Gush Katif Museum opens in Jerusalem

'Art is the way to enter people's hearts without politics'

gush katif museum 224 88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
gush katif museum 224 88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
On the back wall of the newly created Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem hangs a photograph of four tattered Israeli flags on a rope in the Gaza Strip during the 2005 disengagement. "It shows that there is something torn that happened here as the result of disengagement," explained museum director Yankale Klein. The museum, which opened last Tuesday, chronicles both the history of the 21 evacuated settlements and their destruction. Located on Rehov Sha'arei Tzedek, near the Mahane Yehuda market, exhibitions begin on the walkway to the small, first-floor museum. On a white wall outside the museum graffiti mimics messages that were scrawled on the walls of the empty Gaza homes by evacuees. After the evacuation, Klein went to the Elei Sinai settlement and photographed the homes. The graffiti in front of the museum, he said, was a replica from one of those photographs. The museum was initiated by S.O.S. Israel, an organization founded by Chabad Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe to fight for Greater Israel. But Klein, a former editor of the newspaper Makor Rishon with a background in film production, is neither a member of Chabad nor S.O.S Israel, and said he had been careful to divorce the museum from any overt political message. A Modi'in resident, Klein lived briefly in Gush Katif when he was younger, leading jeep tours in the area. He said he was drawn to the idea of a museum that artistically commemorated the expulsion from the 21 Gaza settlements and evacuees' longing to return. That feeling, he said, was best summed up by a poem hanging in the museum by Daniel Mirski: "But I've heard it said that a lion of fire lies in wait and each night crouching, it waits near the ruins of Katif, for dawn's emerging light." The museum aims to reach the general public by presenting material that emotionally connects the viewer to the story of these settlements, explained Klein. "Art is the right way to enter people's hearts without threatening them with politics," he said. Klein said that he also hoped the displays would help raise questions about the evacuation without dictating how to think about it. The works displayed in the museum are not by Gaza evacuees alone. Many pieces are by photographers and artists who were involved in the disengagement or were affected by it. Yediot Aharonot photographer Ziv Koren, who was in Gaza during the disengagement, donated five works to the museum, including the photograph of the torn flags. Also included in the museum is a work by Bat Ayin-based artist Solomon Porat, who in 2004 painted a family from Gush Katif. The painting was so large, said Klein, that he could not fit it into his car and had to rent a larger vehicle to transport it to the museum. She'ara Yovel, an evacuee from Neveh Dekalim, gave the museum a small mosaic she made from shards of plexiglass from the former settlement's synagogue. Before the disengagement, Yovel worked as a librarian and led activities for the elderly, including art projects. After the evacuation, Yovel turned to art on a more personal level, including drawing and mosaic work. "It is very important that people come and see what has happened. It is not every day that the IDF evacuates synagogues and homes. I hope that it is the last time," she said.