Text About The FIlm
THE NATIONAL PARK, Amir Yatziv ,2014
(HD Animation, 10’42’’)
Everything was new, abandoned, and destroyed. It was a peculiar Garden of Eden, in which the two eternal gods of archeology – creation and destruction – reigned supreme1.
Ruins remind us of a melancholy world where beauty is safely ensconced and endlessly repeatable. The ruin is a romantic symbol of artistic creation, prizing the fragment more highly than the finished work – a single moment that stands for all that is missing. The fragments of Romanticism are akin to the tiles of a mosaic scattered by catastrophe. Who is to recollect them and tell their story?
The ruins scattered throughout Israel/Palestine are silent witnesses to catastrophes both ancient and modern, but also to subterranean struggles for the constant rewriting of history. Consecrated by Jews and Arabs alike, they have become icons of national tragedy and metaphors for exile and redemption. Their landlord is the master of memory.
More than anywhere else, in this country the past is not a world in itself. Everything related to archeology is immediately used as cannon fodder aimed at conflicts present and future. The Crusader period is a case in point: while Palestinians have sought to prove that Zionists are as alien and ephemeral as their Christian predecessors, Zionists have used the colossal ruins attributed – and often misattributed – to the knights of yesteryear to belittle the indigenous population’s contribution to the country’s landscape, history and culture.
After the Crusaders had left, the local population adapted their structures to its needs, expanding some and destroying others. In the eyes of many Israeli archeologists, the Palestinian settlements which preceded and anteceded the Crusaders were unworthy of study outside the context of the “Crusader era”, which was often fabricated: many stately mansions in Palestinian villages were considered to be “Crusader fortresses”, simply because their new landlords could not believe Arabs could build such beautiful houses.
Thus, the Israeli preoccupation with the Crusader era was tainted by its recruitment in the service of the Zionist narrative. For the fathers of Israeli archeology, this was indeed a Garden of Eden – a garden whose forbidden fruits of knowledge seemed ripe for the taking. After all, there was little danger that the fearsome knights would rely on this particular version of history to embark on a new crusade.
In preparing for this project, I have toured this garden, visiting 17 ruin sites which have been spared the fate of hundreds of other Palestinian villages thanks to their (mis)attribution to the Crusader period. In my research, I relied on 1948 documents found in the State of Israel Archive and on archeologists and historians – mainly Dr. Raz Kletter and Noga Kadman – to trace the destruction or preservation of these ruins. The lucky few that have been preserved thanks to their Crusader pedigree offer a glimpse of a much more recent and far less familiar past.
The animated film is based on a 3D scanning of internal spaces of houses depopulated in 1948, which used to be Crusader fortresses – the same technique applied by preservation architects. In the film, all spaces have been merged to form a single structure where the viewers are invited to roam. The text that accompanies this virtual tour is based on archival documents pertaining to the Israeli archeologists’ early encounter with the same ruins.
written by Ami Asher (activist, translator and editor)
1 Raz Kletter, Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archeology