In this lecture we will discuss the
ways artifacts and visual representations of faith and religion
reflect and create cross-cultural encounters in Israel. These artifacts
and visual representations are found in great quantities among other
cheap and popular goods in the central bus-station in Tel-Aviv,
located in a large three-storey mall. Since its opening in 1992
the mall has become a popular meeting place for low-income working
people and commuters representing diverse cultural groups: Israeli-born
Jews and immigrants of various ethnicities; Christians, Muslims,
Druze and temporary Asian workers.
Our research revealed a multitude of artifacts, images
and symbols, including ritual objects, stickers and icons related
to different faiths and religions; objects of mysticism and magic,
Jewish, Christian, Asian and New-Age visual representations, displayed
side-by-side and sometimes together on one stand. They transmit
messages of different types: esthetic, mystic, magical, moral, missionary
and national (Jewish/Israeli). They are found throughout the mall
and concentrated in various focal points such as synagogues, fortune-tellers’
stands, Habad stands (an ultra-orthodox Jewish stream whose members
persuade Jewish males who pass by to perform a ritual prayer), in
restaurants and in commercial stores and stands where they are displayed
for sale and for the sellers’ personal use. The cross-cultural
encounters in the station-mall created through these representations
are complex. They bring together cultural elements from the west
(North America and Russia) and the East (the Middle East and Southeast
Asia) and also reflect the transformations that these so-called
authentic sources have undergone in a global world.
We will discuss the characteristics of these representations
and their iconographic sources; and relate to them in the context
of the social and cultural ecology specific to the station-mall.
We will examine their messages, their functions and how they enable
encounters between groups, cultures, religions and faiths; to what
extent these encounters are tolerant, and how they interact when
the representations serve different groups for different ends. Do
these interactions represent cultural and social relations only
in the station-mall or do they reflect a more general developing
cultural process within contemporary Israel.
Dr. Malka Ben-Peshat is a senior lecturer
in the Design Arts Department Teachers College of Technology in
Tel-Aviv. She has a background in Byzantine art and architecture
and was a Fulbright Scholar at the UCLA art and design department.
In 1994 she was the initiator and a founding member of the Middle
East Design Forum for dialogue and cooperation between Israeli and
Palestinian architects and designers. In 1996 she was the founding
chair of the Design Arts Department and led the building of its
B.Ed. curriculum. At present she is the head of a M.Ed. program
on "Visual Literacy in Education".
She currently teaches in the areas of history and
theory of Design, on design and cultural identity, exchanges between
design, art and architecture. She has written a text book for high
school students and many curricula for high school level in the
history of design, art and architecture. She has written articles
on design as material culture, sustainable design, and design education
Dr. Shoshana Sitton is a senior lecturer
at the Levinsky College of Education and at Tel-Aviv University
at the School of Cultural Studies. Dr. Shoshana Sitton is one of
Israel's foremost authorities on the History of Jewish Education.
After receiving her degrees in General and Jewish History at the
Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Dr. Sitton recieved her M.A. at Tel
Aviv University in Educational History and Philosophy. She then
went on to write her thesis on "Education in the Spirit of
the Homeland"(1995). She is author of Education in the Spirit
of the Homeland: The Curriculum of the Teachers Council for the
Keren Kayemet (JNF). (Tel Aviv University, 1998 [in Hebrew]). She
is also the co-author of Staging and Stagers in Modern Jewish Palestine:
The Creation of Festive Lore in a New Culture, 1882-1948 (Wayne
State University Press, Detroit, 2004). She has written numerous
articles on Jewish Education and on the invention of festivals and
ceremonies in the history of Hebrew culture. At the present she
is leading a reasearch project into the History of the Jewish kindergarten.
At present, Dr. Malka Ben-Peshat and Dr. Shoshana
Sitton are conducting a research project into the Popular Culture
in Israel as represented in the Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv.