‘Unpicking Jerusalem: a re-examination of the archives’ by Sary Zananiri

i Feb 19th 2016

By Keren Tova Rubinstein

Sary Zananiri’s mounted and manipulated photographs in Unpicking Jerusalem: a re-examination of the archives reflect Jerusalem’s historical trajectory from 1850-2015 in overt and subtle ways. Though the subject is as infinite as time itself, and though the architectural and human landscape that comprises this place is equally vast and complex, entering the gallery one can’t avoid its smallness, and the concentration of images evokes discomfort and rage at history, unwieldy as it is.



The Little Woods Gallery tucked away in Collingwood, on a corner that epitomises Melbourne’s gentrification. It’s a single, small, semi-divided exhibiting space, that in January housed Zananiri’s four unframed photographic prints on glass. These were wall mounted on plain pine supports, except for the first one to greet you as you entered the gallery from the street.


Back view of mounting apparatus for “Mamilla from the West”, 2015, radiata pine, direct print on glass.

This first, larger two-piece, is floor-mounted on a pine easel that reminded me of building materials, hinged in order to support two glass prints, one seen through the other. The front panel shows the arched entrance to a modern day mall in Jerusalem. Happy shoppers and people going about their day, oblivious to their function in this re-examination of the space they occupy. Through the arched entry to the rather posh mall, one sees the second pane, this one revealing the same location in Palestine that is no longer. It is a soft sepia market scene, peacefully conducted, before it was destroyed: the eroded landscape reappearing. But it is, of course, difficult to see.


“Mamilla from the West” reflecting Melbourne.


Palestine viewed through Israel in “Mamilla from the West”.


As explained in the exhibition’s text, the area Zananiri chose to examine is Mamilla, at one time a passageway connecting the Old City with the growing population of Jerusalem at the second half of the 19th century. Mamilla borders Jaffa gate and is adjacent to the remains of an ancient cemetery and a pool. With its shops and businesses, it was the city’s new commercial centre in the twilight of the Ottoman Period. It connected the city’s east and west, while the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway was built nearby in 1890. Important national figures, such as Khalil Sakakini, one of the key cultural leaders of Palestine at the time, would frequent the local cafes. In 1936 the Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS) was also established in Mamilla, from which it would broadcast in Arabic, Modern Hebrew and English. The PBS would become a pivotal propaganda tool for the British Mandate.

This unique intersection of cultures made the area a wellspring for ideas, discussions and articulations of national types, ideologies and manners of discourse, evolving in the face of rapid demographic change and the soon to be realized partition plan for Palestine.

In the 1930s Mamilla was the stage for riots between Palestinians and new Jewish immigrants. The PBS was bombed by Zionist paramilitaries, only four years after broadcasts began. And by 1946 the same armed fighters would also bomb the nearby King David Hotel, an event that I, as an Israeli child at school, had been taught of as a celebrated moment of Jewish self-determination. The destruction that enabled the creation of the State of Israel was never discussed, not once.

"Mamilla Riot"

“Mamilla Riot”, 2015, photographic print on glass, 60 x 90 cm.

Following Israel’s declaration of statehood, Mamilla decayed into an industrial slum, as it lay in the ethnically cleansed, post-Nakba no-man’s land between the new Jewish state and Jordan.

Mamilla in ruins, 1949. Found on Wikipedia.

Mamilla in ruins, 1949. Image by Moti Kanari, found on Wikipedia.

The Palestinian residents that left/were evacuated during the Nakba of 1948 were replaced by a predominantly Mizrahi population. Jewish immigrants began arriving in mass waves into Israel in the  early 1950s and immediately became second-class citizens in the nascent Socialist Zionist Jewish state. Most were settled in transition camps, later to be relocated to development towns and other disadvantaged peripheries.

