Most of us arrived on Friday morning and began our discovery of Tel Aviv. We've been to a few bars, clubs, and spots of distinction (more on that soon enough). But then today we went for a day trip to Jerusalem, located only a little over an hour away by car. Before visiting the must-see ancient sites in the old city, we stopped off at the gleaming Israel Museum, one of the massive, encyclopedic museums that also has an intense focus on Jewish art. We saw a variety of great pieces, but probably the most memorable--and unusual--were the series of historic synagogues that have been collected and reconstructed in the museum. The Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue, from Paramaribo, Suriname, was the most intriguing, with its sand floors and unusual backstory. Yes, we had a whirlwind tour, but there are some incredible components that make it a standout among the destination museums, including the Noguchi-designed sculpture garden. And, oh yeah, the major attraction: the display of the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, aka The Shrine of the Book.
Most intriguing was the end of the tour of the museum, when we were confronted with a towering sculpture of an African refugee boy. It turns out it's Ohad Meromi's 2001 "The Boy from South Tel Aviv," made from Styrofoam and painted black. It stands before one of those infamous colored polka dots by English artist Damien Hirst. Since arriving, we have heard many anecdotes and stories about the Sudanese refugees and immigrants and the controversy surrounding the issue. We're still struggling with all the sides to that story. But this piece of art--silent, imposing, yet tender--truly expressed the power that a sculpture can have to add to the public discourse and sway opinion without saying a word.