I will be participating in the Salon ha Cubia exhibit opening October 28, 2017, at 8 pm in Nayot in Jerusalem, as part of the city-wide Manofim project. Closing January 25, 2018. Hope to see you there. Invitation

Pleased to be participating in the exhibition HOME(less) at HUC-JIR Museum NY. Running through the end of June 2018. For details see post

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Ninth of Av: a Roman Coin and some Photos

"Tiferet Yisrael" 2010 Heddy Abramowitz

The reading of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av  has been observed by Jews over millennia, describing the sorrow of dispersion from their land, the destruction of the Temple(s) and the devastation of their people. Custom includes sitting on the floor or low stools, reading in reduced light by candlelight (now by flashlights as well) and the scroll or text is read in a funereal chant.

These readings take place in synagogues and in Israel, since there is no risk of cancellation due to rain all summer, in outdoor parks, including those which overlook the Old City, and at archaeological sites.

"Reading Eicha" 2010 Heddy Abramowitz

In the Jewish Quarter, there is no lack of options for places to observe this custom. Readings take place in every synagogue, including the newly rebuilt Hurva synagogue, at the the Kotel (Western Wall), on Mount Zion at the traditional site of the Tomb of King David, in yeshivot, and other places as well.

Many Jewish Quarter residents choose to read this scroll at the site of the Tiferet Israel synagogue, a ruin of the synagogue that was destroyed in the War of Independence in 1948. It is located just behind the main street that brings visitors to the Kotel, and it is tucked between two well-known archaeological sites that are connected to the Destruction of Jerusalem from 70 C.E., the Burnt House and the Herodian Palace, both of which still bear a layer of ash from the day in that year that those sites were burned in the devastation.

Here are a few of my photos from a previous reading at the Tiferet Israel synagogue. I think it is a special atmosphere.

"Tisha B'Av in the Jewish Quarter" 2010 Heddy Abramowitz

"Tisha B'Av at Tiferet Israel" 2010 Heddy Abramowitz
"Eicha Reader" 2010 Heddy Abramowitz

Since I started with archaeology,  I will end with it as well. Upon conquering Jerusalem, the Romans struck a series of coins called “Judea Capta” (Judea is the name of the geographic area where Jerusalem is located), meaning Judea captured. Though there were a number of varieties, this one is typical, from the collection of the Jewish Museum, showing an exiled Jewess mourning beneath a Roman tribute.

Rome, 71 C.E. gold, The Jewish Museum (photo Ardon Bar Hama)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eight out of Nine: Chagall and Contemporary Responses

The Destruction of Jerusalem was depicted by Marc Chagall  in an etching from 1956 where he places an Angel of Death image over the victims of destruction, holding a knife in one hand, apparently in response to  Jeremiah’s prophesy. The strewn bodies bring to mind the devastation of Word War II and the Holocaust,  which were fairly recent events at the time his works on biblical images were being created. The people below are being led by a king and the image is enigmatic and haunting.

While this is a subject that has occupied artists over centuries, my informal and incomplete exploration into this topic seems to suggest that artists are less pre-occupied with it today. Perhaps visions of horror do not require extending a long look back through history and artists who choose bleak moments deal with more contemporary times, such as recent wars, the Holocaust, and terrorism as a focus for their work.

One wonders whether the image of a destroyed Jerusalem is one which may be too plausible in a country that has undergone repeated wars and continues to require ever-ready defenses; simultaneously too close a possibility  for tranquility to be taken for granted and also too precarious to be distant and remote history.  Or, another possibility is that modern Jerusalem as a real and not imagined city, by its very success has diminished  the pull of a destroyed Jerusalem as a collective memory. As a vibrant, living city, is it less pressing on our national consciousness as the object of theoretical and spiritual yearning? 

Two Jerusalem artists who have dealt with this subject are Hadassah Berry and Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov.

Berry, a painter and printmaker, originally from London and a long term Jerusalem resident undertakes, amongst other subjects,  biblical themes in her work. In this series she examines the power of the word and this example is her depiction of destruction.

"Destruction," Lithography on Stone, 2011, Hadassah Berry
Ben-Dov,  U.S. born and Israeli-trained, pairs two customs from disparate cultures as she explores loss and incompleteness; the Jewish custom to leave a part of a home unfinished in memory of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (here, represented by the grey square), and the Arab custom to display a plaque of the Dome of the Rock. She juxtaposes these images and queries whether a dialogue is created or is even possible.

"Remembrance I" oil on canvas 2005  Ben- Dov

Sitting in my Jewish Quarter home, where the sun is setting and the Ninth of Av approaches, I hear the Ramadan cannon strike, which indicates to Moslems that their day-time fast is over and that  they may resume eating. I am aware that observant Jews, at almost the same time, will be entering their day of  fasting. The ironies of life in the close quarters of the Old City continue to give pause.

Tomorrow, my photos from a community reading of Lamentations (Eicha) in the ruins of a synagogue.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Seven out of Nine Days: Poussin

"The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem" Nicolas Poussin 1926

Nicolas Poussin’s painting “The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of  Jerusalem” disappeared from the public eye for  320 years.  The painting, upon being found in England,  was mistakenly thought to be  a work by Pietro Testa, a 17th century Italian painter. At auction, it was bought by a London gallery in 1995 at ten times the Sotheby’s estimate because the gallery doubted the attribution and it was willing to take the risk.  During restoration, the work was discovered to be by a colleague of Testa's, the better-known Poussin. It was bought by the Rothschild family and donated to the Israel Museum, bringing about a beautiful symmetry, as the work describes the historical events that were to have taken place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., a mere few kilometers  to the east  in the same city. The painting now holds pride of  place in the Israel Museum Old Masters collection. 

