הכינוס "עתידם של מוזאוני העיר" נערך מטעם CAMOC הוועדה של איקו"ם לנושא מוזאוני עיר והחיים
האורבניים. לאורך הכנס ניתן דגש על ההבדל בין "מוזאונים בערים" לבין "מוזאוני עיר", כלומר מוזאונים
העוסקים בהיסטוריה, להווה ולעתיד של העיר בה הם שוכנים, ומשרתים את הקהילות השונות בהן.
נבחנו הגדרות ומודלים שונים של מוזאוני עיר ונשאלו שאלות לגבי עתידם, תפקידם ואחריותם של
מוזאוני-עיר. לקרוא עוד, נא הקישו כאן
להלן הרצאתה של אורית שנישא בכינוס בנושא בתי ראשונים בעיירות פיתוח - בין קיפוח לטיפוח:
The founders' houses in the development towns
Between deprivation and cultivation
During the last year, I have had the privilege to be the chief curator of a new fascinating national project in Israel, initiated by the Ministry of Culture and carried out by the Council for conservation of heritage sites in Israel: the establishment of history museums in the "development towns".
In this lecture, I would like to share with you some of the thoughts and dilemmas that we encounter in the planning team.
But before I tell you about the curatorial and museology work, I would like to give you some historical background about the cities that the museums are going to tell their stories, because, off course, it affects our dilemmas.
During the 1948 war, that the Zionist historiography calls "the war of Independence" and the Palestinian narrative calls "the Nakba", meaning " the Catastrophe", the Jews conquered many new territories, and some 700,000 Arabs have left the country.
A short while after, Jews from all over the world arrived. The institutions of the young state coped with the need to quickly settle the hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
Most of these immigrants were refugees. Either Holocaust survivors that have lost everything during second world war or Jews from Arab countries, that following the announcement of the establishment of a Jewish state were persecuted in their countries. However, in the Zionist terminology they are called "Olim", that means "new comers", a word with a more positive connotation that aims to describe a choice to come to Israel out of their ideology, versus "immigrants" which is more associated with having no choice to leave the origin country.
However, in this lecture I will refer to them as "immigrants".
This huge influx of immigrants caused a major growth in the state's Jewish population: in 3.5 years only, it was doubled from 650,000 Jewish citizens to 1.3 million.
This is an unprecedented growth comparing to other immigration-absorbing countries, and as I said, it was a very young state with new institutions.
Inspired by the model of the European "new cities", 30 "development towns" were established in just ten years. Apart from the need to absorb immigrants, their planning also answered the need to spread the population throughout the new territories. The "development towns" have become one of the most significant urbanization phenomena in the country.
2/3 of the water in Israel is located in its northern part, the Galilee region
(this body of water here is the dead sea, the water is salted and undrinkable)
2/3 of the population is situated in its center
And 2/3 of the lands are in its southern part, which is the "NEGV" dessert.
When the state was founded, the population in Israel was spread in a way that was perceived as "unhealthy": most of the inhabitants were concentrated in the big cities along the coast or in Jerusalem. Only a minority lived in some small agricultural settlements in the periphery.
Therefore, the state's leaders thought that the population should be spread for economic, political and national-security reasons. The new comers, that in many cases had no knowledge or means, were easy to manipulate, and the state deceived them and settled them in the desolated areas of the periphery instead of the crowded center.
At the very beginning, there was no suitable infrastructure to settle the thousands of immigrants arriving every day, so they were settled in transit camps called "Maabarot", temporary tent settlements with very basic living conditions. Then those 30 small cities were built, very quickly, called formally "the new cities" but after a while the public started calling them "development towns" because of the need to divert more and more budgets in order to develop them.
