1995 Villa Khoury
A multimedia project that explores and materializes in a variety of local public settings Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Arab memories of the city of Haifa from 1948 to the present-day through questionnaires, interviews, installations, performances, and video documentation.
- 1996 Israel, Haifa:
- 1998 Italy, Biella: Pistoletto Foundation
- 2001 France, Lyon: Universite Lyon, workshop
- 2003 France, Montbéliard: Centre d'Art Regional (CRAC)

- Ami Erev Warhaftig (Venezian Ltd.) [photographer]
- Michelangelo Pistoletto [artist and curator]
- Philippe Cyroulnik [curating]
- Centre d'Art Regional de Montbeliard [financial support]
- Centre d'Art Regional de Montbeliard [technical support]
- Haifa Municipality [financial support]
- Israeli Film Festival of Haifa [financial support]
- Israeli Film Festival of Haifa [technical support]
- Pistoletto Foundation [curating]
- Pistoletto Foundation [financial support]
- Pistoletto Foundation [technical support]

1995 Villa Khoury / The Prophets’ Tower

The project began in 1994, when I decided to document out of curiosity the Prophets’ Tower in Haifa, a glass and steel structure that hosts offices and a shopping mall. Its conception goes back to the end of the 1960s, when the Haifa municipality ordered an urban reconfiguration. The building was finally erected in 1979 on the site of the Villa Khury. This Villa belonged to the wealthy Khury family, one of the first to go beyond Haifa's old city walls and build their home on the slopes of Mount Carmel, around the year 1860. It was a large, impressive house in the style of the liwan (typical central space which crossed from front to back, with two rooms in each wing). When war broke out in 1948, the Villa’s strategic location placed it at the centre of a bitter, hard-fought battle between the Jews and Arabs, with both sides trying to capture this key site in order to dominate the crossroads of the city. The Villa Khury's fall represented the final Jewish victory over the Arabs in Haifa.

I compiled materials from a diversity of sources. The architect responsible for the city’s heritage, Mrs. Kolodni, was very helpful. I received rare images of the Villa Khury from a veteran photographer who had documented the city’s downtown neighbourhoods as well as all programs and plans for the modern Commercial Centre directly from the architect, Moshe Zur. I also interviewed witnesses: Jewish citizens from the Haganah Brigade who took part in the battle; an Israeli Arab citizen who took part in the battle as a soldier; a Christian Arab citizen who was living in the neighbourhood when the battle broke out and who, together with many other Arab residents, escaped by boat to St. Jean d’Acre and from there to Lebanon and Syria; an Arab citizen who remembers the Villa Khury and who left the neighborhood during the war but returned once the war was over. While doing my research, I came to realise that the history of this modern, public building could provide me with an insight into the conflict between two heterogeneous cultural communities inhabiting the same urban space. Transposing these issues into public installations became the next phase of the project.

The first installation The Site, The Subject. The Visible and the Invisible in Israeli and Palestinian Memory was presented in October 1995. My idea was to make the past emerge into the present. In other words, I wanted to bring the Villa Khury into the Prophets’ Tower Mall’s space. I built a double model representing the Arab fortress partially enclosed within the structure of the modern building. The scale between the two elements reproduced the relationships of scale between the two buildings. This double model was “sold” as a package deal in the Mall. It was exhibited on a display table in an empty boutique, exactly like a small TV set or a model sports car. Other goods which functioned as documentary souvenirs were sold in the mall shops too, such as miniature models, documentary photographs, maps and collages of identical size that were framed identically. Each collage was dedicated to a separate aspect of the site’s history. They were displayed in most of the shop windows.

The second installation Otherness (Alterity) was presented at the English Hospital/St. Luke’s Church as a space of substitution for the Villa Khury in December 1995. The English Hospital/Church had been built during the same era and in the same liwan style as the Villa Khury and the two buildings marked the new city centre at the end of the 19th century. The English Church, the first of its kind in Haifa, was consecrated in 1899 as St Luke’s, after the healing Galilean Apostle. It also functioned as a hostel and was used as a municipal hospital serving all the inhabitants of the region. It was the centre of worship for the British Community till 1948, and now serves the Episcopal community as a centre of worship and parish activities. The double model used at the Mall was set up on a pedestal inside the central public space. A mirror was set up on the outside wall of the church in order to reflect for the viewer the image of the mall tower situated some five hundred meters farther on. I also showed the documentary movie I had made about the Prophets’ Tower and Villa Khury.

