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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yemenite Heritage Center

This afternoon we met briefly with Naftali Simhi, the chairman of the Yemenite Heritage Center in Rosh Haayin. He told us a bit about the history of the museum and the building, and offered to meet with us again in a few weeks to show us some old pictures of the building prior to its renovation.

According to an article in Etrog Magazine from April 2009, the museum was conceived of and founded by Moshe Oved, a local history teacher. In the 1980s he began gathering historical material and oral traditions in the school and established a display which grew in size until it occupied an entire floor. Eventually it was moved to a different location, until in 2006 the museum moved into its present home in a renovated Stonehenge Shed.

In our proposal for our final project, we prepared a plan for a series of satellite museums spread throughout the city that would compliment the Yemenite Heritage House. Although many of these satellites would focus on traditional Yemenite culture, there would also be sites dedicated to other stages in the history of Rosh Ha'ayin. Despite our claims that locals were pushing this agenda, our plan was heavily criticized for being condescending toward the local culture. From one side, we were criticized for Disney-ifying the city, while on the other we were told that this was putting the local culture in a museum, rather than letting it continue on its own.

I want to again emphasize that this is not the case. We look at this less as a museum and more as a living heritage center. In addition, it is very important to understand that this is a plan that locals have long requested, and have long been trying to achieve.

In a 2006 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Simhi is quoted as saying:
"I want visitors to be able to come and be exposed to the folklore. To experience the cooking, the tabun, the malawah, the dance, the Yemenite choir...I want visitors to come and experience four or five hours of Yemenite hospitality, including clothing...I want to turn Rosh Ha'ayin into the center of Yemenite Jewish heritage."
The same article quotes the mayor of city, Moshe Sinai, saying something similar:
"One of the challenges for me as mayor is to preserve the [Yemenite] heritage. They preserved the tradition [in Yemen]. It is my job to protect them, to provide a supportive foundation."

The article in Etrog Magazine quotes local historian Yiska Raveh as saying that:
"The experience of visitors to the place cannot be limited to visiting one building...Rosh Ha'ayin is a community that lives and breaths the Yemenite culture and it in its entirety a historic-ethnic museum."
She also envisions a multi-layered museum with "dress, aromas, song and dance, ethnic workshops" and other branches that tell the local story.

Perhaps most telling is an entry in an Ariel compendium from 1990 which tells of a similar plan, already existing 20 years ago:
"The plan is to establish in Rosh Ha'ayin a center for Yemenite Heritage with workshops alongside the museum: metalworkers, weavers, embroiderers, braiders, etc. The activities will include workshops, song, Yemenite center and also a restaurant for Yemenite cuisine."

1 comment:

  1. הטענות שהעלו נגד הצעותיכם הן אמיתיות וחייבות להיות תמרור אזהרה כל הזמן מולכם. אבל לדעתי אינן מוצדקות במקרה זה (מבלי שאני מכיר את ההצעות שלכם- הרעיון הבסיסי שכתוב ברשימה נשמע מצויין). כמי שגם עסק במורשת תושבי ראש העין, התרשמותי שלי היא שזו (עדיין) מורשת אמיתית ורלבנטית לחיי האנשים והמקום. כך התרשם גם דניאל השמשוני, שחקר את ראש העין לפני כמה עשורים. המורשת נוכחת (עדיין) בחיי היום-יום וגם אנשי הקהילה עוסקים בשאלת עתידה, בין היתר על ידי איסוף, שימור והצגה. חלק מן היוזמות הצגתם, ויש עוד (דיגיטציה של מוזיקה מסורתית, למשל). הבא מן החוץ, חוקר או מתכנן, תמיד יהיה חשוד. ואולי טוב שכך. אתגר גדול הוא איך לא להכניס את המורשת לויטרינות, אלא למצוא דרכים לקשור אותה לחיי היום-יום באופן רלבנטי לאנשים ולסביבה. בהצלחה!