About Us
About Us
Exhibitions & Projects
Exhibitions & Projects
Education & Community
Education & Community
My lists
My lists
Advanced Search
We Are Natives
Opening Date
Closing Date
Assistant Curator

In the summer of 1965, an archaeological excavation was launched on a sandy ridge overlooking its surroundings, on which Jessi Cohen neighborhood was built. The excavation was directed by archaeologist Yariv Shapira, on behalf of the Department of Antiquities. The excavation revealed a building that was founded in the 13th century BCE (Late Bronze Age—16th–12th centuries BCE), when most of the inhabitants of the Land of Israel were Canaanites. The building consisted of rooms arranged around a central courtyard, and probably had two floors. Its walls were made of large mudbricks, with thick plaster floor and a wooden ceiling. Its residents maintained a typical lifestyle for Canaan during this period. Over the years, the dunes covered the site, but in the past, there was fertile soil in the are suitable for agriculture. The 'Via Maris' that passed nearby enabled trade and luxuries. The building was destroyed by fire at the end of the 13th century BCE. The destruction was sudden, as evidenced by bowls with food remains that were found in the excavation, along with the entire contents of the building. The jars, probably contained oil, were smashed and blazed the fire, and the building on its both floors collapsed. Later, an attempt was made to rehabilitate the building with poor construction, but this phase was unsuccessful and the site was abandoned.


Galit Litani, Curator. Israel Antiquities Authority.

Exhibition Designer
Graphics Designer
Additional Credits and Supports

In Collaboration with the Antiquity Authority

Archeology Curator: Galit Litani, Israel Antiquity Authority.

Supported by Mifal Hapais Arts and Culture Council.

Additional Information

Guided Tour at the exhibition will take place on Monday December 31st at 17:30. 

The exhibition will be closed between October 30 2018 to November 3 2018 due to Print Screen Festival taking place at Holon Mediatheque directed by the Israeli Center for Digital Art.

Art Works
Related Items

We Are Natives

As a science that encourages fantasy and speculation, archaeology is vulnerable to political biases and ideological manipulation. At the same time, the speculative nature of archaeology provides space for imagination and invention. In his article “Israeli Archaeology and the Occupation”, Rafi Greenberg describes archaeology as a discipline that developed during the Imperial Period. The first archaeologists were part of the efforts made by Western empires to seize control of borderlands in the Near and Far East, South America, and Africa, inter alia, by means of exploration and looting. The imperial invasion of the New World rewarded its commissioners with unprecedented political and economic capital whose impact on the world’s geopolitical landscape is still evident to this day. At the same time, the first archaeologists also created cultural capital which was manifested in vast storehouses and huge exhibition halls of treasures from the Ancient World that served as proof of European culture’s superiority and its ownership of world culture in its entirety.

Thus the images of the archaeologist developed as a bold adventurer who has renounced bourgeois life. Archaeology combined curiosity, adventurousness, fearlessness, and a compulsion to discover and conquer new worlds, and as part of Imperial history, from its very beginnings archaeology was biased towards the white European man.

Archaeology in the Land of Israel also developed in a similar climate. The Holy Land occupied a place of honor among explorers and adventurers since it combined adventurousness with a religious affinity for biblical stories. The Zionist movement and the first archaeologists who were active in Israel after the establishment of the state also drew inspiration from the Christian passion for archaeology.

In time, archaeology gradually turned towards more moderate scientific directions. With the passing of the Imperial Period, the adventurousness on which archaeology was predicated was curtailed, and academic mechanisms were created for its activities. However, the tension between level-headedness and adventurousness still exists in archaeology, and perceptions that prevailed in the field in the distant past still influence its self-image and practice: characteristics of masculine boldness, the centrality of the find as proof in defining an excavation’s success, and activity in rural regions and in the field, far from the shackles of the city and bureaucracy.

This history of adventurousness and exploration, alongside the scientific foundations of archaeology, is presented in an ironic and critical light in Tamir Erlich’s exhibition We Are Natives. The exhibition’s point of departure is an archaeological site from Antiquity that was discovered in the Jessy Cohen neighborhood by Yariv Shapira, a neighborhood resident and an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist. The site dates from the Chalcolithic Period to the Late Bronze Age (4000-1200 BCE), and remains of a mud-brick structure were discovered there, as well as pottery vessels, household implements, and food from the Canaanite Period. After excavating the finds from the top layer, the site was covered with earth and never excavated again. In the 1990s, the finds were exhibited for a short time at the Municipality of Holon, then packed in crates and stored, and ultimately forgotten. The site and memories of its excavation in the summer of 1965 gradually became a kind of neighborhood myth, since the finds had vanished and no one knew where to.

An archaeological site in the middle of a city in the center of Israel sheds ironic light on the adventurous aspect of its discoveries, when the notions of embarking on an adventure in rural regions, going out to the borderlands, and renouncing bourgeois life, occur in the heart of a residential neighborhood. On the other hand, they resonate with the fact that Jessy Cohen is a kind of edge-neighborhood, a borderland of Holon, a place located in the city yet does not quite belong to it.

