Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dolls and Wheelchairs

There is a prevalent belief in Israel that everything that happens "abroad" (which usually means North America and Europe) gets here ten later. Witness the relatively recent sushi craze. Or, to cite another example, recycling has made its inroads but is still limited to plastic bottles and paper, at least in Haifa. Yet, environmental awareness is practically non-existent. So, too, is the concept of wheelchair accessibility.

For just over a week and ending tonight, Beit Hecht in Haifa hosted an exhibit, called "Magic of the Dolls." The building of Beit Hecht itself is quite unique. Most people who have been to Haifa know that there is a German Colony downtown, where German Templars used to live. Few people, however, know that there are still Templar buildings in other neighbourhoods of Haifa: Neve Sha'anan and the Carmel Center. Beit Hecht is one of such buildings.

The dolls exhibit hosted works by many different artists, each unique in its material, theme, size, and style. Unfortunately, for anyone who has limited mobility, which included someone in my party, almost half of the exhibit was off-limits as the only way to access the second floor was by a long and steep stairway. There was an elevator, but it didn't work, and I'm not sure when the last time it ever worked was. Though the staff did express sympathy, apparently it hadn't occured to anyone to try to make the entire exhibit accessible, or at least to warn us before we purchased our tickets.

The dolls which we did manage to see were captivating. They ranged from the realistic to the fantastical and cartoonish.

The doll below, however, puzzled me. It was labeled, "The Druze Woman Who Bakes Pita with Za'atar." "The Druze woman" baking pita is indeed a familiar sight in Haifa and the surrounding area. But I've never seen a Druze woman wearing this kind of costume, which looks closer to the clothes worn by some Bedouin women.

Maybe in ten years, this lovely exhibit, in its entirety, will be accessible to all.