Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Coming to a Close

March 31, 2016    Text and photos by Leslie Adler

We began the day by meeting Sabena Saad at her art-filled home in Ramot Meir.  Sabena described her parents’ lives as ones in which each had to leave their homeland to find safety. Sabena said starting in childhood in Italy, she drew on orange wrappers (perhaps a hint of a future in Rehovot- once covered with orange groves).  At age 19, Sabena set off for Israel alone and decided she wanted to stay.  After army, marriage, growing vegetables and flowers, raising turkeys and children she finally came back to art twenty years later.

Her first success was winning a prize for her illustrations for a haggadah.  During Yom Hashoah 12 years ago, as she was listening to the radio she had an “uncontrollable urge” to sketch on a overdraft statement a drawing of eight barracks forming the lights of the menorah with the shamash being the exhaust from the gas chamber.  Across it, she  wrote 6 followed by six Jewish stars to represent the six million.  She stored the paper in a drawer.  Years later, she found it again and it inspired a project which she called “Dialogue with the Yellow Star”.  She showed us several examples from this exhibit, each very powerful.  Now she is using these for teaching.  She finds that the kids have an easier time relating to this symbolic art than to more concrete reminders of the Holocaust. 

Five years ago, she began writing her memories again on the wrapping paper from oranges as she did when she was a little girl.  She now has 170 pieces done, each displaying a specific memory with the story and illustration.

Sabena’s home has a wealth of collections and she searches weekly in the flea market for new items and inspiration.  She is still filled with wonder and curiosity even using some of our comments as ideas for further projects.  Sabena had the honor of meeting Rabin and presenting him with a plate before the signing of the peace treaty. 

Sabena’s studio was unforgettable – It was like a treehouse filled both with whimsy like a sukkah hat and also with evocative pieces such as a birdcage containing a yellow star.  Later on in the day we met Anni, Sabena’s Mom who was a prizewinning photographer, and now in her 90’s, is creating stories with beads. 

What would it be like to see the world from Sabena’s eyes?

As we entered the Weizmann Institute Visitor Center, filled with inspiration from Sabena, we encountered a sense of wonder and curiosity through the interactive displays that told the story of scientists’ journey of discovery and the amount of time, patience and failures that happened along the way.   But what they mention is the awe of the moment of revelation.   Dr. Zvi Livneh said “I still feel like a child and want to understand everything in the world.”

I feel sure that science will bring to this land both peace and a renewal of its youth, creating here the springs of a new spiritual and material life.  I speak of science for its own sake and applied science.
                                                                                                   -Chaim Weizmann

We visited Chaim Weizmann’s home on the campus, which also served as his presidential residence.  He was both a brilliant scientist and statesman and one of the few individuals who lived to see his vision come true.

What was his vision?  The Jewish people need to form their own nation in Palestine.  They would need their own armed forces but the hope was for a modern country with high moral standards, that could absorb Jewish immigrants and be at peace with their neighbors.   We also learned about his wife Vera’s achievements.  She was a pediatrician but also a partner and was instrumental in founding WIZO. 

   Miracles can occur but one has to work terribly hard to make them happen.
                                                                                                      -Chaim Weizmann

We took some time with Rabbi Davis to share how our visions of Israel have changed.  We also talked about the need for a compelling vision to move us forward.  No matter how many times we had visited Israel, we all felt that our eyes had been opened to new discoveries.  We were impressed by the diversity we saw in the art, the land and the people. 

We also learned about Yemenite art and culture from the founder of a museum which will open soon.

Our workshops have consistently been a delight.  This one took place at Atar Pardessanut, a museum now to the orange industry which was part of the founding of Rehovot.We created mosaics alongside artists from Rehovot, our hosts and Sabena and her mother.  In these mosaics we incorporated pottery shards we had found from the Temple Mount (with permission) and shells from the Kinneret and Galillee.  We had another wonderful meal together before saying good-byes.

Bonnie Heller mentioned today how many people thanked her for visiting Israel.  We came at the perfect time of year, but there were few tourists.  We heard from the artists and guides how much Israel needs our support.  We had the privilege of seeing the vitality of a small segment of the arts community within Israel and know there is still so much left to explore.  All of us, I believe are leaving with a little hunger to come back again. 

Sincere thanks to Meryll, Robyn, Anat and Rabbi Davis for creating and carrying out an unforgettable tour of Israel and may we be able to bring home the inspiration, the wonder and the tenacity to pursue our visions.  I sense Israel saying “Na lagaat.”   Please touch.  Please connect and support us.  

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