After the initial discovery of the archaeological site in 1965, it was “rediscovered” by the staff of the Complete Jessy Cohen Museum during the initial research and investigation conducted prior to establishing the Museum. As part of the research process, the staff learned from the neighborhood residents’ stories and memories about the existence of the site, which is now a big public garden in which there is no mention of or reference to the site or its excavation. The staff continued to investigate and approached the Israel Antiquities Authority, which sent them Yariv Shapira’s excavation report from 1965. The report states that there are five layers of settlement at the site, from the Chalcolithic Period to the Late Bronze Age, but surprisingly, although the report describes the excavation finds, they were nowhere to be found in the Antiquities Authority’s storerooms. Their absence sparked a new “adventure”, the aim of which was to locate the finds that had been discovered by Shapira. The investigation led to the Azor Museum, which Shapira established, where some 120 slides were discovered documenting the excavation and the finds, as well as index cards describing the slides, accompanied by Shapira’s explanations and conjectures concerning the finds, which were yet to be located.

The finds were finally discovered in the Municipality of Holon’s storerooms, from where they were removed and taken to the Israel Antiquities Authority to be sorted and catalogued. The research process and rediscovery of the Jessy Cohen finds transferred the adventurousness from rural regions and the field to the neighborhood and to the archives and storerooms, and the exploring archaeologist was replaced by neighborhood residents who traced the finds as part of a research process that touches upon the neighborhood’s history and their own identity. The connection between archaeology and identity, appropriation and ownership is inextricable, but it is subject to constant tension and instability since an archaeological find is given to interpretation, and in many cases does not offer an unequivocal answer regarding its origin, what it was used for, or the cultural continuity connecting it with the site’s present-day residents. This tension, too, underlies Tamir Erlich’s exhibition, which challenges the term “native” in its contemporary and historical contexts, and attempts to connect the ancient past with the present of an Israeli immigrant neighborhood.

Throughout the entire process of investigating and locating the finds, the Museum staff and members of the community felt that the finds belong in the neighborhood, and that their preservation and display at the Museum is important as part of the aspiration to propose a layered local history. It was agreed, therefore, that after they were found and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority, they would be returned to the Jessy Cohen neighborhood where they would be exhibited for an extended period of time. Consequently, a large proportion of the finds discovered by Yariv Shapira are now on display alongside Tamir Erlich’s work. The exhibition also includes a reconstruction of the Canaanite residential structure that was discovered during the excavations, and beside it hundreds of replicas of the original pottery vessels that various neighborhood groups made together with Erlich.

The exhibition offers observation of the archaeological site and the neighborhood through three periods: The Late Bronze Period – the period of the site’s top layer that was discovered in Yariv Shapira’s excavation; Summer 1965 – when the archaeological site was discovered in the neighborhood; and an observation of the site and the neighborhood as they are today.

The exhibition’s multiple time points blur the hierarchy between past and present, between archaeological find and replica. This blurred hierarchy is also evident in other aspects of the exhibition: transferring the role of explorer from the archaeologist to the residents, substituting ownership of the narrative from the historian to the neighborhood residents and Museum staff, challenging the power of the single original find in contrast with multiple replicas and exhibiting them side by side. This is profoundly linked to the logic underlying the establishment of the Complete Jessy Cohen Museum as a move aimed to expropriate ownership of the story from the hands of the city’s official museums and archives, and restore it to the community so that it can tell its story itself.

However, this transfer of power does not allude to a replication of archaeological or museal logic; we have no intention of presenting a solid, fixed alternative narrative, but rather to challenge the very attempt to create such a narrative. Locating the archaeological finds and displaying them in the exhibition is an achievement for the community, but should not be read as an attempt to create a direct and one-directional connection between the neighborhood’s past and present. The disparity between original and replica in the exhibition joins the disparity between the historical narrative conveyed by the archaeological finds and the modern history of the neighborhood and its residents, and these disparities call into question the ability of the neighborhood residents, including Tamir Erlich, to create collective belonging and identity with the place in which they live through archaeological finds.

The exhibition challenges prevalent perceptions concerning the connection between archaeology and the Israeli present, and proposes an alternative approach to employing the ancient past and archaeological finds as part of the construction of a local history. Blurring the boundaries between art and science, between professional and community knowledge, between artist and resident, also challenges the boundaries between find and artwork. Thus the imaginary, fantasy, and speculative aspect of archaeology is revealed, and it acquires a new role: no longer an unequivocal answer, but a point of departure, a potential for many and varied stories that can be woven and unraveled in accordance with the interest and imagination of the community to which they belong.

The exhibition We Are Natives is presented as part of the Complete Jessy Cohen Museum that was established in 2016 by artists Effi & Amir together with a group of neighborhood residents: Igal Ophir, Yaakov Erlich, Haviva Barkol, Pnina Barkol, Dvora Harel, Malka Cohen, Ruti Mizrahi, Tikva Sedes, Rachel Polet, Mimi Rosenberg, Ada Rahamim, and others.

Eyal Danon

Say Something about this...
Ctrl+Enter To post
המרכז הישראלי לאמנות דיגיטלית חולון(View)