Netivot, Negev City of Kabbalistic Rabbis, to Open Art Gallery

Negev city's arts center to include first gallery where local artists will be able to show their work.

The Negev city of Netivot is about to finally get its own arts center, which will include the city’s first gallery where local artists will be able to show their work.

According to a plan formulated by the Netivot municipality and artist Michael Elkayam, a Netivot native, the municipal gallery will show works by local artists and by artists from elsewhere in Israel and abroad.

A small auditorium is also planned for the center, where artists and other cultural figures will give presentations about their work.

The idea for the art center took root three months ago when a group of visitors from Philadelphia spent a week of cultural and artistic activity in the city, during which local artists presented their works.

“The goal of this special center is to make art accessible to people from outlying areas as well. It’s inconceivable for the residents of Netivot and its surroundings not to be able to see art in the city, and for people from the Western Negev to have to travel to the center of the country to see art,” said Elkayam, who has mounted shows of his work throughout the country.

“The opening of the center has advantages also, and perhaps mainly, for artists of Netivot and the western Negev. The older generation of artists will be able to show their works in the city where they grew up and live,” he said. Elkayam said the gallery will also help young artists forge ahead.

Netivot ‏(pop. 30,000‏) is best known for its tomb of the Moroccan-born kabbalist Baba Sali, the kabbalistic revival meetings of his son Baba Baruch and of rival Rabbi Ya’acov ‏(“The X-Ray”‏) Ifergan. But it is also well known for its pubs, new shopping centers seemingly on every corner, and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The project’s steering committee, which met two weeks ago to discuss plans, decided that its next step would be to meet with architects and designers and that the premises will also serve the city’s schools and its exhibits will be chosen and overseen by a curator. “This center will be one that any big city would be proud of, the city’s artists will finally have a home where they can show off the best of their works, and the residents of the city will have a place they can be proud of. There are many talented artists in this city,” Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar said.

A member of the art center’s steering committee, Noa Kiryati, from Kibbutz Urim in the Eshkol Regional Council, said that the committee intends to turn Netivot into a national art center. “At the moment we are planning and looking for ideas; the gallery is a small step, in the hope that it is just a first step on a long road. We want the exhibits to be active − not just pictures but a place of dialogue and creativity with the young people of the city and the region.”

Eliyahu Hershkovitz