Ein Hod: A Unique Village in Israel 

Nestled in the hilly greenery of the Carmel Mountains, picturesque Ein Hod boasts of being the only artists' village in Israel. Here artists live and create in all art media, from painting and sculpture to theater, music and literature. Moreover, the village is a microcosm of Israeli society; its inhabitants are from Tunis and Odessa, Berlin, Damascus and Johannesburg – and Tel Aviv.

Currently home to some 150 families, Ein Hod was founded in 1953 by Romanian-born Dada artist Marcel Janco and his friends, to encourage practicing artists and artisans to create both aesthetic and useful works of art and to enable them to make a living. Through the years, the village has retained the simple charm and atmosphere of early Israel. Its gardens adjoining beautiful roomy homes are green with olive, pomegranate, fig, carob and almond trees surrounded by vines – a veritable nature reserve with biblical flora of ancient Israel.

In addition to the dwellings, there are 22 galleries, 14 art workshops, 2 museums and 14 rooms for rent to tourists. The workshops include printing, sculpture, photography, silk screening, music (vocal), ceramics, mosaics, design, stained glass and lithography. There is even a course in blacksmithing. Some of the villagers are couple-artists, like Lea and Dan Ben Aryeh, who produce jewelry as well as fashion and decorative items. Often second generation dwellers are also artists, but they cannot inherit the status of Ein Hod members; they must first "prove" themselves, produce results of half-a-year's work in the village, show professionalism, and, above all, says Dan Ben Aryeh, "they have to be driven by burning creativity."

One of the veteran artists is Ursula Malbin, just turned 90. Twenty-nine of her bronze sculptures have been on display since 1978 in Haifa's Vista of Peace Garden, the first public sculpture garden dedicated solely to the works of a woman sculptor.

Dina Merhav is another successful Ein Hod sculptor, working in this usually male domain. With discarded, often rusty industrial machine parts which once served to enhance our daily lives, like car parts, pipes, stoves, computers, even pots and pans, Dina constructs such figures of fantasy as angels on wheels, birds of paradise and fanciful iron shapes that could be supernatural prehistoric animals. The animals that live in her imagination become strange walking fish, lizards with two heads and monsters from a non-existent world. Often the heavy iron pieces have to be transported by cranes; she then cuts, welds, casts, shapes (iron is malleable), paints and polishes them. In March 2008, Bet Haomanim (Artists' House) in Tel Aviv exhibited three of the pieces that she prepared with a fellow artist, Lev Stern.

During the forthcoming Olympic Games, one of Dina’s figures, named "Totem", will grace the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Beijing, China. Her earlier sculptures include "Wings of Peace" in Geneva, Switzerland, "Gate to Heaven" at Tel Aviv University, "Jacob's Ladder" in Haifa, as well as "Bird of Paradise" in Shanghai and "Fishing" in Yuzi Paradise, Guilin, China. "I am totally fascinated by the magic of iron, with its pristine, primordial quality", she says. It is not quite by accident that Merhav is shaping iron. Both her paternal and maternal grandparents traded with iron from the end of the 19th century, producing stoves and farm implements at their factory in what is now Croatia.

Uzi Gil prefers a brush to a hammer. After 41 years as a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force (he is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-flying fighter pilot in the world), he is now devoting his time almost exclusively to painting. He is just putting the finishing touches to a huge painting he has been working on for the last 3 1/2 years -- portraits of his flying squadron. The canvas shows 15 pilots variously standing or sitting, not turning or talking to their neighbors. "This portrays our aloneness in the cockpit," comments the artist. A native of Kibbutz Givat Hayim, Uri's paintings are extraordinary. Walking into his "showroom," we had to catch our breath; it felt like seeing portraits by the Dutch masters. Indeed, Uri Gil paints with oil and tempera in the style of the Dutch Van Eyck who discovered this method in the 15th century.

One of the most singular inhabitants of Ein Hod is Dan Chamizer, creator of the popular "Chamizer riddle" which engages and delights much of the country's population every year. Chamizer is akin to a Renaissance man; he is a pilot, sculptor, poet, visual artist, inventor and a treasure hunt and riddle guru whose riddles have fascinated millions, making him a household name. Based on an original coding system, the Chamizer riddle is widely used not only in schools (17,000 school classes have been exposed to innovative teaching methods as a result of its problem solving) but is also part of projects commissioned by government agencies and by social and public organizations, including 25 projects for high-tech companies and 132 tourism-related projects.

Ein Hod's main gallery is run by Naomi Huss, who taught art for many years. The gallery, which boasts one of the country's largest exhibitions of art, possesses 5 halls, each with a special function. Hall 1 exhibits art by new immigrants from the ex-Russian bloc and from Ethiopia, living and working in all parts of Israel. Hall 2 is exclusively for Ein Hod artists, past and present. Halls 3 and 4 are for changing exhibitions – both solo and group, of insiders and outsiders. Hall 5 exhibits theme shows.

The museum serves another purpose; it is geared to preserve and demonstrate the art of founder Marcel Janco – painter, sculptor, architect, illustrator and teacher. Among other features, it contains a family workshop center -- "an absurd art laboratory where you can step into the shoes of a Dada artist."(Dada, established in Zurich, was a movement of a group of European exile artists who, by showing absurd images, were protesting against values which led to the destruction and carnage of World War I). Each day during the school year, two classes of schoolchildren are guests of the museum, and participate in organized or individual creative activities.

Also on the premises is Nisco -- an unusual Museum of Mechanical Music. Founder Nissan Cohen spent years collecting its contents: music boxes, hurdy-gurdies, an automatic organ, a player piano, a 100-year-old gramophone and other antique musical instruments. The museum archive contains Yiddish gramophone records from the early 1900's.

Ein Hod simply bubbles with creativity. During Pesach, a musical skit called, "Burning of the Golden Calf," was presented by local artists to an appreciative audience from both the village and surrounding area. A 10-day International Art Symposium was held in which artists from England, Poland, Spain, Italy, Romania, Kosovo, El Salvador, Venezuela, the USA and Israel took part. Organizers hope to make this an annual event. A cultural exchange program with the German city of Duesseldorf has been in place for the past 20 years, and more recently, a similar program has been initiated within the framework of the sister city project between the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire and the Hof Hacarmel region.

During the long years of the village's existence -- almost as long as the State of Israel itself – the creations of its artists have been beautifying the county's public places and homes. Among these is the Topor Sculpture Garden at the Sheba Medical Center.

For visitors to Ein Hod, there are tours of the village, lectures, refresher courses and creative workshops. (Contact Lea Ben-Arye Tel: 972-4-9841126 art@ein-hod.israel.net) The visitor can enjoy viewing and perhaps acquiring some of the hand-wrought fruits of this creativity and then relax with a cup of tea or coffee at one of the scenic coffee houses. Link: www.ein-hod.org

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