Israeli Innovations: Dream catchers

According to a Sioux legend, when Iktomo, a venerated teacher of wisdom, appeared to an elder Lakota tribesman on a mountaintop, he took the form of a spider.

dream catcher sioux 88 (photo credit: )
dream catcher sioux 88
(photo credit: )
According to a Sioux legend, when Iktomo, a venerated teacher of wisdom, appeared to an elder Lakota tribesman on a mountaintop, he took the form of a spider. As Iktomo shared his knowledge about the cycle of life with the elder, he spun a web with a hole in the middle using horsehair, beads, and feathers. When Iktomo had finished weaving his net he leaned over to the elder and said, "If you believe in the great spirit, the web will catch your good ideas - and the bad ones will go through the hole. Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people's ideas, dreams and visions." When Orna Cohen-Hazam's son Assaf longed for an Indian tale and had trouble sleeping at night, she created an angelic version of the Native American dream catcher with a biblical twist. She named her first hand-painted wooden angels Joseph and Josepha, in reverence to the ancestral Joseph, who was able to understand the importance of dreams and read the future through them. In their hands, Jospeh and Josepha hold aloft a wire mesh net similar to the Sioux dream-catcher that sifts through dreams, catching the good ones and allowing the bad ones to slip right through. "Psychologists like the angels because they say the dream catcher is a wonderful tool to help children discuss their dreams and sleep more soundly," says Orna, who sometimes puts folded notes in the net for her son and daughter to discover in the morning. With the purchase of each angel, Orna gives a card to fill out so that people can share the stories and drawings related to their dreams with her. Over the years, she has received hundreds of tales from children about their nighttime adventures, and on the same card she encourages them to sing a song to Joseph and Josepha before they fall asleep that goes: "Ushki Bushki Shiri Biri Bream/I wish I'll have a beautiful dream." Orna was born in a small town outside Haifa and studied graphic design at the WIZO Institute. After she finished her degree in 1989, she worked for an advertising agency, but always hoped that she would one day be able to work at home and leave the office forever. "I was always a good illustrator in school, and even when I worked for a company, I took two days a week for myself to go to art classes and learn new techniques," says Orna. "For years I made things at home just for myself, and people were constantly asking me to make them one too when they saw my things. When I began working with some galleries, one of the things I did was angels because I always loved them." Looking at her bright blue eyes and mop of curly blonde hair, it is easy to imagine why angels appealed to her. "I like their na ve side," she smiles mischievously, "and behind every one of my angels there is a function," she adds, waving a hand over her collection that now includes hanukkiot, Baruch and Barucha for blessings and prayers, and Tikva (hope). In the middle of her body, Tikva has a small, rotating box with different words written on it, such as honesty, courage, and loyalty. Orna says that children can turn the wooden block and then discuss the meaning of the values and how to achieve them. "According to one religious man who studies the Kabbala and bought one of my angels, every sign of the zodiac has an angel and a color, so I have a rotating wheel that people can use to find their shade of guardian angel too," explains Orna. The angels, from brooches to dream catchers to hanukkiot, all originated with ideas Orna got from her daily life, either at home with her children or in the market on Nahalat Binyamin Street, where she sells them herself twice a week. "My angels are for sale in many stores across Israel," says Orna, "but I would not give up selling them here for anything in the world. This is where I get my inspiration." Just as she finishes her statement, a woman comes by to tell her that she lit hanukkiot in five different homes this year and they were all made by Orna. "I've come to buy one for myself now," she says. "You see," says Orna, turning back to me, "these are the stories people share with me and the way our lives connect. This is why I love what I do." For more information, email Orna at