A Moroccan-Born Jewish Artist Who Became the Master of a Traditional Artform

Currently on display at New York’s Aquavella Galleries are some recent works by Jacob El Hanani, who has been dubbed “the grandfather of micro-drawing.” This painstaking artform involves the creation of images through thousands of tiny pen-strokes. Sometimes El Hanani uses a form of this technique he borrowed from traditional Jewish religious art, where pictures are constructed from tiny Hebrew letters, which often spell out a biblical text. Yael Friedman, having interviewed El Hanani about his life and work, writes:

El Hanani was born into a booming postwar Casablanca, to a middle-class family. . . . His father was an accountant who “dressed to kill,” they spoke French at home, and he was surrounded by the gifts and trappings of a comfortable and urbane world. Like most Moroccan Jews, his family left in the early 1950s, arriving by ship in Haifa Bay in 1953.

The El Hanani family moved to a moshav (a type of cooperative agricultural community first founded in Israel in the early 20th century) and eventually to Petaḥ Tikvah. At an ulpan, [an intensive Hebrew course for immigrants], his father, conspicuously elegant and refined for that setting, made an impression on a fellow student, a woman who was the president of a women’s Mizraḥi organization. She asked him whether he’d like to come work for their school in Ra’anana. It was a religious school for World War II orphans—his father would have to wear a kippah and say the prayers. When he’d come home, he would remove it.

Slowly, he grew to appreciate and enjoy the traditions and began absorbing them. As El Hanani describes it, it was a process of “na’aseh v’nishma” [literally, “We shall do and we shall hear,” from Exodus 24:7]—first do it and understand later. Friday nights transformed into special and solemn occasions in their household and they became more observant than their extended family.

El Hanani’s work, the current exhibition included, remains infused with Jewish themes, with pieces titled Ivrit (the Hebrew word for Hebrew), Dot-Nekuda (from the Hebrew word meaning either “dot” or the diacritics used to represent vowel sounds), and Without Form and Void, a reference to the second verse of Genesis.

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Read more at Forward

More about: Jewish art, Judaism, Moroccan Jewry

 

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform