: Ein Hod, founded by a group of artists in 1953 in the Carmel Mountains, suffered some damage in the 2010 fire but is as vibrant as ever.

By Avigayil Kadesh

Lots of people heard that Israel’s Ein Hod Artists Village burned down in the great Carmel fire of December 2010. But Dan Ben-Arye is here to say it’s alive and well, thank you — and eager for visitors.

Before rumors of rampant destruction started keeping tourists away, Ein Hod was enjoying hundreds of weekday visitors and up to 3,000 on a typical Saturday, says Ben-Arye, a 26-year resident of Israel’s only cooperative artists village.

“Of 150 families living here, 17 were burned out of their houses, but the tourist parts had no damage since we were here protecting them with our own extinguishing equipment,” he says. Those families are living nearby until their homes can be reconstructed. “We were back in business two days after the fire, but tourists didn’t come.”

So to set the record straight: Ein Hod is ready for you.

Nestled amid natural vegetation and bordered by an ancient olive grove on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, Ein Hod is a sort of creative kibbutz for sculptors, painters, photographers, textile artists, potters, composers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, lighting designers, silk-screeners, writers, a “spiritual architect” and a comedian/mime.

A central gallery, plus eight private galleries and 14 workshops offer hands-on demonstrations and unique works of art for sale. There are unusual museums to explore, too. You can easily spend a day — or even more, with14 bed-and-breakfasts available to accommodate guests, and restaurants and coffee houses in the center of town.

Spirit of cooperation

Ein Hod was established in 1953 on the ruins of an ancient Crusader village by a group of progressive artists led by the acclaimed Dada artist Marcel Janco. They painstakingly rebuilt the place as an all-in-one residence and work space within a creative environment for art and art education.

Communal life is managed by a democratically elected General Council. Before being accepted as members, applicants must live and create at Ein Hod for a year and then pass muster before a panel of judges, says Ben-Arye. “Our job is to enrich culture, so in order to get in, you have to prove you can do that.”

He claims that life at Ein Hod is largely free of competition and pettiness. “Once people realize you cannot steal talent, you get a lot of cooperation.” For example, everyone whose craft depends on a pottery kiln shares one that runs pretty much 24/7.

“We don’t have to deal with anything else but art, and we don’t care about religion or race. We are free from all these tensions,” says Ben-Arye, adding that the resident artists run the gamut from secular to religious. (Though none of the local eateries is kosher, neighboring Nir Etzion has a kosher resort hotel and kosher food factory.)

Proof of the success of this laid-back model is that many of the artists’ children end up staying — if they can meet the membership requirements.

“We have a contract made up by our founder with the Israel Land Authority that limits us a bit,” Ben-Arye explains. “My children can’t inherit [my property] automatically but only if they are accepted as [member] artists.”

However, this happens not infrequently. “We have four generations of artists living here and creating,” he says.

With its Mediterranean gardens of olive, pomegranate, almond and carob trees, grape vines and figs, Ein Hod provides a perfect environment for the creative muse. “You feel like you’re sitting next to God,” says Ben-Arye.

Antique music boxes

In addition to the private galleries at Ein Hod, a central gallery exhibits one of the largest collections of Israeli art in many different styles, with a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The Janco-Dada Museum (http://www.jancodada.co.il/index.asp?lan=100) celebrates the village’s founder and the pivotal movement in modern art that he practiced. It contains wings including a youth section and a “Dadalab” art laboratory offering group activities every Saturday.

Another museum is devoted to the life and times of expressionistic dancer Gertrude Kraus, founder of the Israel Ballet Theatre, winner of an Israel Prize and a former resident of Ein Hod. The Gertrude Kraus House sponsors chamber music concerts and guest lectures.

Ein Hod also boasts the Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music (niscomuseum@bezeqint.net), containing one of the most notable collections of antique music boxes and other mechanical musical instruments in the Middle East. The collection, accumulated over 40 years by Nisan Cohen, includes music boxes, hurdy-gurdies, an automatic organ, a player piano, gramophones, hand-operated automatic pianos and many other antique musical treasures.

The village hosts a variety of special events all year. “Sometimes we have jazz groups, and once a year we have a larger event with Maestro, a classical music program for children from [peripheral communities], and we add to that all kinds of professional musicians,” says Ben-Arye.

During the summer months, performances of popular music and light entertainment take place in a Roman-style outdoor amphitheater.

Make reservations ahead of time

Ben-Arye met his seventh-generation Israeli wife, Lea, when he was living in Old Jaffa and she was living in Haifa. They came to Ein Hod 26 years ago and have “two creative kids.”

Lea Ben-Arye makes prints on fabric, while Dan Ben-Arye paints and sculpts in various materials. “We have an Art & Wear Gallery that is also the tourist information center,” he says. “We give guided tours of our fascinating past and present, where you can meet the artists and learn about their techniques and how their art affects the viewer. We also organize workshops.”

He stresses that arrangements for tours and workshops must be made in advance — in Israel, 04 9841126, out of Israel 972 4 984-1126 or art@ein-hod.israel.net. “Unfortunately, it happens often that individuals or tours come after four in the afternoon and everything is closed. So it’s important to let us know you’re coming.”

Among the Ein Hod workshops for all ages and levels of ability (by appointment only) are photography at Silver Print Gallery and Archive; pottery with Naomi and Ze’ev Verchovsky (04-984-1107) or Tal Shahar (talpottery@gmail.com); lithograph, etching, linoleum cut, drawing, color and paper making with Ora Lahav-Sha’altiel (04-984-2018); mosaic and stained glass with Prof. Yosef Sha’altiel (04-984-2018); spiritual adventures in drawing and painting with Ziva Kainer; glass mosaics at Studio De-Art (04-837-6205); and ceramic sculpting with Valentina Bruslovskaya (04-9840236).

Prof. Helena Markson has been living above her small gallery and painting/printmaking workshop in Ein Hod since 1994. A graduate of the Salisbury School of Art and the Central School of Art, London, she established the Fine Art Printmaking Studios at the University of Haifa and her works are exhibited in Britain and the United States.

“I was teaching at the university and had a flat in Haifa,” she relates. “I had a large etching press and all the trappings that go with it, and it wasn’t really suitable for a flat. I had been to Ein Hod and had the opportunity to get this place, and it’s much better for me to work in this environment. What I love most is that it is surrounded by nature.”

Israel Prize winners from Ein Hod

No Israeli town can boast a greater proportion of Israel Prize winners than Ein Hod.

The first was Zahara Shatz, who won in 1955 for painting and sculpture. Marcel Janco came next in 1967, followed by Gertrude Kraus for dance (1968); Shimon Halkin for literature (1975); Haim Hefer for Hebrew songwriting (1983); Natan Zach for poetry (1995); Aryeh Navon for theater scenery and art (1996); Michael Gross for painting and sculpture (2000); Gavri Banai for his work with the Hagashash comedy trio (2000); and Gila Almagor for her life’s work as one of Israeli’s leading actresses (2004).

Shatz was the daughter of Boris Shatz, who founded the famed Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem. After studying at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris, she exhibited and won prestigious prizes throughout the world, including from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she was awarded a medal for her artistic achievement.

Janco, born in Bucharest, Romania, was one of the founders of the Dada Movement in Zurich, Switzerland. This group of exiled poets, painters and philosophers were opposed to war, aggression and the changing world culture. In 1941, he fled to Palestine from the Nazis, and became one of the founders of the New Horizons Group prior to founding Ein Hod Artists Village.

Gertrude Kraus, a dancer and choreographer, teacher, painter and sculptor, studied piano and dance at the Vienna Music Academy. She organized dance recitals in Israel during visits in 1931 and 1933, and immigrated to Israel in 1935. In 1942, she founded a dance company and was the principal teacher of dance in the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. In 1975, just two years before her death, she presented her first exhibition of painting and sculpture.

Gila Almagor, an actress and author, had a tragic childhood that she later described in her autobiography, The Summer of Aviya. Her father, a policeman in the British army, was killed by an Arab sniper before she was born. Her mother was mentally ill. Almagor was raised in a youth village and went on to perform leading roles in the iconic Cameri and Habima theaters in Tel Aviv, in movies and on television. A movie based on the book won international prizes, as did her second book and movie, Under the Domim Tree. She also was one of the founders of Ami, the Association of Israeli Artists.

Dan Ben-Arye 054-811-9621
Prof. Helena Markson, 04-984-1171

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