Those streets remained in relative neglect and dispute right through the 1990s. By this time Zananiri’s family had already left Amman to resettle in Sydney, Australia. Sary still recalls the Intifada, as it gripped his child’s imagination with images from the media. The fissure between Israelis and Palestinians had become completely cemented. And despite continuing legal battles and endless delays, it was then that the decision was made to ‘resurrect’ the Mamilla mall, or rather recast it. Teddy Kolek, the mayor of Jerusalem at the time, rejected out of hand one architect’s plan, which proposed conserving all of the existing facades.

Once again the area was evacuated (markedly differently to how it took place in 1948). Mamilla neighbourhood was no more; it was now the Mamilla precinct. The architect, Moshe Safdie, had delivered a winning plan for a high-end shopping mall for the newly and radically gentrified neighbourhood. “An architecturally eviscerated space,” Zananiri writes.

Portico to Sakakin Cafe

Portico to Sakakin Cafe. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Medium and impact

Zananiri is a glass artist combining archived photographs with his own for this project, processing these layers, splicing and suturing them together. This convergence of different points in time serves as a both a visual reminder and a rejection of the erasure that occurred with the Zionist colonisation of Palestine. But the insistence on returning lost buildings to the newly constructed Jewish national landscape can only be done virtually, on computer. Sitting at one’s computer, one can often feel powerless in the face of the ongoing destruction. This feeling is performed explicitly in the piece “Mamilla from Plaza”, in which the artist’s replaces a certain, now destroyed building, back into the neo-oriental, Zionist landscape.

"Mamilla from plaza"

“Mamilla from Plaza”, 2015, photographic print on glass, 60 x 90 cm.

Clearly seen in the photographs is the unique architecture of Palestine and Israel. Juxtaposed, the building styles might initially bear resemblance to one another, but as Zananiri puts it, Safdie’s desire to show cultural sensitivity, preserve certain buildings and synthesise a new style that indigenised the new mall into its landscape, paradoxically ends up with monuments to neo-colonialism and capitalism. It is an exclusionary and false indigeneity, mimicking styles while voiding them of living cultural realities and connections, or in the artist’s words, ‘effacing Palestinian modernity’.

Mamilla circa 1900

Mamilla circa 1900. Image courtesy of the artist.

Glass is fragile and transparent, but it is also razor sharp and heavy. This medium drenches the photographs with emotional resonance. Zananiri’s techniques and chosen materials seem a fitting response to the nullifying tendencies of exile; a response to the coloniser’s urge and power to archive, record and enumerate his takings. His power to make meticulous lists and even publicise them with indemnity. This impulse is conveyed in “Dismembered Façade”, a photograph showing the dismantled, numbered and reassembled bricks of one of the buildings preserved by Safdie and his team. The crude black numbers scrawled on the creamy sandstone bricks seem like stains or scars, like numbers tattooed into an arm. And the edges of shopfronts Zananiri placed in the background of this reassembled wall serve to remind us of the site’s function, to sell unnecessary and mass-produced, likely non-indigenous stuffs. It is testament to the blood-stained commodification of Palestinian culture. There is no escaping history, I thought as the Holocaust came to mind (a personal habit). Genocides have their patterns too.

"Dismembered Facade"

“Dismembered Facade”, 2015, radiata pine, direct print on glass, 200 x 90 x 10 cm.

Colonialist tendencies

The artist’s choice to use photography, the evidence-based primary resourcefulness of archives, and to engage with architecture, is a fitting response to the chauvinist and colonialist tendencies of reappropriation, erasure and rapid reconstruction. He too is preserving secreted images of Palestine as it lives on and evolves within the fabric of Israel. The choice to manipulate photographic images also calls attention to the use of photography as proof and as political leverage for acts of occupation.

Cafe bombing prior to Jewish war of Independence

Cafe bombing prior to Jewish war of Independence. Image courtesy of the artist.

Zananiri’s preoccupation with these different media draws our attention to the ways in which images can be used to falsify history. Complicating the act of archiving is crucial to the artist, who has always resided in the Palestinian diaspora. Viewing the place at once through these multiple lenses – the Ottoman period, the British mandate, the post Intifada world of prosperity for some and deprivation for others, and the view from Melbourne 2015 – forces the viewer to confront the emotional weight of the Nakba, and of absence.


