Grapevine: Bursting out all over

There is a popular belief in Israel that everything is influenced by politics.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2016 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SHOSHANI)
Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2016
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SHOSHANI)
■ GAY PRIDE is catching on to such an extent in Israel that it is bursting out all over. Last weekend, some 1,000 people turned out for Ashdod’s gay pride parade. Now that it is politically incorrect to show any form of discrimination against gays, and especially after senseless murders in gay communities in different parts of the world, straights feel almost duty bound to join in gay pride parades, especially MKs. Among those who turned out for the Ashdod Gay Pride Parade were MKs Ilan Gilon and Merav Michaeli, as well as representatives of the US Embassy.
Participants did not forget to note the recent shooting that resulted in 49 deaths in Orlando, Florida.
■ THE EXHIBITION “Country, City, Boy, Girl: Childhood in Haifa (1930-1960),” which is due to open this Saturday night at the Haifa City Museum, could be subtitled “Juxtaposed Geography.”
Curator Liat Margalit is a Jerusalemite who came to Haifa to help put the exhibition together, and one of the famous people whose childhood memorabilia is on display is prolific author Galila Ron-Feder-Amit, who was born and raised in Haifa, but has spent the past four decades in Jerusalem. An exercise book of essays written when she was nine years old and already displaying a talent for storytelling is among the items on display that Margalit painstakingly collected.
Margalit asked people to look in their storage areas for photos, postcards, schoolbooks and anything else that had been part of their years growing up in Haifa. She also asked them to share their memories, such as of climbing pine trees, the scent of fig trees, cracking pine nuts, pine-needle chains, picking flowers, the beach, the Saturday morning bus, the Bat-Galim and Hapoel swimming pools, an unforgettable diving board, improvised wheels, a new bike from an aunt in America, steep steps, the municipal theater and library and an afternoon film at the movie theater.
According to Margalit’s catalogue, these particular memories surfaced repeatedly in response to the question, “What was childhood in Haifa like?” The exhibition focuses on three decades marked by significant changes in Haifa. During the 1930s, processes that had begun in the late 19th century came to fruition under the British Mandate, alongside new initiatives that led to urban and economic growth. During this period, Haifa absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants who chose to settle in the city, thus leading to the construction of new neighborhoods. Arab immigrants – both Christian and Muslim – from nearby villages were drawn to the developing city as well. This expansion was given a clear-cut spatial expression: most of the new Jewish neighborhoods developed in the area of Hadar Hacarmel and along the mountaintop. The Arab neighborhoods developed in the lower, flat area towards the bottom of the mountain slope, in the vicinity of the Old City, the port, and the city’s commercial center.
During the British Mandate period, Haifa was a mosaic of European immigrants and locals, Arab traders and entrepreneurs and Jewish industrialists – workers and craftsmen as well as a wealthy urban bourgeoisie. The end of the British Mandate, the 1948 war and the establishment of the State of Israel constituted a historical turning point. The downtown area and its surroundings were abandoned and almost entirely destroyed in the course of the Shikmona military operation. The Arab neighborhoods were emptied of their original residents, and populated by thousands of Jewish immigrants who arrived in Haifa Port, which served as the gateway to the country. New neighborhoods were rapidly constructed, and public, cultural, and academic institutions were founded. The former “mixed city” was quickly transformed into a “Hebrew city,” home to a Zionist bourgeoisie that had already established itself in the country, an Arab minority, and of an influx of new Jewish immigrants from the Levant and Europe.
Its status as a socialist working-class city was cemented, and it acquired an important role in the national ethos, as “Red Haifa,” writes Margalit, adding that this changing and developing city was the environment into which generations of children were born. Growing up, they experienced the surrounding urban expanse on a small scale. Experiencing the city was an inseparable part of their childhood, which was shaped by the specificity of their neighborhood and the demographic expanse into which they were born.
■ THERE IS a popular belief in Israel that everything is influenced by politics, and the work of internationally acclaimed sculptor and Israel Prize laureate Dani Karavan is a case in point. Karavan last week participated in a Herzliya Conference panel discussion on “The Power of Political Art.” Not a fan of the present government, Karavan has repeatedly requested that the relief on the Knesset Wall that he completed in 1966 be removed or at least covered until the Knesset truly represents all that is enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Karavan said that he sometimes feels shame at having been the creator of the relief because of dictatorial trends emanating from the Knesset plenum. He referred specifically to Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev’s decision to penalize performing artists who refused to accept engagements in the West Bank. Regev recently threatened to reduce funding to theater groups whose members refuse to perform in Judea and Samaria.