Voices of Jerusalem: Current contemplations

Loren Minsky speaks to David Amichai, 40, PR and Marketing Manager of Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem.

David Amichai, PR,  Marketing Manager at Museum on the Seam (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Amichai, PR, Marketing Manager at Museum on the Seam
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"I have always had an artistic flame within me," says David Amichai, the Public Relations and Marketing Manager at Museum on the Seam, a unique socio-political contemporary museum in Jerusalem. The Museum was recently listed in a CNN travel article as one of the top ten museums in Israel and described as "the most provocative" in the country. Indeed the museum stages exhibitions on subjects that Jerusalem’s more mainstream cultural institutions are hesitant to touch, such as human rights, emotional anxiety, and the relationship between personal and public spaces.
Son of the renowned late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, David attributes his love of the arts partially to his father. He spent his childhood going back and forth between Jerusalem and New York. "When I first got to America, I attended a public elementary school, and got into the breakdance culture. I also developed a love of graffiti art when the culture was first emerging, and used to go down to the train tracks and watch graffiti artists create their latest piece," remembers David.
David studied at a high school in Manhattan specializing in the humanities before returning to Jerusalem. Although he always loved poetry, art was an even greater passion, and after the army, David decided to study art at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
He then worked in Manhattan as an art dealer for several years, where he dealt with exclusive art from the Renaissance period and by the Dutch masters. At one point, David came back to Israel with the aim of selling a painting worth between four and five million dollars. "Every place in Israel that I visited only wanted to borrow the painting," recalls David. "Nobody actually had the means to acquire it."
Around that time, David started contemplating reality and the meaning of life more and more. Although he had grown up secular, he eventually came to religion after a long inner search; a decision that today he is content with. He got married soon after and began building a family.
David then worked at The Jerusalem Post for around three years, where he managed the newspaper's Christian edition. "One of the highlights was meeting people from the Christian embassy and the evangelical community," says David. "They're very supportive and have a strong connection to Israel."
David was excited when he saw that the Museum on the Seam was looking for a member of staff. "Although I'm not an artist per se, I have a pull toward the world of art," says David.That was four years ago and David has since worked closely with director and curator of the museum Rafi Etgar. He focuses on the museum's public relations but since the museum has a small staff compliment, everyone does a bit of everything.
"Museum on the Seam is one of the only places in Jerusalem to offer the quality of hip contemporary art that one would find in Soho or Chelsea," says David proudly. "But it's also so unique; within walking distance of ancient enclaves like Mea Shearim."
The museum, according to David, runs two exhibitions a year that raises varying social issues and tries to encourage the audience to draw their own conclusions. The current exhibit is centered on the theme of animal cruelty. Other memorable exhibitions in the past include Homeless Home that dealt with migration and the absence of a home, as well as another that dealt with the clash between Islam and the West. For David, a highlight of his job is the exhibition openings. "A few years ago, I watched a Japanese artist in a crane tie black ropes around the entire building and thought to myself that this is a great place to work."
Museum on the Seam was established in 1999 with the support of the Von Holtzbrinck family of Germany. It is located on Route 1, along Israel’s 1948-1967 border with Jordan, in a building built in 1932 by Arab-Christian architect Anton Baramki. The Museum attracts a diverse crowd – from tourists to Arab tour groups to army members to religious art students.
David lives in French Hill with his wife and three children. To unwind, he plays music in his recording studio at home, listens to classical music, and hangs out with his kids. "After hours, I prefer to spend time with family," says David. "Artists can be very unstable people, although I suppose that's what makes them interesting."
David's family and brother and sister are supportive of his choice to lead a more religious lifestyle. He still sees his old friends, including many in New York who are not Jewish and are still into the punk rock and the hardcore music scene. "It's interesting to meet up with them as I have changed so much. I feel that I'm in the right place."
"There is something inherent in Jerusalem that I love," shares David. "In Tel Aviv, it is easy to be typecast whereas in Jerusalem it comes more naturally to be yourself." David goes on to describe how he loves the vital mix of ancient and modern Jerusalem, and how you can time warp yourself in Jerusalem.  "One minute you can be at a trendy and vibrant modern bar and the next at the Kotel."
"There is such a great community in Jerusalem with so many different types of people co-existing and living side by side," remarks David. "It's a very pluralistic place with both an arts and religious scene."
David is also fond of the characters in Jerusalem. "I have such fond memories of an evangelical man who preached in the same place for years. He called himself Jesus and had burning blue eyes, a robe and long white beard. I also recall a Yemenite Jew who used to yell "we want Moshiach now". Somehow these people feel more authentic in Jerusalem."
David is optimistic about the future of Jerusalem. "A lot of people that left Jerusalem are returning with the introduction of the light rail and emerging culture. People are beginning to understand the marvelous things and beauty that Jerusalem has to offer. I only hope that real estate prices go down. I would not want to live elsewhere."
"What would I do another lifetime? I'd be a kindergarten teacher. I love small kids, and being around them gives me peace of mind. Something about their whole existence is very calming and comforting."
"I'm not planning on going into politics, which is the latest trend," smiles David. "These days everybody has plans to be an MK. I stay far away from politics, despite the museum being regarded as a socio-political museum." Plans for David's future include more of the same – to be a good dad, and keep doing the excellent things he's been doing for the museum.
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