Claustrophobia and time travel in Collingwood/Palestine

Outside the gallery I finished my latte next to ageing government houses and urban fusion cafes. There are myriad layers of construction here too, making almost completely invisible the Indigenous history of this colonised space. Contested as it is, Melbourne’s inner city carries on with its prosperous growth. But if we make use of history and leverage our discomfort from colonisation’s privilege, we might help to pave the way for new ways of being. Zananiri’s work was galvanising and confronting, and rewarding as it was necessarily unsettling.


The Collingwood Coffee Palace in 1879. Its facade remains on top of the Smith Street Woolworths.

The Collingwood Coffee Palace in 1879. Its facade remains on top of the Smith Street Woolworths. Image found on Wikipedia.

Mamilla under curfew in 1938

Mamilla under curfew in 1938. Image courtesy of the artist.

At the entrance to the PBS building

At the entrance to the PBS building. Image courtesy of the artist.

To the right is the artist, Sary Zananiri

To the right is the artist, Sary Zananiri.

Julie Bishop on Palestinian house demolitions and Susiya

i Dec 29th 2015

In September 2015 the AJDS wrote a petition to end Palestinian house demolitions in Susiya and the West Bank. Read about and sign our petition here. In response to our request that the Australian government act to stop this injustice, Julie Bishop wrote to the AJDS on November 18:


…Thank you for your letter of October 2015, attaching a petition from concerned Australians regarding developments in East Jerusalem and Susiya.

Australia continues to urge Israel to reconsider demolition orders in relation to the Palestinian structures at Susiya. The Australian Representative Office in Ramallah closely monitors proposed demolitions in the West Bank. The Australian Representative visited Bedouin communities in the Khan Al-Amar area in March this year, and regularly visits Susiya as part of routine monitoring of the Australian aid program to the Palestinian Territories.

The Australian Government remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders.

I trust this information is of assistance.

It appears as though the conservative government may hold a slightly more progressive view of Israel/Palestine than most representative Jewish bodies in Australia. Meanwhile, expressions of solidarity continue to assist those left homeless by Israel’s house demolition policy, which you can read about here.

Susiya in 2013. Image by Moti Milrod, found here.

Susiya in 2013. Image by Moti Milrod, found here.

Stop the killing, end the Occupation: a statement from the global Jewish network for justice

i Oct 18th 2015

16769186184_d5bac28fccThe following statement, of which the AJDS is signatory, was initiated by an international Jewish network of groups and individuals working for justice in Palestine. Together, we reclaim Jewish identity not as a nationalist identity but as one that celebrates our diverse roots, traditions & communities wherever we are around the world. We believe that it is essential for there to be a global Jewish voice to challenge Israel’s destructive policies, in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. This international Jewish network aims to become that voice.

If you would like to sign on to this statement as an individual or a group, click here.

The statement is also available on

As members of Jewish communities around the world, we are horrified by the violence that is sweeping the streets of Palestine/Israel, costing the lives of over 30 people, both Palestinians and Israelis in the past two weeks alone. A 2 year old girl in Gaza was the youngest of 4 Palestinian children who were killed in the past two weeks. A 13 year-old Israeli boy is in critical condition after being stabbed nearly a dozen times. Over a thousand people were injured in the same period. Fear has completely taken over the streets of Jerusalem, the center of this violence. Israelis shooting Palestinian protesters in and around East Jerusalem. Palestinians stabbing and shooting Israeli civilians and policemen in the middle of the streets. Israeli forces killing Palestinian suspects when they are clearly not a threat and without trial. Palestinians throwing stones at passing cars. Israeli mobs beating up Palestinians or calling on police to shoot them. Humiliating strip searches of Palestinians in the streets – all of these have become a daily occurrence in the city in which we are raised to pray for peace, as well as other places in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