This is a part of a promotional campaign made by the Jewish agency in 1962, about new immigrants arriving to Israel. The narrator tells the so-called thoughts of the new comers, who are taken to the development town Dimona, in the middle of the Negev desert: "So far-so good"; as the ride goes on doubts start consuming us. "Where are they taking us?"; "perhaps we should have mentioned we have relatives in Jerusalem"?; "The promised it would be close!" "Well, they said many things on the ship…" and then the voice over of the driver of the bus, representing the "autoreactive state" goes: "they still don't know that they are going to be pioneers, that they are going to settle the country. In a few months they will be thankful, and in ten years they will be proud".
There is a known metaphor about "the melting pot" for immigrants' assimilation, describing a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements "melting together" into a harmonious whole with a common culture. In Israel at that time, "the melting pot" was not a description of a process, but an official governmental doctrine of assimilating the Jewish immigrants that originally came from various cultures. This was performed on several levels, such as educating the younger generation and encouraging and sometimes forcing the new citizens to adopt a Hebrew name.
The cost of this was the suppression and erasure of these immigrants' original culture, mainly eastern European and Muslim cultures, because what was called "Israeli" culture was in fact based on the western culture, with some elements from ancient Hebrew culture.
Today the reaction to "the melting pot" doctrine is ambivalent; some say that it was a necessary measure in the founding years, while others claim that it led to cultural oppression, and still, until today, have very hard feelings towards it. They feel that their culture was excluded and their identity was de-legitimized.
Since most of the inhabitants of the development towns were Jews who came from north Africa and Muslim countries, this cultural issue is very central to our museums.
Some of the towns grew quickly, some grew at a medium rate, and others, in the most peripheral areas of the Negev, grew slowly.
Despite businesses and industries in the development towns being eligible for favorable tax treatment and other subsidies, most of the towns (particularly those in the south) have fared poorly in the economic sense, suffered from unemployment problems, and often feature amongst the poorest Jewish Areas in Israel. But still, the development town project played a major role in developing the country's various regions and in dispersing its population.
Although the development towns contain a very large proportion of the total population, until recently, there were no historical museums in these cities, and their narrative was marginal in the national ethos. In the last decade the narrative is changing dramatically. Israel, like many other places, is going through a cultural revolution: from "melting pot" to "multiculturalism" and identity politics. It has many expressions and manifestations: in politics and culture. New literature, poems, documentary films, T.V series etc tell the stories that until now were hardly told. Some development towns had initiated grass-root museums, in their own forces and resources.
Now, the ministry of culture decided to allocate budgets in order to build city-museums in the development towns.
As I mentioned, the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, was elected to carry out the project, and I am its chief curator.
We have lots of dilemmas.
On one hand, we wish to tell the people's stories, to make it a community-museum. We have challenges to do so, because in an immigrant's society, that was busy in surviving, and also didn't have the "image" or social prestige of "pioneers who are making history", no wonder little means were invested in documenting their lives and deeds. So, in most of those cities there are no archives at all.
On the other hand, we want to also give the national perspective, and to explain the state's motivations as I just described them.
For example, a part of the cultural issue that I mentioned, there is another conflictual subject: in the attempt to solve the unemployment problem in the development towns, the state built in them factories and vocational schools. Today some people believe that they were tracked to manual labor, and that that way social mobility was prevented from them.
Sometimes I feel those two goals – telling the private and the national stories - clash, because some of the people have hard feelings towards the way the young state deceived them into arriving to the development towns and neglected them during decades. How can we combine the private individual, often critical, point of view and the general national one?
How should we deal with the conflictual issues? Which narrative should we emphasize?
How do we deal with the painful issues in a short museum visit? What is our message? What is the major "take out" or main feeling we would like our audience to have when they leave the museum?
To answer these questions, we need to address a more fundamental one: what is the central role of the museum? To document and collect historical artifacts and testimonies? To mirror events in society? To criticize society? To promote unity and social cohesion? To foster ideals of democracy? To rehabilitate? To compensate? To irritate? To reconcile? To be an agent of change?
New development towns of Israel (1948–93): a reappraisal, In: Cities, 11, 4 (1994) 247-252.