The Schmooze

The Nakba in Israeli Art

This Saturday, May 15th, will be the first illegal Nakba Day in the state of Israel’s history. Due to a law passed by the Knesset last summer, any organization that receives public funds will be forbidden from taking part in demonstrations that commemorate the “Nakba,” an Arabic term for the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian population during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

Yet a growing community of Jews and Arabs are seeking to raise consciousness of the Palestinian tragedy in Israeli culture. Among them is Zochrot, a non-governmental organization focused on “bringing the Nakba into Hebrew.” In addition to organizing tours and posting signs at destroyed Palestinian villages, Zochrot serves as a hub for Israelis who wish to reconsider the Palestinian experience of 1948 to 1949 through the arts.

Among its activities, Zochrot publishes a literary journal and hosts an art gallery. On May 6, they opened an exhibition by the architectural collective Decolonizing Architecture, whose projects attempt to “imagine the reuse, re-inhabitation or recycling of the architecture of Israel’s occupation” with proposals that respond to Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Zochrot’s exhibitions are not typical of counter-cultural protests against the Israeli government. “Part of our work is to deconstruct the fear,” said Norma Musih, a curator of Zochrot’s gallery. “Even in our imagination, the most private and intimate thing that we can have, we don’t have the words, we don’t have the images to start thinking about a different scenario.”

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The Nakba in Israeli Art

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