While violence is visible on the streets, it is also occupying people’s minds and hearts. Fear is bringing out the worst of people, and the demand for more blood to be shed, as if this will repair the damage done. Fear and racist rhetoric are escalating the situation. The Israeli government is once again responding in a militarised way: there have been hundreds of arrests; Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has been limited; parts of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinians; open-fire regulations have been changed to allow the use of sniper fire against children; a minimum sentence for stone throwing has been introduced, including for over 150 children arrested in East Jerusalem alone in the past few weeks; and now there are talks of enforcing a curfew, or even a closure, of East Jerusalem.

All these constitute collective punishment on the entire population of East Jerusalem with over 300,000 people. In the past, these measures have proven themselves ineffective at ending violence. Decades of dispossession, occupation and discrimination are the main reasons for Palestinian resistance. Further Israeli military repression and ongoing occupation and siege will never end the Palestinian desire for freedom nor will it address the root causes of violence. Indeed, the current actions by the Israeli government and army are likely to create further violence, destruction, and the entrenchment of division. Only justice and equality for all will bring peace and quiet to the residents of Israel and Palestine.

As a group of Jews from around the world we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people. It is incumbent on all Jews around the world to pressure the Israeli government – and those who follow and support its words and deeds – to change its approach. The military crackdown must cease immediately, Palestinians must be allowed complete freedom of movement. It is also a responsibility of Jewish people worldwide to obligate the countries in which we live to immediately cease the economic and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine and siege of Gaza.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.


Shomeret Shalom Rabbinic School & Learning Center

Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)

Women in Black, Melbourne

Jewdas, UK

Tzedek Chicago

South African Jews for a Free Palestine

Jewish Voice for Democracy and Justice in Israel/Palestine (jvjp), Switzerland

Een Andere Joodse Stem, Another Jewish Voice – Belgium

Jewish Socialists’ Group – UK

United Jewish People’s Order – Canada

Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, California

Jewish Voice for Peace Bay Area Chapter

Jewish Voice for Peace Atlanta Chapter

Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles chapter

Jewish Voice for Peace, Rochester NY Chapter

Jewish Voice for Peace, NYC Chapter

Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (Ireland)

JVP Rhode Island chapter
Sahar Vardi, Jerusalem

Micha K. Ben David, Jerusalem

Daniel Mackintosh, London

Ilana Sumka, Belgium

Yael Shafritz, London

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Chicago

Rachel Diamond, London

Sivan Barak, Melbourne

Jordy Silverstein, Melbourne

Bianca Neumann, São Paulo

Gabriela Korman, Porto Alegre

Annie Cohen, London

Eran Cohen, London

James Kleinfeld, London

Joseph Finlay, London

Lev Taylor, London

Shajar Goldwaser, São Paulo

Iara Haasz, São Paulo

Lilian Avivia Lubochinski​, São Paulo

Elena Judensnaider Knijnik, São Paulo

Yuri Haasz, São Paulo

Juliana Westmann Del Poente, São Paulo

Breno Altman, São Paulo

Igor Fillippe Goldstein, São Paulo

Pedro Haasz Lakatos, São Paulo

Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Jerusalem.

