From Sderot to East Hampton

Ersatz bomb shelter displayed in Long Island.

shelter 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
shelter 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
EAST HAMPTON, NEW YORK – In a tony art gallery in the summer hot spot of East Hampton, there is a small doorway which leads to a world of true modern horror: sirens, screams, falling Katyusha rockets and trauma.
Artists 4 Israel President Craig Dershowitz says his group created the exhibit, now showing at the Vered Gallery in the town’s center through August 24, as an attempt to convey the experience of living in Sderot to a foreign audience.
The contrast between East Hampton, a posh summer playground for the affluent, and Sderot, is striking and deliberate.
“We did it in East Hampton because it is one of the most safe and secure places, far removed from the pain and strife suffered in Israel and caused by Hamas,” Dershowitz said. “We wanted them to understand what occurs in this other, far removed part of the world.”
The impetus behind the exhibit came from an artist, Dershowitz said, who returned from a mission to Sderot realizing he “was having difficulty expressing just how sad and depressing the bomb shelters were.
“He said he wished that he could show people in America the truth about the terror conditions under which the people of Sderot suffer,” Dershowitz said.
Artists 4 Israel, which describes itself as “a community of creative individuals working together in an ongoing, collaborative project expressing Israel’s right to exist in peace and security,” then followed up on the idea with various artists and artistic organizations.
They spoke to an installation artist, Annie Albagli, about how to create an actual shelter, and then to members of the Arts Collective, DeCampAde Cook about creating emotive artistic pieces to accompany the shelter. Realizing that the factual component of the exhibit was critical, Dershowitz said, Artists 4 Israel worked to assemble educational information on Sderot.
The exhibit is small, but multi-faceted, with its centerpiece being a remarkably realistic, hot and uncomfortable bomb shelter. There are also more symbolic elements of the exhibit, such as a red string wall made out of 10,000 inches of red string, meant to represent the over 10,000 rockets Sderot’s residents have had to live through to make it to the safety of the cramped shelter.
The roof of the exhibit is deliberately unfinished, representing the many places in Sderot which remain unprotected from rocket attack.
Four thousand flower petals are meant to represent the four thousand children of Sderot.
“Each petal begins the exhibit beautiful and fresh, like the children of Sderot,” Dershowitz said. “But when locked in the shelter, deprived of oxygen, light and someone to care for them, they begin to wither and die.”
The exhibit highlights the proverbial writing on the wall.
Visitors to the exhibit are asked to draw 10,000 lines, in order for them to understand the true extent of that number.
The wall text highlights other cities in Israel that have also been hit by rockets.
As an aural subtext, a video and audio screen play the Color Red alarm along with videos of rocket attacks and people running to make it to bomb shelters on time.
Dershowitz said reaction to the piece has been “intense and emotional.”
“Some people have left the exhibit crying, feeling for the people of Sderot,” Dershowitz said. “Others have left angry, mad at these conditions.”
Dershowitz said that some have immediately written checks to support the building of more shelters. Others have asked Artists 4 Israel to bring this exhibit around the world, particularly to college campuses.
The organization’s interactive Web site can be found at nts/artists4israel/.