Arts Letters & Numbers

I began 2019 arriving at Arts Letters & Numbers, a multidisciplinary artist in residency program in Averill Park, NY. In other words, I entered a snow forest, just far enough away from the bustling world.
We live in a big house: a weather-beaten, hilltop mansion that used to be all sorts of things in the past hundred and fifty years. Now, it is a creative home to fine artists, architects, dancers, musicians, and people who do a little bit of everything. The residents here change and shift all the time. Some come for a week, others for a month. 
My main goal coming here was to take some time away, in a very different environment than the one I had in Jerusalem. Living and working in Jerusalem for the past few years, I almost turned away from my artistic passions. I never stopped thinking about art, creating some and looking for it everywhere.  But there are some essential elements that lead to producing art and some of them are community, space and time. I am finding them here in ALN, and I will continue following them when I leave here, too. 

Sometimes you need to step far away from a place in order to get a fresh view on it or reflect upon it. I am processing my time in Jerusalem while here in the snow: through visuals, writings, and conversations with people.

In the beginning, I had some emotional moments emerging from the change of atmosphere or dwelling over past experiences. Those moments tended to happen after I had a glass of wine…

I think a large part of my core will always stay in Israel. But as I grow older, I learn to enjoy the places I am in and the company of those I am with at the given moment. I also think it is, to some extent, thanks to my core being more defined and stable than it used to be.

What I like the most about being here is all the people I get to meet in such a short amount of time. It reminds me of college 🙂 which I missed, social wise. 

Winter is rough here. I think I have never experienced a colder winter. There is a short walk between the house and the studio building. Which means I always HAVE to wear two layers of pants and many more layers above my waist.

Sometimes my brain turns off in the middle of the day because I am cold, it only comes back after a hot shower.

September Update (and a bit of October)


Summer is gone, the holidays are finally over, fall and reddish colored leaves are not really something you see in Jerusalem, but October in the holy land will always be my favorite kind of October.

September was a shaky month, I faced some down thoughts and emotions. They related to a few uncertainties and challenges that are going on in my life. But that’s life. And I am working on embracing them. Overall, I think the changes are good for me.

In a month and a bit, I will be heading to the US, for a long period of time. I am planning on taking part in an Artist in Residency there this winter; something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time.
My parents, who had their green card for a while, will soon be able to vote, which excites them. I, the only american (on papers) in the family, have been feeling very detached from the political scene there. Honestly, my interest mostly comes from how it influences Israel/Palestine. But lately, I’ve been far from that too. It’s probably better like this, for now. The things I am looking forward to the most in the US are simple: going groceries with my mom (checking out all the options Israel doesn’t have), sit at Barnes & Nobles with my dad and talk about nerdy things (I can do this for hours) and hear from my sister (who isn’t american on papers) about the american slang I never heard of (none of it basically).
One of the doctors I visited this past month told me: “you are very close to your family but you are trying to run away from that. Don’t worry though, once you form your own family you will feel better”. Sweet of him. Though I don’t think I will “form” a family anytime soon. There is still so much I want to explore on my own.

On Sukkot, I traveled north to the Golan to visit my aunt, who keeps with the mitzvah of building a sukkah every year, without a man. Women are not committed to a sukkah according to the texts, but here it is anyway, and it is marvelous. 

It’s a shame sukkah’s lifespan is 8 days and then it ought to be gone.    

Drawings of earthy growing foods. Seriously the most beautiful sukkah ever. My aunt is traditional and does things according to the halakha, but always adds her own artistic touch to everything. 

The round table in her studio 🙂 
A mountain monster in my sketchbook

The area where my aunt lives
Part of our breakfast. 
The candle is for my grandma who recently passed away

I’ve been meditating regularly for the past two weeks. I have a long way to go in my meditation journey, but I try to gently focus on the moment, on each morning, and each breath. 

Another Sukkah. Karen and I made drawings for it in my living room. It supports the Palestinian Beduin community at Khan Al Ahmar as they face the threat of demolition.
I am still thinking about the concept of sukkah against demolition. There is room for more on this topic, for sure.

Old City discoveries. Matilda (who speaks and reads all the languages) translating some Arabic as I take a photo. 

More from the old city. Some very beautiful calligraphy. 
I especially like this one.

Another page from my sketchbook

The Moorchild

The Moorchild, by Eloise McGraw, is one of my favorite books of all time. I re-read it again lately as part of a habit I developed over the past few years: Re-reading all of my favorite childhood books, in English.

I first discovered this book about 15 years ago (wow). My friend recommended it to me, she said I would love it, and indeed, I was instantly hooked by what she told me about it. So I borrowed it from her and started reading it right away. Even today, the story hits me straight in my personal life in many different ways. It is a perfect example of a fantasy book that has both: magic and reality blended well together.

The main character, the girl I drew below, fails to live among those she considers “her kind”: the Moorfolk. Mischievous, magical creatures that inhabit the moors. They are strongly connected to nature and value the safety of their “Band” before anything else. It is discovered that she is, in fact, half human – half Moorfolk, and therefore, threatens the safety of the Band. The Folk banish her and send her to live among humans as a changeling. Named ‘Saaski’ by the couple whose real baby she was swapped with, she grows up taunted and feared by the villagers for being different. She feels comfortable only on the moors, where she usually escapes to, and plays very strange melodies with her bagpipes.
As Saaski grows up, memories from her forgotten past with the Folks (aka previous life) slowly (slowly) emerge. She begins to realize how special she is… as well as the terrible wrong her existence caused to her “parents”. She is determined to do something, to open the door of her past and face those who already rejected her once.

I was too lazy to scan this

In the Hebrew version, it is difficult to tell where and when exactly this story is taking place. Middle ages probably, somewhere Christian. Saaski’s musical instrument always made me think of Ireland.
In English, the characters speak in a very strange kind of English, which confirms my theory (not that I’m knowledgeable of Irish types of speech). But it truly doesn’t matter because the story is told in such global tale kind of manner, that soon the only “locations” are the village (The Humans) and the moors (The Wilderness).
I love the old language and the descriptions in this book. Nature descriptions in particular.

I also love the philosophical approach to dealing with emotions. The Moorfolk lack them and so they can banish one of their own without feeling empathy. Saaski lacks them a bit too. Which is exactly why she ponders over them all the time and trying to understand them. From the fear and loathing the villagers express when they see her, to the “love” (“Or is it pity?”) her parents show her. Eventually, Saaski learns to value and draw strength from what the Moorfolk consider a human weakness.

Another topic the story explores in a fascinating way is reincarnation. Saaski was somewhat a different “being” when she lived with the Moorfolk, and for most of the story, she has no idea who she was in her past life. But shadows of it are slipping into her present and influencing it. She simply “knows” how to do things (such as playing her melodies) or seeing sights others don’t, she remembers words and names that are from the Moorfolk’ language but she is not aware of it.
It may sound a bit funny, but I sometimes feel as if I see things from my previous life as well. Or long past memories. Here and there I wonder whether these are human memories because they remind me of animals’ viewpoint. It can also be scenes from places I really can’t remember visiting in person. Maybe my mind is playing tricks, for sure I should explore my memory more often and write down the confusing frictions.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone. Also, I don’t usually notice dedications when I’m reading, but this one is truly wonderful:

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