Text size

On the table in Margol Guttman's home in Ein Hod lies an old album filled with the photographs of 380 members of the artists' colony, taken from the day it was established in 1953 to the present. Hanna Yunichman, a veteran resident, allowed Guttman to have it for a few hours, so she could scan pictures for the village's official Web site - a project she has been slaving over for nearly a year. The Web site is supposed to reflect the presentable Ein Hod, its history and its present. Some 180 artists continue to maintain, in one way or another, the vision of its founder, artist Marcel Janco, who hoped it would become "a vibrant and creative artists' colony."

Yunichman has already "called to inquire what's happening with the album. It's her lifelong legacy, she's very anxious when it comes to it," says Guttman, and sends her partner, artist Abraham Eilat, to return it. The album contains photos of hundreds of artists, pasted one next to the other. On the first page, in neat handwriting, are the names of all of those who appear in the album - those who have passed away beside those who are still living in the colony. "It's funny to see the album and Web site next to each other," says Guttman. "On one side is the beginning, the ember, next to the cutting edge of technology."

The site, which will be launched in the next few days, is impressive and elegant. (Zohar Nir-Amitin designed it.) It presents a respectable, mature, and almost stiff Ein Hod. It informs about the colony's history, the people who reside there, and services offered: workshops, lodging and restaurants. The official reason for launching it is "international needs," explains Guttman. "Cities and institutions from all over the world turn to us, and this is the fastest and most accessible means of communication."

But it seems as though there is also a need to go back and remind people of the uniqueness of the place. What was once an attraction that drew artists from all over the world, these days looks like a "mini-mall," as one of the residents defined it.

This Web site can be seen as a compromise between two competing views: those who wish to preserve the artistic nature of the colony and those who are steering in a touristic direction. Maybe in the end, a good combination of the two will market Ein Hod as an "artistic tourist colony," as Shir Meller-Yamaguchi suggests, one which besides shopping offers various workshops. Meller-Yamaguchi even has a vision: to establish a resort village nearby which will be dedicated to workshops.

Skipping Ein Hud

Ein Hod can be viewed as a place which reflects the changes in the country. The artists who followed Janco there settled on land owned by Arabs, who left during the War of Independence. It's hard to blame them for ignoring the suffering of the Arab refugees; they were simply unaware of it. The act of settling was part of the Zionist dream. When the refugees wanted to return, there was nowhere to come back to. They settled in the nearby hill and named it Ein Hud, after the village they had abandoned. Two years ago, after a long struggle, their village was finally acknowledged by the State of Israel.

This historical fact, which appears in every search engine on the Internet when typing Ein Hod, is missing from the new Web site. Despite this, some of the younger residents have established warm ties with the village's former residents.

Ein Hud also doesn't appear in another of the village's commemorative sites - the Gertrude Kraus House. The house offers archival information about all the deceased village veterans and pictures are hung all around on the walls. There is even a folder about Nagah Kamal from Daliat al-Carmel, who built most of the houses in the village, and a folder of photos depicting the atmosphere at the legendary restaurant, Hafuch. Today a steakhouse occupies the quaint setting.

The village's main gallery has also undergone changes in order to survive. It was established with the birth of the village, to allow the residents to exhibit and sell their work. "Every day buses packed with tourists would come, and empty out the gallery," says Naomi Huss, who's been managing it for the past four years. "Today few make a living from the gallery. Some of the residents who were accepted to the village as artists haven't succeeded in making a living from their art and have turned to another profession."

When she took on the position, Huss did two things to save the place: She began accepting artists from outside the village, and charges them money for exhibiting their works. The decisions proved successful: Today the gallery is profitable and is coming back to life. Some of the profits are invested in the gallery and some are returned to the village.

"Life has changed and we have changed accordingly," says Huss. "The veterans had a vision to create a place where artists could be together, inspire each other, and also make a living. I have a hard time believing that today people want to live here because of the artistic society, but mainly for the beauty of the place. The rest is a bonus and sometimes also an excuse. Many people who have moved here participated in courses and after two or three weeks became artists. Today being an artist is pretty easy. In one village there is a cheese industry, and in another there is an art industry.

