Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ghost signs from the Levant

A week of my recent overseas trip was spent in Israel seeing family. The country isn't big on bricks or painted signage but I did find some ghost signs here and there. It hardly needs to be said, but this part of the world is intensely layered, with ghosts lingering both from recent times and various points over the last few thousand years.

Firstly, Tel Aviv/Jaffa. In  Tel Aviv's older southern areas and the nearby ancient port city of Jaffa, some of the complexity comes through. This signs tells a story of this jeweller's identity as a Sephardic Jew with Mediterranean/North African/Arab roots (like my father). And like my dad's family, it seems to reveal a history of living in France, which many Sephardim did after being booted out of Arab countries in the 1950s and 1960s:

Other signs point to the displacement and marginalisation of Palestinian culture and language. These ones are in Jaffa (which still has a sizeable Arab population, but not like it once was):

There are hints of the British Mandate period (mostly between the world wars), when the Brits tried to run this very unruly part of the world:

And references to a much earlier, Biblical time:

But mostly, the local signs reveal a history as an emerging, hard-scrabble nation fighting to make ends meet through improvisation. Here, the Hebrew language is brought back to life, but Arabic (which many Sephardim spoke as a first language before the 1948 war) is relegated to invisibility:

In Jerusalem's Old City, overt religiosity is a major theme:

At the 6th Station of the Cross on the Via Delorosa
As is the religion of commerce:

There are many traces of pilgrims over the centuries, such as in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

The crosses are Crusader-era pilgrims, so I'm told

And just to finish things off: the former film powerhouse, Kodak, overlooking the much older landscape of the Via Delorosa:

No comments:

Post a Comment