- 1999 Israel, Kibbutz Nachshon : Gallery
- 2000 France, Ivry sur Seine: Charles-Foix
- 2000 France, Lyon: Ecole nationale des Beaux Arts
- 2003 Albania, Tirana: Biennale of Contemporary Art
- 2003 Canada, Toronto: A Space
- 2004 Latvia, Riga: Kino Sun
- 2005 France, Brest: Centre d'Art Passerelle
- 2006 Israel, Ashdod: Museum of Contemporary Art
- 2007 Netherlands, Utrecht: Film Festival
- 2010 France, Oleron: Musée d'Art Contemporain
- Gita Hashemi [curating]
- Stephanie Benzaquen [independent curator]
- Stephen Wright [independent curator]
- Students of Sapir Academic College [technical support]
- A Space [financial support]
- A Space [technical support]
- Alternative Information Center [documentation and information]
- Alternative Information Center [financial support]
- Centre d'Art Passerelle [financial support]
- Centre d'Art Passerelle [technical support]
- Cultural Center Magdal Shams [technical support]
- Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts de Lyon [financial support]
- Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts de Lyon [technical support]
- ExpoRevue [financial support]
- Hopital Charles-Foix [technical support]
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Israel [financial support]
- Sapir Academic College [technical support]
- Visual Center Har Zion [financial support]
Land Without Earth originated in October 1999, as I visited colleagues in the Beaux-Arts in Paris, members of “Kiosk”, a research group headed by Jean-François Chevrier, which I had helped to establish in 1996. Kiosk focused on questions of public art. On the particular day of my visit the guest was Lebanese artist Amal Sa’adeh. She showed slides of her installation Territory: The El Borej House (part of her project The House in Beirut). It included an article that had been published in the newspaper An Nahar on November 2, 1998, and reported the theft of fertile earth by Israel, and its transfer from Lebanese to Israeli land. The State of Israel shares a northern border with Lebanon (Green Line), determined after the 1948 War. This borderline held out until June 1982 when the first Lebanese war broke out. At the end of the war in June 1985, Israel redeployed in a narrow security zone from 5 to 10 kilometres wide along the Israeli-Lebanese border. The security zone, as it was called by Israel, created a buffer between the northern settlements of Israel and Lebanon as protection for northern Israel from rocket attacks by Hezbollah. It held until May 2000, when the Israeli government decided to withdraw its troops to the international border (Blue Line). It was during the period of Israeli control over the security zone that transfers of soil had been conducted.
Upon my return to Israel, I decided to undertake some journalistic research to uncover the truth behind the article. I therefore approached the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv University (an interdisciplinary research centre for the study of modern history and contemporary Middle East affairs). Following this initial investigation I wished to add personal testimony to the story and so I consulted the Centre for Alternative Information in Jerusalem, a non-profit organisation which gathers various materials dealing with the occupied territories. They had no documentation about the subject but referred me to a resident of the Golan Heights. They believed he knew what had taken place in the north. During an initial phone conversation with him I understood that he himself had been employed in the unilateral transfer of the land from Lebanon to Israel in 1995 and 1996, loading up earth and dumping it in Metullah (the northernmost town in Israel). He invited me to visit his village, to continue the conversation in person. I understood this planned meeting to be of documentary importance, so I asked his permission to come with a film crew, my students from the Communications, Film and Television School in the Sapir Academic College, Sderot, to record the events. We filmed while driving with the witness along the Israeli side of the border and took photos of the border stone with a camera with a zoom lens.
We finished recording on December 10, 1999. The next day, I called Yosef Algazi, a reporter from the Ha’aretz newspaper to ask if I could talk to him about the theft episode, telling him briefly about the study I had carried out, and the filmed journey with the witness. He informed me that the newspaper was interested in the subject. On December 13, we watched the film, and on December 17, we returned with the witness to the scene of the events. The journalist provided new information as a result of his locating and making contact with the contraction company from Rosh Pina which had been among the companies responsible for transporting the earth from Lebanon. Later in that same investigation, Algazi approached the chairman of the regional council of Metullah, Yaakov Katz, who refused to answer his questions, although the previous chairman (1978–1998), Yossi Goldberg, answered directly. Algazi’s article was published in Hebrew in Ha’aretz on December 24, 1999, titled “My Land, My Earth.” In The English version of Ha’aretz there was a reduction of this article which was titled: “Soiled Hands, Spoiled Lands”. It spread over half a page and was illustrated by a photograph of the border stone which I had taken, covering the other half of the page.
The witness lived in Mag’dal Shamas, a Druze village in the Golan Heights, an area occupied by Israel during the Six Day War in June 1967. Hundreds of Syrian villages were abandoned. Tens of them were destroyed by the State of Israel and their destroyed lands were declared “State lands”. Much of this territory became shooting ranges for the Israeli Defense Forces, part of it was declared a national park, and the rest was given to new Jewish settlements. The Druze and Alawi residents of the Golan were left with only 8% of the land of which Israel annexed another 30% for various reasons over the years. Israel wanted to close the border with Syria and planted mines along the border (as did Syria too). Control over mapping of the mines was minimal, partly because natural conditions, rain, snow and wind moved them around. As a result, the Druze residents of the Golan Heights became hostages living on the edge of a precipice. There are many amputees, victims of mine-inflicted injuries, in these villages. Salach Be’arar was one of them. I met him while working with the witness on the project Land Without Earth in Mag’dal Shamas. In 1979, when he was fourteen years old, Salach was shepherding his family’s herd of goats on a pasture near his house, when he found an object he did not recognise. He picked it up in his hand. It was a mine which exploded within seconds. He lost his right eye, his right hand and his right leg.
The students and myself spent several days in the village and we were able to meet with Salach daily. After two or three days of conversations and meals together, he told me that he would like me to document his life in a film so he could share his feelings about his injury. I accepted after some hesitation. The resulting movie, Body Memory, was built around the idea of a walk around the village. It covers two time periods. The first is a journey into the past via a flashback to the thirty two year old man’s childhood, taking time at each stage of his life in which some event took place connected to the cutting off, the amputation of limbs and body parts from his whole body. The second period focuses on the protagonist’s progress in the present and his return to the killing fields as he tries to point out the place where his injury took place.
Article published in History and Theory, the magazine of the art academy Bezalel, issue n.20, in April 2011.
Article published by Peter Nyers in Radical Philosophy, philosophical journal for independent left.
Description of the installation Adamot acquired by the Fonds Regional D'Art Contemporain Poitou-Charentes, France.
Article by Sophie Wahnich published in Socio-Anthropology 10 in 2001 following the exhibition at the Kibbutz Nachshon Gallery (1999).