Dor Zlekha Levy: Shomer

Hamidrasha Gallery

September 5 – October 19, 2019

A few years ago, Dor Zlekha Levy found a photo from 1975 showing two armed, masked men, standing in front of the Magen Avraham synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Beirut. They were PLO militias, who during the Lebanese civil war guarded the synagogue and the Jewish community. A few years later, during Israel’s Lebanon War, the synagogue was bombed by the IDF. For more than 20 years it stood abandoned and exposed to the elements,and just in the last years was rebuilt and restored.

Zlekha Levy had studied the building’s past and present through the various historic events and their impact on the Jewish community in Lebanon: from its construction in 1925, through the Lebanese civil war, Israel’s Lebanon War and the Israeli army’s advance into Beirut, and to the recent reconstruction. He built an archive of visual documentation, based on hundreds of photos that were taken in the synagogue over the years. Meanwhile, he interviewed people who visited the synagogue over the years, who described to him personal memories and experiences from the building.
From the archive materials he collected, Zlekha Levy constructed a layered projection installation, especially designed for the two-story space of the gallery. He dismantled and reassembled the synagogue’s spaces (the facade, the internal courtyard, the main prayer hall, the windows, and the women’s section), to explore concepts such as authenticity and preservation, and their relationship with memory.

The exhibit visitors walk around its two stories while listening to a soundtrack through wireless earphones. The soundtrack is a kind of guide to wa ndering through the synagogue, and the projection installation, based on an interview by Zlekha Levy with Isaac Balail a. Balaila is a Lebanese-born Israeli, who recalls his memories as a child who grew up in Beirut and as an Israeli soldier who retur ned to his city of birth during the war, and went back to visit the syn agogue.

At two points in the exhibit the sound coming through the earphones merges with the video projected in the space, as if it were a reminder that there is a gap not only between the memory of a child and the reality encountered by the adult soldier, but also between memory, fantasy and nostalgia. Out of that gap Zlekha Levy created a video work, based on 3D images of the synagogue building, at different stages of preservation, created on the basis of the photographs he saw and the stories he heard.

Every evening at dusk, additional works are projected on the gallery’s glass windows, for viewing from the street level. The installation “Facade,” on the entrance level, stays on all night, inviting passersby on the street to approach and look through the gallery’s transparent front. These works bring the synagogue into the public sphere, create an additional way to view the exhibit, and blur even more the boundary between memory and illusion.

Curator: Avi Lubin

Revisit the exhibition on the Hamidrasha’s facebook page 

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'Facade', Projection and print installation, Hamidrasha Gallery, 2019 (installation view) (installation view)

'Facade', Projection and print installation, Hamidrasha Gallery, 2019 (installation view)

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