Activity: Picturing Israel, Seeing Jerusalem

The aim of this activity is to examine perceptions of Israel and Jerusalem as they appear in the students’ minds.

  • Ask the students to list five central, personal associations that they hold regarding Jerusalem or Israel.
  • Explain that, throughout time, the majority of Jews have never seen Israel but have constructed some kind of mental picture of the land, and especially of Jerusalem. Explain that most of these pictures were based on or influenced by all sorts of stories, legends and prayers that created associations in people’s minds. This was true not only for Jews but also for Christians. The associations that each person developed were largely a product of the identity of the community of which they were a part.
  • As a group, look now at the late-medieval Christian pictures of Jerusalem. Interpret them collectively, working out the type of artists that drew them, and then ask the group to formulate a list of associations that they think would have jointly influenced the artists.
  • Perhaps you may wish to explain the significance of the 137th Psalm, drawing on the analysis suggested above.
  • Regardless of whether you do the last exercise (the 137th Psalm), divide the class into pairs or small groups. Give them the two pieces by Yehuda Halevi and Mordechai Ze’ev Feierberg, without revealing who wrote them. Ask each group to read the texts and draw up a list of common associations that the two writers would have held. Are both writers Jews?
  • Bring the group back together. Share the different groups’ lists of associations for the two writers, making one combined list for the whole class.
  • As a possible third stage in the activity, discuss each entry in the modern ‘Picturing Jerusalem’ contest. How does each of the young artists see Jerusalem? What has influenced them in their view of the city: the place where they live; their religious identity; anything else? What words may appear on their list of associations?
  • Now ask the students to return to the lists that they themselves constructed at the beginning of the activity. Using these lists, let them write a text – in either poetry or prose - or draw a picture that represents their image of Jerusalem or Israel. The results must be based on their own lists.
  • After this stage is finished, let a few volunteers show their work to the class. The task of the class is to guess some of the words that appear on the list of associations that the writer or artist created for him-herself.
  • At the end of the activity, we suggest making a small exhibit of the texts and pictures that the class created.



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11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0