Seeing Israel Through Art

By Erin Phillips, WUJS Arts Track Participant

Art is a wonderful filter through which to view life and gain a unique perspective and understanding of people, places, cultures, and societies. As part of the WUJS Arts Track, I’ve been able to experience many different aspects of Israeli art that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Our weekly Arts Track activities included visits to museums and art galleries – The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is incredible and was one of the highlights of the program – screenings of Israeli films including Waltz With Bashir, Walk on Water, and the documentary film Life in Stills, after which we visited the photography shop and met with the young owner featured in the film; a cutting-edge, multimedia dance performance by the Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollack Dance Company; and a concert by the popular Israeli band Hadag Nahash in our home neighborhood of Florentine.

Our last two activities were a culmination of everything we’ve been doing over the past five months. For the final WUJS exhibition, the artists put together a showcase of the projects we’ve all been working on in addition to our internships. One by one we got up in front of the rest of the WUJS participants, WUJS staff and several representatives from MASA to explain our art and speak about our experiences here in Israel. One person wrote an entire screenplay; another put together a stop motion video of her work as a makeup artist. One of my roommates designed and made jewelry, and my other roommate produced black and white photographs printed on plywood boards. I read a long poem. To represent the internship track, another WUJS participant gave a speech about the meaning of home. It was a really positive evening amidst the tension, anxiety and sadness over the current ongoing events in Israel and Gaza.

This week we had our final meeting at the Rubin Museum on Bialik Street (named after Israel’s national poet), where Ehud, the Arts Track coordinator, also works as a tour guide. The museum is the former home of painter Reuven Rubin, an important Israeli artist who was one of the founders of the Eretz-Yisrael style in the 1920’s and whose depiction of Palestine and the state of Israel in its formative years has become iconic. The museum houses a permanent collection of his works, and his studio on the top floor has been preserved as it was during his lifetime. We’d seen works by Rubin in almost every museum we’d visited, and it was a fitting place to discuss what we’d done and seen over the course of the program, tie everything together, and say goodbye.