Israel-Quirky Chapters in History

I lived through two quirky times in history. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I experienced the groovy era of minishirts, psychedelic posters, and Twiggie. Later in life, I observed the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. All through history groups of people have broken away from the norm, wondering if things could be better if the status quo was questioned. They tried to make something new, hoping to create something better.

It happened during the Renaissance, for example. And even where I grew up in Western and Central New York State. I wrote about it in my blog post,”Flesh and Blood, Bits and Pieces. Before the Civil War, my area was a hotbed for divergent thinking and reform.

I stumbled on one particular quirky era, The Age of Modernizm, after learning about Antoni Gaudi, a totally off the wall architect from Spain who died in 1926. I always thought that people from the early 1900’s were kind of dull . I learned about Pablo Picasso and cubism in school but there was a lot more going on. It was a time when traditions in art, politics and social views we being broken by a small group of social pioneers. It was the time of the machine age, Margaret Sanger and birth control, the formation of labor unions, Matisse, T.S. Eliot, Theater of the Absurd, Nihilism and other edgy occurrences, small slices of society in cultural revolt.

A roof top of a building designed by Antoni Gaudi

This energy did not bypass Israel. In Germany, an architectural movement started in 1919 called Bauhaus. It was characterized by undecorated surfaces, ribbon window, flat roofs, and outdoor living spaces. Because Jews in Germany were being increasingly discriminated against, many of the Bauhaus group fled to Israel and ended up in Tel Aviv. From 1920 to 1940, 4000 Bauhaus structures were built. The urban planning of Sir Patrick Geddes (mentioned in one of my previous posts) offered a wonderful ordered environment for the clean lines of this type of architecture. The buildings were popular since they took into account the warm Israel weather and were designed to use natural ventilation from windows and doors to cool rooms.

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I also went to a museum that paid homage to Dada, an artist movement started in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland that was a negative reaction to the horrors of WWI. Artists created nonsensical works of art and plays in protest of the established social order. The museum in Israel was found by Marcel Junco one of the founders of the Dada. In 1941, he and his family fled to Israel from Romania during the Bucharest Progrom during which 125 Jews were killed.

India-WHY?

I have a strange way of picking my travel destinations. I do it by whim, waiting to be inspired by some sign or a feeling of intuitive direction. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you might remember that I chose to go to Barcelona, Spain because I saw the city on an episode of  “The Bachelorette.”   I’m a little ashamed about this bit of impulsiveness but Barcelona turned out to be one of my favorite trips as I learned about the famed architect, Antoni Gaudi, and discovered The Age of Modernism.

I picked India for my 2018 trip in the same unconventional way. While walking through St. Augustine, Florida on a trip during March,  I came upon a sudden explosion of eastern culture, a colorful float and joyous smiling people singing and dancing in lovely vibrate clothing.

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Looking for some sort of explanation, I approached a card table set up with Hindu books and various other items. I was welcomed warmly as I quietly looked at the titles. I  immediately felt included in all that was happening.  I mentioned that some day I would like to go to India and was given a set of Hindu prayer beads.  I asked how much they cost, was told they were a gift, and was invited to join the group for lunch after a parade through St. Augustine.  I was convinced, my next trip would be India.

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I signed up for a 17 day tour called “Mystical India”.  Before I went, the tour company sent me packets of historical information which overwhelmed me and I stopped reading them because I wanted go on this adventure with an open mind. But I can’t help but wonder if I  took this attitude because I was a “teacher” or  because I’m an arrogant American. In my career in education,  I was taught to promote “enduring understandings” that would stick in young minds forever.  For example, World War I  was reduced to the fact that King Ferdinand was shot and the entirety of economics was explained by the simple concepts of supply and demand. As I soon learned, these quick shots of education were far from adequate.

My  pre trip enduring understandings of India were neatly wrapped up in three concepts: Gandhi,  cows, and “Slumdog Millionaire”.  My gracious tour guide, Rashid, dealt with me patiently as I misunderstood the great Mughal Empire as something to do with the Mongols and thought Britain took over India after WW I instead of long before in 1857.  Rashid , if you are reading this, I hope you have forgiven me.  

However, I did take along with me something of value that kept poking around in my memory. A few years ago I listened to a”Great Courses” set of lectures called “Power over People-A History of Political Thought”. The very interesting talks by Professor Dennis Dalton from Barnard University ended with a segment about Thoreau and Civil Disobedience which promoted me to take a trip to Walden Pond.  But I remembered something else. The professor had started his survey of political history with a lesson about Hinduism. Why had he chosen India to start a course about political thought? Though my direct experiences in India and some focused discovery since I returned home, I  found out why.  It is quite a lesson that has great value for all of us especially in today’s world.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”― Marcel Proust

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A note to my readers: I will  be taking you on my journey through India  for the next few weeks. Please click on the “follow” button on my blog so you don’t miss a day. Thanks!