why London's eruv is sprouting in Jerusalem
By Nathan Jeffay, September 17, 2015
Jerusalem is gearing up for one of the largest Jewish art festivals ever held in the city - and one of the most unusual works to be displayed draws on the religious life of the London community.
Organisers of the Second Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art expect to attract thousands of Jewish tourists visiting Israel for the chagim, and well as large numbers of locals.
"The main objective of this is to connect two worlds in Israel that are often very separate - the world of contemporary art, and the world of Jewish tradition and ceremony," said the biennale's initiator, Rami Ozeri.
Mr Ozeri calls biennale "a stage for professional artists who refer in their artwork to Jewish thought, spirit, tradition or experience". And he has some 200 such artists, from Israel and overseas, showing their work.
He hopes that the art will "add a layer to discussions about Jewish topics".
Several of the seven sites hosting exhibitions are city landmarks. The main exhibition will be in the Tower of David, an ancient citadel near the Jaffa Gate. This exhibition, Jerusalem.Passages, will consist of large projects by five people including Sigalit Landau, an Israeli sculptor, video and installation artist.
Other exhibitions include a "visual commentary" on the Torah, compiled by 54 female artists who span the Jewish spectrum, from secular to strictly-Orthodox. The show will respond to the question, "How do women interpret the core story of the Jewish people?"
During Succot, guided tours of the festival - including commentary on the stories behind the artworks - will be available.
London Jewish life has found its way into the biennale by way of Ruth Schreiber, a former resident of the UK capital who now lives in Israel.
Her work is a tribute to her husband, David, one the key activists who pressured for and eventually succeeded in building Britain's first eruv, a boundary that permits observant Jews to carry items or push buggies on Shabbat.
Mrs Schreiber's artwork consists of a glass map of the area covered by the North West London Eruv, with movement sensors positioned beneath it. When people approach, lights illuminate.
"The metaphorical message is that it delineates the sacred space of the eruv," she said. Explaining the sensors and the lights, she said, "the idea is that it is something that isn't permanently sacred but rather sometimes sacred while sometimes it isn't."
She completed Enter The Eruv in 2011, but it has only ever been displayed once, and never in the UK.
Mrs Schreiber said that she was spurred to make the artwork because of its life changing effect on observant Jews: "People have even said to me that if there had been an eruv when they were younger, they would have had more kids."