Poussin addressed this subject twice, this being the earlier of the two versions, painted in 1926. The second is the 1638 painting, The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, which is in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Before its installation in the Israel Museum, the earlier work was exhibited at the National Gallery in London. There, in 1999, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England, gave a lecture , "A Temple in Flames," on this work and its significance from a Jewish point of view. He said he was,
“in the presence of an embarras de richesse of themes in the history of ideas: destruction and rebirth, exile and return, lamentation and hope, Rome and Jerusalem, Christianity and Judaism, events and their interpretation.” 
It would be foolish to try and improve on the lecture given by Rabbi Sacks, and it is worth scrolling down the link to read his words, fitting for this week.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Two Thirds of the Nine Days: Rembrandt

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (Rembrandt, 1630)

Though Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem,  he was powerless to change the unfolding of events that brought about its ruin.  Rembrandt   (Dutch 1606-1669) depicts this tragic figure mourning the burning of the city around him at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar during the destruction of the First Temple.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fifth Day, Four to Go: Hayez

The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Hayez (1867) Venice, Galleria d'Arte Moderna

Francesco Hayez (1791–1882), an Italian Romanticist painter, brings us back to the bigger view  in "The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fourth out of Nine Days: Heim

The Sack Of Jerusalem by the Romans, Heim 1824

Study for the Destruction of Jerusalem, Heim, 1824

Francois-Josef Heim (French 1787-1865) won the Legion of Honour in 1824 for his painting depicting the destruction of Jerusalem (sometimes called "The Massacre of the Jews"). The first  image is the completed painting and is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A few blocks away, the study for the painting is held in the collection of the Jewish Museum, the second image below it. 

When tragedy is too enormous to absorb, the human mind can best comprehend an individual story on its own. Here, the artist, with Jerusalem burning as a backdrop, chooses to concentrate on a single episode. We see the confrontation as a  mother pleas for her life and the life of her child as the axe-wielding Roman soldier looms above her from his horse. Heim shows just one piece within  the larger conflagration taking place around her.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Third of the Nine Days: Nuremburg Chronicle

Nebuchadnezzar Conquering Jerusalem, The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Two images are being posted today on the Destruction of Jerusalem,  albeit from the same book. The first shows the arrival of  Nebuchadnezzar with his armies to destroy the First Temple,  that which Solomon built.  The image is from a medieval book printed in Nuremburg in 1493 and now owned by Beloit College in Wisconsin.

The Nuremberg Chronicle was meant to be a comprehensive recitation of the history of the world as then  understood and based on biblical sources.

Though not credited as one of  the artists of the book, Albrecht Durer, was an apprentice (he was the owner's godson)  in the engraver/print workshop that produced this book and may have had a hand in the creation of some of the plates. 

The second image of the Jerusalem's destruction, presumably showing  the destruction of the Second Temple (built by Herod), is below.

Destruction of Jerusalem, Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day Two of the Nine Days: Cauaeus

Jerusalem Besieged by Titus Vespasian, Dutch 1701 

This image was from a book called "The Republic of the Hebrews" by Cauaeus, originally published by W. Goeree. With thanks to

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ringing in the Old

Arch of Titus, 81 C.E., Spoils of Jerusalem

In a city as ancient as this one,  it helps to have a long historical view. The Jewish calendar insures that we do this annually when summer is at its height. Today  marks the first day of the Hebrew month of Av and the first day of the period known as The Nine Days leading up to  Tisha b’Av (the Ninth of Av). This period commemorates the siege of Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the Solomon’s Temple in 587  B.C.E. on the 9th of Av by  Nebuchadnezzar II, and the destruction of  Herod's Temple on the same day in 70 C.E. by Emperor Titus and the Romans. Many more calamities  and events of significance have occurred on this day, resulting in the period being associated with great sadness, marked by observant Jews through  reduced pleasures and ending  with a fast day.

I remember growing up in the United States and being only vaguely aware of this period. I am sure they must have mentioned it along the way,  but, then again,  maybe not. This falls during typical school vacation times and, not being one of the kids who went to summer camp, it could have escaped my notice. But,  living in Jerusalem,  it is hard not to be aware of these special days. Many avoid live music concerts, movies, swimming, the beach and restrict themselves to meals without meat. 

Living where I do, in the Jewish Quarter, one does not need to go far to find the few  remains of the Roman Tenth Legion, they are peppered throughout the Old City. The most famous  of all the representations of this  time period, though,  is not located in walking distance. One needs to be in Rome to see the Arch of Titus and the victorious march of Roman soldiers commemorated thereon, replete with the looted treasures of the Temple.

I will be posting one image  each day representing the destruction of Jerusalem  until Tisha b’Av. And to close,  I can't resist not posting this recent archaeological find in Jerusalem. Now we can hear this bell's sound after 2,000 years of silence. After the recent appearance of Paul Simon in Israel, I guess you could call this The Sounds of UnSilence.