'Living Inside Our Own Art' |

This Israeli Turned an Old Kibbutz House Into a Palace

Muli Shlufer, 75, and Ofira Alon, 64, drew on classical Europe as inspiration for their home on Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh

Kenan Reuveni
Kenan Reuveni
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Muli Shlufer, 75, and Ofira Alon, 64, from Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh in central Israel.
Muli Shlufer, 75, and Ofira Alon, 64, from Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh in central Israel.Credit: Eyal Toueg
Kenan Reuveni
Kenan Reuveni

How did you end up in Ramat Hakovesh?

Muli: “I was born on the kibbutz and Ofira moved in with me 24 years ago. She said that the apartment was small, and I really was eligible for a larger apartment from the kibbutz. That’s how we moved into this house 21 years ago, they attached two old houses for us. Even as a child I loved art and I had my demands, I was involved in things that were extreme, and I ran to do unique things that nobody else does.

‘I wanted to fulfill all my dreams here.’Credit: Eyal Toueg

“So as soon as we moved I told Ofira that I was going to go wild here, I wanted to fulfill all my dreams here, everything I have in mind. I didn’t plan anything, I just wanted a beautiful house that we would love, and to our taste.

“I work with wood, and I started to create things from wood in the house, and everything here was renovated and built slowly but surely. I even built a secret machine with which I create wooden flowers. Eight years ago I retired, and I invested more in projects in the house. I had a strong inner urge. The biggest project in the house – part of the ceiling – took me three years, and for a part of that time I was sick and on steroids. The inspiration came mainly from classical Europe, and when people came into our home and said that it looks like a palace – we went with that.

“All the furniture is in the house is antique style. I spent a lot of time at flea markets, and we collect, buy and renovate broken things that people throw away. We even have the doors of Leah and Yitzhak Rabin’s armoire that I bought at the flea market in Jaffa – and I installed them inside the house.”

'We live in a place where you can see our shared love – for art and history, the palace is us, and we’re the palace.'Credit: Eyal Toueg

What were the reactions on the kibbutz?

Muli: “When we moved here and started everything, I told Ofira that I would tell only her what I’m going to do here, and I don’t care what other people say, even when I called it a ‘palace.’ People around us kept asking ‘What are you doing here? What’s all the noise?’ And people raised their eyebrows a bit, thought that we’re strange and said that I’m crazy. But one day we opened the house – and people who came to us were enthusiastic and amazed. And I tell everyone: ‘Yes, I’m crazy, that’s what goes through my mind.”

The house’s advantages and disadvantages?

'Everything here was renovated and built slowly but surely.'Credit: Eyal Toueg

Ofira: “We live in a place where you can see our shared love – for art and history, the palace is us, and we’re the palace. But what’s special in the house is that every piece of work that Muli created here is a piece of our lives, there’s a story behind it, which also includes sadness and illness. We’re actually living inside our own art story, and at the same time we live modestly and not ostentatiously. Everything we have we invest in materials and in creative projects in the house.

“Of course there are skeptics and people who are envious, but we’re working on our dream. The kibbutz is also privatized, so nobody restricts us.”

What are your insights from life here?

'I work with wood, and I started to create things from wood in the house.'Credit: Eyal Toueg

Ofira: “We were fortunate to meet one another, and art is something that connects us. We share an understanding that without beauty and art it’s not a life that we would want to live. We love that there’s beauty around us, although our lives have not always been a bed of roses. Art has always strengthened us.

“Our dream now is to have the house slated for preservation. Although there’s no ‘historical value’ here, we think that the cultural and spiritual values of a man born on the kibbutz who created and grew from within it are something worth preserving. Together we have five children and 11 grandchildren, but although they love the house, they don’t really connect to ‘our obsession,’ and we don’t see any of them who could carry on for us – and we want the palace to stay here forever.”

‘Yes, I’m crazy, that’s what goes through my mind.'Credit: Eyal Toueg

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