Aryeh Bernstein, Chicago

Micah Hendler, Jerusalem

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Robin Rothfield, Melbourne

Joan Nestle, Melbourne

Jem Light, Melbourne

Sue Leigh, Melbourne

Ben Silverstein, Sydney

Alex Nissen, Melbourne

Margaret Jacobs, Melbourne

Rae Abileah, USA

Shereen Usdin, Johannesburg

Lily Manoim, Cape Town

Merlynn Edelstein, Johannesburg

David Fine, Johannesburg

Dr. Fran Shahar, Atlanta

ilise cohen, Atlanta

Michal Shilor, Jerusalem Raoul Fishman

Judy Favish, Cape Town

Sheila Barsel, Cape Town

David Sanders, Cape Town

Heidi Grunebaum, Cape Town

Anya Topolski, Belgium

Dror Feiler, Sweden, Chair person for EJJP

Free Polazzo, Douglasville

Tovah Melaver, Decatur

Torii Lang, Decatur

Dr. Beth-Ann Buitekant, Atlanta

Connie Sosnoff, Atlanta

Tali Feld Gleiser, Dominican Republic

Moira Levy, Cape Town

Esther Mack, Jerusalem

Elizabeth Beck, Atlanta

Shelby Weiner, Tel Aviv

Rabbi Michael Lerner, USA

Rina King, Cape Town

Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch, Ashland

Estee Chandler, Los Angelas

Rachel Ida Buff, Los Angelas

Cat J. Zavis, Executive Director, Network of Spiritual Progressives

Rosa Manoim, Johanesbourg

Kathy Barolsky, South Africa

Free Solomon Polazzo, USA

Randy Aronov, USA

Nina M. Stein, Waterbury Connecticut

Joel Wool, Boston

Regina Willis, Atlanta

Rabbi Brian Walt, West Tisbury, MA

Shaya Zucker, Austin, Texas

Lisa Kosowski, Chicago

Jade Bettine, USA

Cindy Shamban, USA

Rand Clark, USA

Penny Rosenwasser, Oakland, CA

Sara Moon, UK


To sign, go to:

Two poems

i Dec 5th 2014

By Micaela Sahhar



Policing over the possible, Dagan, I

note down now how you would note

rumours as facts. Surveying a space where

(it was said) the dead (even then) had

no land, as those who still made sound

scooped trenches for an olive grove

whose massive roots heaved like a pod


of whales, beached. I saw the tightness

of their skins on television. Around

the foreign bodies you kept moving (heeding

how a resting shark will drown) This is

a de-construction of facticity you said,

burning objects as like as people

who flock yet, vaporous through prostrated trees.



8 Asa Street, Greek Colony

(on my father’s restoration)


Now I am here, beneath the centenarian wires

of bougainvillea, I pass into the era of my spectre-hood.

Despite your divestments, systematic (grouted tiles)


sometimes rageful (half stripped papering) even

from across the street, that I, can line the house against

each gutting, with the seismic breath of a memory


(its recital a Stradivarius). These things you can’t see, 

but sensed, the day you invited a side-walk letterer

to depict on our gate pillar, this way to the bomb shelter.


*     *     *


Published June 5, 2010 in The Age, “Shrinking” appeared at the same time as the Mavi Marmara sailed to Gaza, though the poem was written a year earlier as Sahhar was researching operation Cast Lead for her doctoral degree. 

“8 Asa Street, Greek Colony” is about visiting her family home in West Jerusalem. It was published in Southerly, vol. 73, no. 2, 2013.

For more information on Sahhar, read here.

Response to recent violence in Jerusalem

i Nov 19th 2014

Statement issued 19/11/2014

The AJDS condemns the attacks that are occurring in Jerusalem. This violence is heartbreaking and must end immediately.

The AJDS calls for leading figures in the current Israeli government and their settler allies to halt their recent actions, which actively work against justice and instead incite violence towards Palestinians. We condemn the dangerous strategy of visits to the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount, and note that Yoram Cohen, the head of Shin Bet, has drawn a clear connection between the attack on Jews at synagogue yesterday and the murder of Muhammed Abu-Khdeir and the visits to the Haram al-Sharif. This attack comes after the most recent escalation of violence by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians: the increased collective punishment (including house demolitions and restrictions on mobility), the proposal to introduce a 20 year sentence for stone throwing, and the burning last week of a mosque in Al Mughayir in the West Bank. Hamas should also be condemned for supporting the latest act of violence against Israelis at prayer.

Only genuine negotiations which bring a quick end to the Occupation and full political and social equality and justice for all Palestinians will resolve this explosive situation in a city that belongs to humanity, not Jews alone.