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    ​​”Tracing the Ottoman Empire in Israel/Palestine” – Trans-disciplinary Research Group

    In October 2022, the research group "Tracing the Ottoman Empire in Israel/Palestine" met for the first time. This initiative was a joint effort between the Institute for Public Presence at the Center for Digital Art and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Throughout the year, the group shifted its focus multiple times, but overall, it embarked on a diverse and rich journey that traced the hidden presence of the Ottoman Empire in the local space.

    The group included artists, researchers, archivists, architects, practitioners, and thinkers. Unlike previous research subjects of other groups, this time, we faced a complex challenge – to explore a historical period. What does it mean to embark on a journey after 400 years that profoundly influenced the local space, culture, language, law, economy, architecture, literature, music, food, and countless other expressions of life in Israel/Palestine? A 400-year period, where no matter where you direct your gaze, you’ll find some trace of it. Simultaneously, it is a forgotten and erased period, leaving behind a bitter residue of failure and a tendency to take bribes.

    Without descending into unnecessary romanticization, revisiting this empire also means revisiting a pre-national era in the local space, an era before Western colonization altered the power dynamics and borders of the region beyond recognition. Without ignoring struggles among the diverse population groups that comprised the rich and varied mosaic under the empire’s rule, if we narrow our focus to our region – Israel/Palestine – we return to a time before the central conflict, before the struggle for land, before the catastrophe of one people and the realization of another. In this context, going back in time becomes a horizon and an invitation to imagine how our lives could have been if history had unfolded differently.

    Throughout the year, in various group meetings held at the Center for Digital Art, the offices of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, and different sites across the country, we attempted in an eclectic and scattered manner to collect fragments, gather signs, and perhaps begin to connect threads that could help us piece together the complex and multifaceted history of the Ottoman Empire. Since we lacked the tools to conduct a systematic and coherent study of an empire that held sway for so many years, extending from Vienna in Europe to Morocco in Africa and Persia in Asia at its height, we embraced the perspective of those on the ground, maybe even those on all fours—sniffing here, sniffing there, identifying flavors, scents, stories. A complete image might not emerge from this collage, but perhaps something of the group’s accumulated experience of wandering and discovery will continue to persist.

    Following the project, a thematic issue for the journal “Ma’arav” was created, containing essays, conversations, and visual representations corresponding to the group’s work. In November 2023, an exhibition on the theme will open, accompanied by a collaborative digital project offering an alternative guide for getting lost.


    Project curators: Tali Konas, Michal Baror, Avital Barak 

    Members of the “Tracing the Ottoman Empire in Israel/Palestine” Research Group: Adi Bamberger, Nimrod Ben-Zev, Michal Baror, Amnon Baror, Sigal Barnir, Avital Barak, Dotan Halevy, Avner Wishnitzer, Dor Zlekha Levi, Mark Yashaev, Ella Littwitz, Jonathan Mizrahi, Basma Fahoum, Avi-Ram Tzoreff, Tali Konas, Hagit Keysar, Elham Rokni. 

    Participants and guests who took part in parts of the project, joined the journeys, and participated in accompanying events throughout the year: Udi Edelman, Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, Ketzia Alon, Sezen Ünlüönen, Michal Baroz, Taufik Da’adli, Aviv Derri, Avigail Jacobson, Alma Yitzhaki, Adel Manna, Senan Abdelqader, Mira Rashty, Hava Schwartz, Nadeem Shiban, and Omar Sharir.

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