The third installation/performance The Center as a Bridge took place at Hassan Shukri Street in December 1996. Hassan Shukri Street functions as both interstice between the Jewish and Arab populations and as their common administrative centre. It contains the most important government houses and municipal offices of the British Mandate, the municipal and national courthouses of contemporary Israel, the offices of the Labour Party, the Army Recruiting Station, the Central Police Station and Memorial Park. The street is named after the (Arab) first mayor of the city (before the War of Independence) Hassan Shukri. At this occasion, I created an interactive public game. Participation was arbitrary and open to all citizens. I installed kiosks carrying information about the history of the site near the city hall at one end of Hassan Shukri Street and in the Prophets’ Tower at the other end, as well as in the central administrative buildings between. Each kiosk was a three dimensional wooden object (200cm x 100cm x 100cm) looking like an open newspaper with open windows. It functioned as a station in the game. Inside the mall there were mini kiosks (100cm x 100cm x 100cm) which were fixed to the parapet. These windows enabled me to add a third dimension to the whole structure which became an information kiosk. The standard size of a newspaper was expanded to 2 metres. Each information kiosk showed two pairs of photographic representations depicting the specific site where the kiosk was exhibited. The first pair represented the outer and official aspect of the site with a close up giving an intimate view of it. The other pair of photographs were aerial views showing the site before and after 1948. Eventually, these photographs were printed in a small format which each player was free to pick up to help them respond to the questionnaire which was handed out; he or she could paste the photographs of his or her choice onto the questionnaire as part of a response to a series of seemingly simple questions. The form included three questions: “Who are you?”; “Do you have a story to tell about an experience you have had in the territory of Hassan Shukri Street?” and “Do the following concepts: Centre, Interstice, Bridge, bring up personal memories for you?” The game took place over one month and I was there most of the time, talking with people, explaining and exchanging ideas. Thus, a multiple history of the city emerged through the juxtaposition of testimonies. It was no longer the presence of the invisible which was at issue, but the articulation of silences, taboos, and recorded remarks. The full set of maps produced by each of the players constituted cartography of memory of each of the players, caught up in cartography of places of memory.

The fourth installation/performance Memorial Park – Living picture (“Tableau vivant”) took place at Memorial Park in October 1997. Memorial Park was the focus of disagreement between the municipality and the government after the 1948 War. When Aba Hushi, then mayor of Haifa, heard about the decision to build government offices on the park’s territory he decided to resist by proposing a Central Park for this densely populated area which is near the Carmel Heights. At that time this was a very crowded neighbourhood and the garden was intended to improve the quality of life of the masses of new immigrants living there. It is called Memorial Park in memory of those who fell in the battle for the city during the War of Independence. For this new installation/performance, I embarked on a collaboration with Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, of whom I requested to borrow the idea of a sculpture from his series Objet en moins, and to activate it in a public space in Haifa. The final concrete incarnation of the object was a wooden structure (200cm x 200cm x 0,5cm) which functioned as a “living picture,” that is, a three dimensional slice cutting the space and proposing an intimate atmosphere in the public environment of Memorial Park. I invited passers-by to enter and start a dialogue about a picture of the first installation of the project.

The last installation Memorandum was presented at the Jewish/Arab community centre, Beit-Hagefen in December 2000. The Jewish/Arab community centre in the district organises inter-cultural activities meetings between Arabs and Jews. I chose the space as a substitute to the Villa Khury since it was of similar architectural structure (liwan). In the building, I constructed a vault made of “Ceramic-Rockets” (from the project The Camp of the Jews). This vault was juxtaposed with a written text in Hebrew and Arabic which suggested a range of possible ways to decipher the word “memory” in both languages.

Article in journal Israel Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, Special Issue—Representations of Israeli-Jewish—Israeli-Palestinian Memory and Historical Narratives of the 1948 War (Spring 2016), pp. 109-131. This work of Ilana Salama Ortar is mentioned in the article that is avaialble on-line for those that can access JSTOR or academia.edu
Web page which documents a conference held in Geneva in the year 2015, with a session: "The Loss: Two Houses in the Levant. Haifa. Cairo." Gilad Ben-Nun (Frankfurt am Main/Leipzig), Isabelle Benoît (Brussels), Pierre Hazan (Geneva) and Ilana Salama Ortar with comments by Doreen Mende (Berlin/Geneva)