Israel – A History Lesson

Words by Shai DeLuca-Tamasi

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Noam Chen

Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Photography by Noam Chen

Jerusalem used to be the centre of the world. An ancient New York City, Paris or Milan if you will. At one time religion trumped everything and Jerusalem was a mecca. People travelled to Israel for religious pilgrimage, but also for business, trade and the arts. Though at the time called Judea, Israel was part of the Roman Empire. As the years progressed it was captured by various empires. Each conquering civilization contributed its own style, design and fashion sense to the collective fabric of Israel.

Jump forward to 1948, post World War II; immigration to Israel was at an all time high, flowing in from all over Europe, North Africa and the Americas. With each swell of immigration, new design and style arrived in Israel.

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Rabin square, Tel Aviv – Photography by Dana Friedlander

Today, Israel has evolved and developed in ways that are often described as remarkable. Israel has its own unique design sense—a compilation of our rich history.

In October 2013 I travelled to Israel with my friend (and Cityline co-celeb) Kimberley Seldon. I was able to share the richness of Israel with Kimberley and the Cityline viewers. It’s a trip I won’t soon forget.

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Kimberley Seldon and Shai DeLuca-Tamasi film for www.cityline.ca

Though having spent my formative years in Israel, as well as serving for three years in the IDF, the experience of seeing the country through a camera lens was a life changing experience for me. It was a blessing being able to bring back footage for our Cityline viewers and Dabble readers.

I was fortunate to see how the design scene has surpassed even my high expectations. Needless to say, I couldn’t even bring back everything I purchased. Thank goodness for international shipping! I hope that all of our readers have the opportunity to visit Israel, but in the interim, I wanted to share some of my favourite Israeli products and design with you. Though I could fill the next year of issues with the amazing items, I’ve chosen my five favourite!

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Shop Israel with Shai in the May 2014 issue

Jewish Quarter, Prague

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Josefov

History is inescapable in Prague, its citizens having emerged from communism some 22 years ago. And World War II, though it’s somewhat more distant on the calendar, is vividly remembered in the well-preserved Jewish Quarter. It’s chilling to consider as you wander this sacred territory that it owes its preservation to Hitler, who wanted the ghetto preserved as a museum to an extinct race.

Old New Synagogue

Europe’s oldest active synagogue may get its unusual name from the fact that it was originally built in the 12th century and called the Great or New Synagogue. Later, as new synagogues arose, it became known as the Old New Synagogue.

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Pinkas Synagogue

After WWII, Pinkas Synagogue (above) was turned into a memorial to the 80,000 Jews of Bohemia and Moravia murdered by the Nazis, their names inscribed on the walls. Perhaps most haunting is an upstairs exhibit of children’s drawings from Terezin, a transit camp where prisoners were held before shipment to extermination camps.

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Old Jewish Cemetery

The oldest tombstone dates from the year 1439. The cemetery today contains some 12,000 tombstones though the actual number buried here is far greater. When you tour, note the small stones (not flowers) on top of markers, sometimes holding a paper with a wish or prayer on it.

Dabble Savvy

Jewish Quarter buildings are closed to tourists on Saturday to observe the Sabbath.