"The vibe of the community has also changed. When my husband and I arrived here 30 years ago, there were parties on holidays, the restaurant was a meeting place, we were all together - it was spontaneous. Today that doesn't exist. Ein Hod has become a different communal town."

In contrast to her, Ayelet Shalev, an architect who has been living in the village with her family since 2002, tells of parties on holidays and cultural and social get-togethers - maybe not at Hafuch, but at the local garden bar. It seems as though the different views point mainly to the fact that the place's population has grown with the years and naturally, different social circles have formed, of young people and veterans who are in essence recalling and reviving that same communal existence.

Although it was established by a member of the pioneer Dada movement, no revolutionary artist with an artistic statement has come out of Ein Hod. "They didn't really attempt to offer a different artistic option," says Ayelet Shalev. "They presented a different way of life, and that exists to this day." And even if the change that has taken place in Israeli society, from an idealistic and integrated society to an individualistic one in which each person looks out for himself, has also affected Ein Hod, it's still an a collective community. Perhaps that's the reason that it has remained on the boundary between Israel of the past and Israel of the present. The village members are responsible for the place and the community and they do so voluntarily. The many meetings of the Ein Hod committees - the gallery, construction, culture and education committees - are a source of many quarrels and much resentment, but at the same time, they require dialogue and prevent estrangement and anonymity.

Father and dictator

Ora Lahav-Chaaltiel, who runs Gertrude Kraus House, works as a volunteer. The house is cold and gray. Not far from it lies the Janco Marcel Dada Museum. Not long ago, a group of people walked out of the museum, led by a loud and enthusiastic tour guide dressed in stylish attire, who skipped from one site in the village to the next, trying to revive the stories of the past. "I think it's silly," remarks Yossef Chaaltiel, whose bohemian look hasn't changed since the 1950s. Ora and Yossef Chaaltiel, both born in a kibbutz, met in a painting class taught by Janco at Oranim Seminar. After they got married, Janco invited them to come with him to Ein Hod.

Janco, as the stories go, was both a father and a dictator. He took everything into his own hands. "He believed that it was his responsibility to make sure that whoever he brought to the village would make a living," says Chaaltiel. But Janco also decided on everything else by himself. "Things were raised for discussion, but he would decide," he adds.

Janco began a ceramics course and whoever participated in it received a salary, and also opened an art school that gave BA's (Chaaltiel was the principal.) He also opened sculpting, weaving and lithography studios in the village. Chaaltiel has been running the lithography workshop for more than 40 years. "Back then I would get my salary for the village, and today I pay rent to the village for the place," she says.

Despite this, they think that Janco would be pleased with the village today. "The place is lively, there are many young people and children," they say. Their daughter, a licensed architect, stayed in the village. Both of their sons, who hold managerial positions at the Tel Aviv Museum and the Israel Museum, chose to leave "because of tensions."

On the surface, all is peaceful in the picturesque colony. Most of the residents are content and there are many young people who continue to refresh the village. Many of them rent houses and a lucky few also purchase them. The prices are still sane. Although a lot of land costs about 250,000 dollars, like a small apartment in Tel Aviv, it has the most beautiful view in the world.

But this tranquility is fragile. Among other things, it is threatened by the issue of the future inheritors. According to the committee's code, people who want to receive membership and purchase a house must go through an acceptance process, even if they were raised there. Not long ago, an application by the daughter of a village veteran was turned down. In response, her father sent an e-mail to all the village members calling to do away with the committee.

However, Shalev says, "without the committee there are no principles and without principles Ein Hod will turn into just another place for the rich, like the neighboring Kerem Ma'haral."

That day is edging nearer due to the decision of the Israel Land Administration to enforce the public auction liability on the Ein Hod lots. According to an agreement between the colony and the administration, candidates will be required to go through the colony's acceptance committees, but there's no doubt that the public auctions will change the character of the place. "It's an open auction that will expose the existence of Ein Hod to all those artists who came from the former Soviet Union, Turkey, and recently from France, who will probably want to apply," says Zion Gez, the colony manager. And like any society which is gradually overtaken by financial motives, "the lot will be sold not to the best artist, but to the wealthiest one," says Huss. It would be interesting to know what Marcel Janco would say about that.