Tag Archives: tree sculpture

A Morning on Mount Scopus

Construction of the campus of the Hebrew University began in 1918 on land purchased from the Gray Hill estate. The dedication ceremony was held in 1925 in the presence of many dignitaries, including Lord Balfour, Viscount Allenby, Sir Herbert Samuel, Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook, the poet Haim Nahman Bialik, Ahad Ha’am, Dr. Chaim Weizmann and many others.

A design for the university campus by Sir Patrick Geddes positioned the university buildings on the slopes of Mount Scopus, below a domed, hexagonal Great Hall recalling the Star of David, as a counterpoint to the octagonal Dome of the Rock in the Old City. This plan was never implemented, but Geddes designed the university library, today the Faculty of Law building. The master plan for the campus was taken over by German Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1935. Mendelsohn greatly influenced the local Jerusalem International Style (Bauhaus).

Notice the living sculpture outside of the Sinatra building that commemorates the nine students killed by a bomb left in the university cafeteria in July 2002, a tree growing out of the ground at an angle, by Israeli sculptor, Ran Morin. The Tilted Tree signifies humankind’s ability to withstand even the most disruptive shocks and to continue to grow upwards.

Prof. Sukenik and his colleagues, including Prof. Nahman Avigad, had planned to open a museum on Mount Scopus in 1948 to display items related to the history of the Jewish people in ancient times. Among the artifacts are ceiling tiles from the ancient synagogue* discovered in 1932 in the city of Dura Europos, located in the desert above the banks of the Euphrates in Syria. Sukenik had been invited by the Yale University team to visit the site (in Syria) and join in the publication of the findings. He was given 3 ceiling tiles that he brought back to Israel. The outbreak of the War of Independence with the result that Scopus was isolated within Jordanian-occupied territory made the opening of the museum impossible.


Sixty-three years later, these painted clay tiles and other artifacts have been put on display, including some half dozen ossuaries, mosaics, clay vessels, etc. from excavations in Israel by members of the Archaeology department. The modest museum is open to the public.

Walk through the botanical gardens organized by Alexander Eig, head of the Botany Department, based on the flora of the Land of Israel planted in 1931 to some caves with Second Temple period tombs. It was here that they found some half dozen ossuaries (the ones displayed on site are replicas, the originals are in the museum) including one with a 4 line inscription in Greek and Hebrew:

[In this ossuary are] the bones of [the family of] Nicanor of Alexandria who made the doors
Nicanor  Alexa

Nicanor is mention in the Babylonian Talmud in Yoma 38a, the donor of the two bronze doors for the Temple. The original ossuary is at the British museum in London.

In 1940s, Pinsker and Ussishkin, early leaders of the Zionist movement, were buried in one of the caves.

Went back to the Jerusalem War Cemetery on Mount Scopus and found the graves of Jewish soldiers who served in the British army during WWI and fought and died here. In addition, I noticed two gravestones of Turkish soldiers.


Visited the memorial at Givat HaTachmoshet to see the model of Jerusalem and how the city was divided in the ceasefire agreement of Nov 30, 1948 signed by Dayan (Israel) and el-Tell (Jordan). Article VIII of the 1949 Armistice Agreements signed by Israel and Jordan in April 1949 called for a resumption of “the normal functioning of the cultural and humanitarian institutions on Mount Scopus and free access thereto; free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives; resumption of operation of the Latrun pumping station; provision of electricity for the Old City; and resumption of operation of the railroad to Jerusalem.” Jordan did not abide to the agreement. There is a movie with original army footage that relates the events that divided the city in 1948 and shows how Israel recaptured the area from Jordan in 1967 and reunited the city.


Olive Park, Ramat Rahel

Concepts of rootedness and disconnection which mark the complex relation of our civilization with the earth are central to the world of oppositions manifested in the sculpture’s plastic form. Olive trees, ancient symbol of strength, fertility and peace, continue their life in a transplanted and disconnected state.

Ran Morin, environmental sculptor

The park lies at an elevated and windy location overlooking Jerusalem and Bethlehem with views over the Judean desert, Herodium and as far as the Dead Sea. In preparing the park, mature olive trees were transplanted in 1987 from the experimental orchard of Prof. Shimon Lavee of the Vulcani Institute in Rehovot. Besides various types of olives that grow in Israel, there are olive trees that originate from Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Argentina and the USA.

In the center of the park is a structure of 3 steel columns covered with basalt stone aggregate that form a triangle, sitting on a stepped platform of concrete and Jerusalem boulders. On the top of the columns, 11 meters in the air, three 80 year old olive trees are growing, supported by a customized drip irrigation system.

Part of the artistic project deals with the properties and spiritual harmonies of the number three: 3 monotheistic religions, 3 forefathers of the Jewish people, 3 Magi who came to visit Jesus, etc. The location at the edge of the desert and near a blood-stained political border connects the different elements in its surroundings and relates to more ancient periods when olive trees and plowed earth were characteristic of man’s intervention in this arid landscape.

Morin’s projects can be construed to have political undertones, mainly because it can’t be avoided in Jerusalem and the areas where he works. Personally, however, Morin tries to stay away from such sensitive issues. It’s hard though: “I am dealing with earth and olive trees and actual places where there are borders. A Palestinian once told me, ‘Okay we don’t have to fight over the land; we can grow the trees in the sky’.”

Yerushalayim shel maala, heavenly Jerusalem. If we could only bring it down to earth.


If you want to meet up with a friend in Jaffa all you have to say is “Meet you at the clock tower”. The clock tower in Jaffa is one of seven built by the Ottoman Turks in 1908 on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the reign of the Sultan abd al-Hamid II. From there you can explore the Flea market and shops and restaurants. There’s a funky restaurant called Pua on 3 Rabbi Yohanan Street. For what some people swear is the best humus go to Abu Hassan’s. For a truly middle eastern taste try the stuffed breads at Abulafiya’s.

There is something else that Jaffa is known for and that is the shamouti orange which is known throughout the world as the Jaffa orange. The shamouti was a new variety developed by Arab farmers after first emerging in mid-19th century Palestine as a mutation on a tree of the Beladi variety near the city of Jaffa. Orange exports grew from 200,000 oranges in 1845 to 38 million oranges by 1870. Today the orchards described by a European traveller in 1872  “Surrounding Jaffa are the orange gardens for which it is justly extolled…” have disappeared in the face of urban development. But walking through the alleyways of Jaffa you can find an incredible sculpture by the environmental Israeli artist, Ran Morin, called Orange Suspendu that reminds us of the connection between the city of Jaffa, the earth and the orange tree and its fruit. Morin has 2 other tree sculptures that are worth seeing in Jerusalem, one at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and one in the Olive park near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel.

From Jaffa, walk north along the promenade to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood that was established outside the walls of Jaffa in 1887 and that some 20 years later grew into the new city of Tel Aviv. Along the way drop in to the old Jaffa train station, that is being renovated and developed into a cultural, artistic and commercial area. For a guided tour of Tel Aviv-Jaffa please contact me. It’s possible to incorporate riding a Segway along the whole length of the promenade as part of your tour.