‘Where is Israel?’ is a project by Malkit Shoshan and Nirit Peled that maps and documents a non-territorial statehood. Exhibited as part of the exhibition ‘Where to?’ at The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, Israel.
Rahamim was born to a Yemenite family in Rosh Ha Ayin. Since 1980 he has been living in Holland, working as a driver for the Jewish community, taking community officials on their fundraising tours. In Holland he feels exiled. When he visited Yemen, it made him feel homesick and nostalgic for the world described in his parents’ stories, but he would not return to Israel.
“Here I live in a diaspora. But in Israel I always had a lot of problems. I always feel I’m being cheated, robbed. There’s this kind of hostility over there. I always miss Israel, but unfortunately I always feel I don’t fit in there”.
Rabbi Akiva moved to Holland in order to establish the first Chabad Center in Amsterdam. The center is designed to be the religious-cultural home and heart of the local Israeli community, whose members do not fit in with the local Jewish community. Living in Israel is a great mitzvah, a religious duty of the first order, as the Holy Land is the most important place for Akiva as a religious Jew, but he left it with his family on an important mission.
“Many people I’m in touch with here, friends really, would not give me the time of day in Israel. And this is something that happens when you’re abroad. Living abroad bridges a lot of social gaps — here, the fact that I’m religious doesn’t turn me into a monster”.
Avi arrived in Holland because of love. Although things didn’t work out with the local girl in the end, he got ‘stuck’ there for twenty years. Today, he owns Traffic Café in the south of Amsterdam, where local Israelis meet every Tuesday. Over the past decade, Avi has been undergoing a process of soul-searching and personal transformation. He became much more religious and his political views took a sharp turn to the right. He says it’s not redicalisation, but rather a sober act of returning to the origins.
“In Israel you are influenced, you are a victim of the society around you, the media… In Europe, from outside — how does the saying go? — the one who sits in the balcony sees the game better than the player on the field”.
Ada was born in kibbutz Ruhama and arrived at Holland in 1998 to start the ISSTA (Israeli Student Travel Association) branch in Amsterdam, which she runs to this day. A map of Israel and the text of the Jewish business blessing are clearly visible in her office, which specializes in flights to Israel and symbolically represents the portal to home for many Israelis living in Amsterdam. Ada knows almost every Israeli in the area, and everyone knows her.
“I’m always an Israeli. I’m always on my way back. In my heart, I would have returned yesterday, but I live in a reality. There’s reality, there’s work to do”.
Amir arrived in Holland some years ago to complete his PhD in philosophy and cinema. As a son of Russian immigrants, he feels that Israel is just one station in the family journey. He lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch girlfriend and defines himself as a Jew, rather than an Israeli. He loves Israel, but feels that the nationalist territorialism of the state and military threaten his Jewish identity.
“Israel is a sad interlude in Jewish history. Jewish identety begins precisely where the land begins to crumble under your feet”.
Yael never felt at home in Israel. She doesn’t need an Israeli or Jewish identity. Thirty years ago, she left all that behind her and immigrated to Holland. She feels this is the best decision she has ever made. In 1996, after Israel shelled a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, killing more than a hundred innocent refugees who took shelter there, Yael went to the Israeli embassy at The Hague and returned her passport. Today she is an urban farmer who does cooking and permaculture.
“I returned my passport and demanded to be stricken off the list. I don’t want to be part of a nation which perpetrates such things”.
Digital Art Center in Hulon in Israel, exhibition ‘Where to?’
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