Artists’ colony thrives just
90 miles from Damascus
The view from Yakir Gershon’s patio in Ein Hod, the artists’ colony on the slopes of Mt. Carmel near Haifa, Israel. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
EIN HOD, Israel – Yakir Gershon, 73, lives just 90 miles from Damascus. That’s closer than Los Angeles is to San Diego.
If President Obama decided to launch a missile attack on Syria, those missiles would fly almost right over the roof of his house in this artists’ colony about 10 kilometers south of Haifa.
Quite probably, a short time later, missiles would arrive from the opposite direction.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” said my host Saturday evening as the sun slowly disappeared beneath the Mediterranean Sea just a couple of miles from his patio overlooking the village of Atlit.
“It’s like living near a volcano, or in a country with frequent earthquakes,” he added, pointedly, knowing the San Andreas fault is a mere 25 miles from my house.
“You don’t ignore it. But you don’t let it affect day-to-day life. You carry on as usual.”
Due to a brutal travel schedule, posting will be light for the next few days.
‘AS USUAL’ is quite idyllic in this corner of the Holy Land, whose name means “Spring of Beauty.”
Some 150 families now live in what was, after the 1948 Israel War of Independence, an abandoned village. Almost every home has an art gallery attached, or at least some artwork displayed in the yard.
Yakir Gershon, 73, entertains guests over dinner Saturday on his patio in Ein Hod artists’ colony. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
The village square is centered around the art gallery. The homes cling to the western slopes of Mt. Carmel, just a few miles northeast.
For Gershon, art was his second career. Immigrating to Israel from Bulgaria in 1949, he trained in aeronautics and fought in four wars.
It was during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, he said, when he spent five months sleeping on a sand dune in the Sinai Desert, that he decided to follow his muse.
He had been an avid amateur photographer. “I had experienced many incidents that proved that [the continuation of] life is unsure, so I made my hobby into my profession,” he explained.
This is also what enabled him to move into the artists’ colony he has called home for about 40 years. “I have been able to make a living from something I enjoy doing,” he said, proud of his success.
More recently, for about a decade, he has operated a bed-and-breakfast inn, one of several in the village. I was privileged to call this “home” for the weekend.
JOINING US for the special day on which the entire country pauses for introspection and reflection, were four men all about the same age, now residents of Tel Aviv.
Matt, An, left, Sam Brodzky, Carmel Yoeli and Eldad Michaeli are seen at the patio dinner table on Saturday in Ein Hod, Israel. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Carmel Yoeli, 32, Elad Michaeli, 33, and Matt An, 33, all grew up on Kibbutz Elon, in northern Israel, and moved to the city about a decade ago.
Sam Brodzky, 32, was raised in a village whose name he translated as “Joseph’s Vineyard,” near Jerusalem.
Yolie owns a marketing firm (“mostly digital media,” he said) and Brodzky works with him.
Michaeli works for a solar power production company that is just beginning to branch out into wind power generation.
“The economy has not been so good the last couple of years because of budget cuts,” he said, echoing a remark that could just has easily have been made in Greece, Spain – or even California.
The breakfast served by my host on Saturday was fit for a king. His is one exemplary bed-and-breakfast – six stars! Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
He noted that solar energy is not yet competitive with fossil fuels, and requires a helping hand from government.
“For young people, it is not easy to start life here,” he said. “It is expensive.”
Michaeli graduated with a degree in economics from Ruppin Academic Center, and spent three years as an economics consultant. “But I was really bored,” he said as we chatted in the shade next to the swimming pool, “so I looked for a different job.”
He found one on the cutting edge. “Our company is just starting to develop a wind [energy] project,” he said, adding there are in all of Israel just five turbines now.
The best location is in the Golan Heights, Michaeli said, but the politics of the area (the territory was won from Syria in the 1967 war) should not be an impediment.
“There is a lot of other investment there,” he said. “Israel has invested billions of dollars there. We do not believe [the political situation] is going to change.”
These young men uniformly believe that their future is of little concern to the United States.
“I don’t think the US wants to enter another war, or that the American people want it,” Michaeli said, “and I can understand that.”
But he remains optimistic. “I believe there will be peace in my lifetime,” he said. “Things are changing.”
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