It was the first time today that I visited the Petakh-Tikvah Museum of Art. Established in 1964 in a beautiful park once at the margin, today in the center of the city, the museum has undergone renovation and reopened five years ago, with a focus on collective exhibitions and art with a political message. It is t the last category that the exhibition ‘Georgeopolis’ by the young photographer and video artist Dor Guez belongs.

the Petakh-Tikvah Museum of Art

Georgeopolis is the byzantine name of the city of Lod, a place that most people know because of the main international airport of Israel located in its proximity. Yet, it is one of the oldest cities in ancient Israel, mentioned in the Bible as one of the places where Jews returning from the Babylonian exile came from.  It also was one of the centers of the Jewish resistance during the Roman-Jewish wars and the Maccabees revolt.The byzantine name of the city comes from Saint George who was killed here in 303 for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The city maintained a Christian presence since these times, and the troubled identity of its Christian inhabitants of today is the theme of the exhibition.

Jacob Monayer's Wedding - 1948

This is the story of three generations of the Monayers, a Greek-Orthodox family in today’s Lod. The Greek Orthodox are a minority among the Christians in Israel, who are minority among the Arabs, who are a minority in the Jewish State. A minority amongst a minority amongst a minority.

the ruins of Lydda

The entry hall exposes the wedding photos of Jacob Monayer in 1948 – the year of the independence of the state of Israel, the year when the Arabic Lydda was occupied by the Jewish Israeli forces and the majority of its Arab population fled and became refugees. Only about 700 people stayed, and the Monayers were among them.

St. George's Church in Lod

The principal hall of the exhibition is covered on its walls with photos of the very few remains of the Arabic city of Lydda. The ruins are in decay and most of them have been swallowed or covered by the new and expansive city that was built here in the last 60 years. I have lived in Lod for the first two years after coming to Israel as a new immigrant and I never knew about them. Neither did I know that the St. George church in the city (co-habitating with the mosque – this is how the Ottoman rulers accepted to allow the church to be rebuilt in the 19th century on a previous 15th century structure) contains the sarcophagus of St. George. A video projected in the same hall pf the exhibition shows the service in the church. The religious ceremonies are performed in Greek, a language that the Arab Christians of Lod do not speak. A translator stands near the priests and translates during the service.

Jacob Monayer - July 13

Four video installations complete the exhibition. In the first Jacob Monayer describes the events that happened at July 13, 1948 – two days after the Israeli army entered Lod. Most of the Arab inhabitants of the city fled to Ramallah in the heat of the summer, some perished, the rest became refugees. Those who staid where not allowed to keep their houses and lived in a ghetto for the next five years, under military rule. This is where the marriage we had seen the pictures in the first hall happened.

the second generation

If Jacob made his testimony in good Hebrew. His four sons speak perfect Hebrew. They all went to Jewish schools because they were better by the time they grew up in the 60s. Their identity is problematic. While they have received the same education as theur Jewish colleagues they are not fully accepted in a society that has much to do in order to reach real equality. They are a minority wherever they go – among Jews or among Arabs. Yet, the political situation makes them feel more and more on the Palestinian than on the Israeli side. For their children they have chosen to send them to Arabic schools, so that their identites are less in question.

'Dear Jennifer'

The last two videos describe the humiliating experiences related to their Arab identity that undergo two of the young women in the third generation. They look and dress like any Israeli girl, they speak perfect Hebrew as well, and they try to live their lives inside the Israeli society. Yet, when Jennifer’s tutor at the university discovers that the gifted and fair-haired student with a Western name is an Arab she feels not only surprised, but also somehow betrayed. The video shows Jennifer reading the letter received from the tutor.

I found on youTube a fragment of the last vide titled ‘Sa(mira)’. Samira is also a student in Jerusalem, and works as a waitress as many other students do at her age. One day the manager of the restaurant asks her to change the name on the tab to something tha sounds more ‘Jewish’. The reasons – some customers complained not about the service but of the fact that they were served by an Arab.

Dor Guez succeeds to bring the members of the family to open themselves in front of the camera. They never look angry, they never look hateful, although their stories are not easy. They seem more to be asking questions about themselves and about the society they live in. Our society. Their uncertain identity as a small piece in the complex puzzle of the Israeli and Palestinian reality is a subject of reflection for whoever visits the exhibition.

The exhibition is open until February 27. It is announced that in the closure day there will be a meeting with the artist.