Sapir Park’s impressive Life and Civilization in a Desert Landscape site is another example of KKL-JNF’s activities for the community and of the support the organization provides to those who work for the benefit of the environment. Don’t miss the opportunity to drop in and visit it on your way to Eilat.
It all began with a ceramics class in the Central Arava. “We were four women who began to work and dream,” explains Chacha Porat of Moshav Ein Yahav, the driving force behind the enterprise. “We dreamed of producing beautiful items, exhibiting them and then selling them for lots and lots of money.” A sort of desert mirage.
Apart from Chacha, the group, which was called Women in the Desert , comprised Naomi Rotem, also from Ein Yahav, Smadar Siegler of Moshav Paran and Arza Cohen of Moshav Tzofar. They worked together and produced ceramic items, but they never came near to making their dream reality. This era of innocence would have lasted much longer, had the artist Kostek (the late Michael Kowalski) not come to advise them. He looked at their work and asked them point blank: “What’s all this ceramic stuff? You’re sculptors. Start making sculptures.” The group members abandoned ceramics and, as instructed, began to sculpt. They worked for years, making plaster molds and casting their works in bronze, pausing only occasionally to marvel at what they had wrought – until one day Arza remarked ingenuously, “We sculpt awfully well. Why shouldn’t we exhibit?”
And, indeed, their sculptures were admired, and the group exhibited them at a variety of venues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Their real breakthrough came in Ein Hod, and continued at the Shorashim (“Roots”) Gallery and the Bible Museum, both of which are in Tel Aviv.
About twelve years ago the group received an invitation from the Israel Association of Community Centers, which suggested that they take part in a KKL-JNF competition to produce an artistic exhibit. The women submitted a proposal for “Desert Life Through the Generations,” with the participation of pupils from the local Shittim School, for whom the project would be a bar mitzvah assignment: each youngster would produce and exhibit his / her own sculpture. The proposal was accepted and the project also received support from the Central Arava Regional Council and the Israel Government Tourism Corporation.
The site chosen for the project was situated at the edge of Sapir Park, which had been developed by KKL-JNF adjacent to the community of the same name. “I can find no words to describe the work that KKL-JNF invested in this project,” says Chacha. “They carried out earthworks to construct a sort of canyon at the site, they built a cave and they piled up stones to create the type of desert landscape we wanted. They did everything we asked for. It’s hard to believe how much they invest in work here in the Arava.”
For a whole year, almost every day, Chacha spent time at the site, until the Life in the Desert project was finally inaugurated on June 1st, 2002, and the general public was invited to come along to enjoy it. But for Chacha there has been no respite. Her works are on display in the family visitors’ center that portrays the life of the honeybee, and she has another interesting project up her sleeve: a Little Prince exhibit beside the baobab trees and the aircraft on display in Sapir Park. Something well worth waiting for.