In the historical surroundings of the Old City, the Tower of David has been an important landmark throughout Jerusalem’s history. Home to kings and queens of many nations, it is a unique meeting-place of people and cultures, which influence and are influenced by the ancient capital. Jerusalem has always been a source of inspiration in the arts. Now, the Tower of David Museum has opened two new exhibitions, which show us how Jerusalem inspires contemporary Israeli designers.
As any visitor can report, from the moment you enter the tower you’re transported back in time. The walls breathe history; each room was inhabited by some of Jerusalem’s most famous – and infamous – citizens. It’s the perfect setting for an exploration of the people and the ideas that have made the city what it is today.
The first exhibit, titled “Suspicious Objects”, displays a myriad of objects created by designers who found inspiration in the Jerusalem of yesterday and today. Curator Tal Gur explains that each object is in itself a memento of the city; assembled together as a collection, they paint a fascinating, sometimes amusing depiction of Jerusalem and the way we view it. Like the city itself, the exhibit shows a wealth of materials: wood, ceramics, plastic and metal.
The artifacts range from the comical (a plastic yellow doorstop shaped like the Lion of Judah, by Meytal Zemach-Dar) to the poignant (a pendant symbolizing the three main religions of the city, by Knockoutdesign).
Some of the objects illustrate the city’s multiculturalism – a tie fashioned from a keffiyeh, a MacBook cover designed like a tallit bag. Noa Eshel’s “Daughters of Israel” is a set of matryoshka nesting dolls which depicts the different dress codes Jerusalem’s women adhere to: one is wearing a jalabiyah; another a nun’s habit; another a little black dress. Oded Gov and Adi Paz-Fingold designed an ingenious souvenir of the city – a puzzle that assembles in three different ways to create the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Other objects celebrate nature: Tal Mor designed flower presses (which also serve as display cases) and chose to display a sprig of golden henbane, which grows to this day in the crannies of the Western Wall. Several designers chose to focus on its smallest urban dwellers: Noga Shimshon’s fabulous display shows the way insects live their lives in the cracks between the ancient stones. Meirav Barzilay placed a silhouette of the city skyline in an ant farm, which contains sand from Jersualem (a humorous spin on Holy Land sand bottles) for the ants to build their own “Western Wall Tunnel”.
Jerusalem is a multicultural, multicolored city, and each of its inhabitants throughout history contributed a piece that now weaves its cloth. “Threads”, a new exhibit set up in the Tower’s Crusader Hall, revisits historical fashions through modern eyes, by honoring ten great women of Jerusalem’s past. Each woman had in her own right a lasting influence on the city, each was connected to its life flow and inhabitants, and each had an enviable wardrobe.
For curator Tamar Karavan, this exhibit was “a once in a lifetime opportunity”. She matched each historical figure to a designer, who created a dress based on elements of her life, role and personality. A considerable amount of work went into researching the life of the historical figure they chose and visiting her home. To bring each character to life, they were photographed in or near the character’s place of habitation.
The characters depicted in the exhibit are as varied as the city’s modern inhabitants, from the Queen of Sheba to Hemda Ben-Yehuda, wife of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who gave the Hebrew language the word “ofna”: fashion. Only one is a fictional character: Shira, the heroine of the novel by S.Y. Agnon, which is set in 1930s Jerusalem.
Hagar Alembik designed a dress inspired by writer Else Lasker-Schüler, known for her unusual fashion sense. It was worn by Zeruya Shalev, who was photographed in the Rechavia neighborhood where Else made her home. Keren Mor wore a white lace design by Tamar Primak, inspired by Queen Helena of Adiabenek, who converted to Judaism in the 1st century and was known for her generosity towards the people.
Designer Raziela created a fantastic red dress modeled by Renana Raz and inspired by Salome Alexandra, Hasmonean queen regnant known in Hebrew as Shlomzion. A unique design by Aluma was inspired by Queen Melisende, who ruled the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the First Crusade and was an important patron of the arts. Dana Ivgy modeled it in the Citadel Courtyard of the Tower of David, where Melisende would have felt at home.
Don’t miss these wonderful new exhibits at the Tower of David Museum, where they will be displayed until October. For more details visit the museum website: http://www.towerofdavid.org.il