Peace activism in tourism: two case studies (and a few reflections) in Jerusalem
Prologue: the Golem On a stormy Jerusalem night in the winter of 2007, a friend and I went to an experimental art exposition, which was titled “The Golem: From Mysticism to Technology, from Judaism to Universalism.” The Golem Project was co-curated by the Sala-Manca Group (on which I will elaborate later) and The Lab, which is a relatively new center for performing arts in Jerusalem. I was familiar with earlier works of Sala-Manca artists, which were always inspiring. They typically included various art installations, kinetic sculptures, video works presented in public spaces. I was attracted to, and even fascinated by, Sala-Manca’s activities, also because they felt not very coherent and had an avant-garde touch to them. Through the Golem Project, Sala-Manca and The Lab sought to explore the haunting and daunting images of the Golem, an animated anthropomorphic being which has reappeared in Jewish traditions and texts throughout the centuries, and which usually has a semblance of a weird and sometimes monster-like appearance (perhaps akin to Frankenstein’s monster). The Golem Project offered a memorable experience. It involved an installation in a large and dark hall, wherein my friend and I, and other visitors, were walking. There were unclear sounds surrounding us as we were cautiously exploring the large, dark room. The sounds resembled those of static electricity, or an out-of-tune radio station (“noise”), but they changed as we moved and were responsive to our location and movements inside the dark hall. The feeling was that of being inside a huge womb or belly. It was eerie. I came to realize that this is what the artist wanted to accomplish: an unclear and uneasy sense, which is very much in line with the whole notion of the Golem: a soulless man-machine, partly flesh and partly spirit. Content with the fact that I grasped the point of an experimental installation, I quickly shared with my friend Dedi the excitement of realizing that we were actually inside the Golem; that the artist had re-created a space wherein we were moving, which was the inner space of the Golem. Dedi, as though expecting my comment, responded quietly in what became for me a formative moment; he said, “We are not inside the Golem, we are the Golem.” Tears flooded my eyes as I realized that this was true; that the installation’s goal was not just to create a sense of being
inside something/somewhere, but more essentially to create and arouse a sense of responsibility; an ethical sense. Further and more critically, Dedi’s comment indicated that it was more convenient for me to feel inside something than to realize that I am part of that thing and that I am responsible for its actions and meanings. This moment of realization brought to mind an argument made by Slavoj Žižek (2006, p. 17), who, while discussing material dialectics, noted that “the reality I see is never ‘whole’ – not because a large part of it eludes me, but because it contains a stain, a blind spot, which indicates my inclusion in it.” The artistically produced spaces of the Golem Project in Jerusalem are part of (and perhaps a metonym for) larger spaces of West and East Jerusalem, and the lesson taught therein is applicable for other spaces which demand that we exercise our civic responsibilities.