My name is Gil Alexander, and this week I discovered a major city in Israel called Umm al-Fahm. The Umm al-Fahm Gallery, founded by Sayid Abu Shaqra, is holding an exhibition of Arab and Jewish artists in private homes throughout the city. The exhibition is called Hunak Hōn! Over there is over here! You can find details in the Green Tapestry association’s web site. Green Tapestry is a tourism association belonging to the Wadi Ara Arab settlements and local councils. Green Tapestry runs exhibition tours, details can be found here.

Approximately 30 artists, Jews and Arabs from the Wadi Ara area and beyond have come together for a process of artistic investigation and creation, the results of which are shown in a series of exhibitions at the private homes of Umm al-Fahm residents. You are invited to enter the homes of the residents to see the displays all the while enjoying a direct and intimate meeting with your hosts, their local customs, language and culture. Tours are held on the last Friday and Saturday of August and are led by professional guides from ‘Wadi Ara Green Tapestry’ (of course after having signed-up in advance at the web site and provided a minimum number of participants, according to the guidelines).

You can sign up for one of two routes:

Route 1

Rana and Sayid Gbareen’s house, presenting artists: Janat Amara-Nattor, Yoram Ofek, Ronit Gurevich, Fatma Shana

Manel and Mahmoud Karman’s house, presenting artists: Butina Abu Malham, Slo Alnamar, Iris Affek, Hadas Gertman and Fatten Alawi, Daniella Meller, Soha Faruja

Alexander Mountain Observatory, presenting artists: Adham Jabarin

Amir, Affaf and Mahmoud Gbareen’s house, presenting artists: Tali Blumenow, Lihi Gendler Talmor, Ruthi Singer, Noa Shizaf, Yael Toren

Tour the streets of old Umm al-Fahm

Route 2

Ludmila and Saleh Mahmid’s house, presenting artists: Zivi Geva, Maria Sahleh Mahmid-Haviv Allah

Alexander Mountain Observatory, presenting artists: Adham Jabarin

Tour the streets of old Umm al-Fahm

Manar and Fuad Agbaria’s house, presenting artists: Fuad Agbaria, Avivit Ballas Baranes, Hunny Hatib, Inbal Timor, Muhamad Kalash, Atar Geva

Renosaid Jabarin’s house, presenting artists: Janat Amara-Natour, Yoram Affek, Ronit Gurevich, Fatma Shnan

I took part in Route 1 and I’d like to share my impressions of two unique homes.

The first home we visited was the Manel home restaurant. The Karman family home is built on a steep incline on the city’s eastern border. Our hosts were Mahmoud, a pharmacist and pharmacy owner in town, and Manel, a chef who graduated from the Herzliya Tourism School and owns a private business for cooking local Palestinian dishes. The couple have three children. The eldest is Dima who is studying Medicine in Germany, Muhammad is studying Pharmacy Science at Hebrew University and the youngest daughter, Rama, goes to the local high-school Alhalia. The first floor of the house is used as the family’s living quarters, Manel’s home-restaurant is located on the ground floor where she cooks and hosts groups.

The exhibition consists of both Arab and Jewish artists and its theme is a world of women, mothers, multi-generational relationships and the traditional baggage that goes with these relationships. It’s hard to relate our impressions of the art that we saw since an important part of our impression is the actual home visit, in any case I’ll give you a few examples that may somewhat convey the experience.

The house exterior is covered by a giant fabric made entirely from Hijabs. This is a piece by Slowa Alnmar and also this picture of the drawing in Manel’s house.

In the small children’s room, Iris Afek is showing pictures of sleeping children. The art connects to her own history as a child living in the kibbutz children’s house and sleeping in shared accommodations and also to her experiences while volunteering at a preschool for the children of foreign workers in Tel Aviv. 

At the summit of Mount Alexander, on the walls of a Mosque, you can view impressive drawings by Adham Gbareen, “Praying.” 

Then we visited Affaf and Mahmound Gbareen’s house. The family home is shaded by the rock face of the mountain. It’s in the old neighborhood al-Midan,and was hand-built by Mahmoud (who works in construction) and Affaf, a housewife. The yard teems with birds, flowers and vegetables cared for by Amir, their only child. Amir studies Mechanical Engineering at the Technion, and he’s also a guide at the Safari in Ramat Gan and the Green Tapestry association. Besides his native Arabic, Amir is also fluent in Hebrew, French, English and German and we were very impressed by him. Next to the family home there’s the grandfather’s house, Mahmoud’s father, an authentic Palestinian home, its façade looks like a pigeon coop. One of the characteristics of the family is that they’re collectors. Their home holds hundreds of items alluding to the cultural, geological and zoological history of this family, in this place, planted in the middle east. The exhibition of pictures, ceramics and video art by different artists flows through and out the house.

We heard from our hosts about the place’s history, holiday traditions and saw stunning exhibitions. Did you know that Um al-Fahm was THE center for growing Etrogs in the 19th century? This brought back to me the importance of personal encounters to free you from prejudice. I’m certain that only these types of collaborations can advance Israel to become a country that instills the feeling of belonging in its citizens.

I highly recommend the tour, my name is Gil Alexander, a Zionist Jew who tries to follow the Mitzvot and believes that Judaism should be a platform for building a moral and just society that strives for peace with our neighbors because “beloved is the person created in the image of God”.