We went for lunch in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestine authority, where we learned more about the impossible and hopeless intractability of relations (or non-relations) between Israel and Palestinians, ever since the breakdown of the second Camp David negotiations when the two states got close to agreement about the settlement of boundaries not once, but twice; but, also, the liveliness and intelligence of the Palestinian artistic community. We had a very articulate defence of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), but it sounded more like a negotiated agreement between equals, clearly highly desirable, not a blanket boycott:-
We were taken round Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, in the morning, designed by Moshe Safdie and opened in 2005, a large underground cavern which documents in harrowing detail all aspects of the Final Solution, including photographs of the perpetrators and documentation from the death camps, including Auschwitz, Birkenau and Terezin:-
We spent most of the day in the major Jerusalem Museums. First, in the Museum of Islamic Art, which was founded in 1974 by the daughter of a Lord Mayor. I particularly admired the medieval chess pieces:-
After lunch we walked to the so-called Hansen House, a former leper hospital which only closed in 2009 and retains one room as a memorial to its former use:-
Later we went to the Israel Museum, the grandest of Jerusalem museums, laid out in the mid-1960s by Alfred Mansfeld on strict Bauhaus lines and recently added to by a New York architect James Carpenter in such a way as to respect the original.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are housed in a separate building:-
I liked the surrealist exhibition No Place Like Home, rehabilitating Duchamp with work by Yayoi Kusama:-
And Janine Antoni:-
And Louise Bourgeois:-
We ended by going down into the stores:-
In order to see the Angelus Novus (1920), originally owned by Walter Benjamin, bought by him for 1,000 marks from Paul Klee in 1921, then given by Benjamin to Georges Bataille with an instruction that it should go to Theodor Adorno who kept it until his death in 1969. Benjamin wrote about it in his ninth thesis on the Philosophy of History, published in 1940, in which he wrote, ‘This is how the Angel of History must look’:-
The official tour this morning took us to nearly the same places I had been to last night, beginning with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where I was able to admire the quality of the capitals outside:-
And the door furniture:-
Then we walked through the market to the Wailing Wall:-
But it felt intrusive to take photographs of the Wailing Wall.
Based on a belief that the best way of exploring a city is to get lost, I did just that, entering by the Jaffa Gate, wandering through the Shuk, taking a few side alleyways, admiring the accumulation of ancient remains until I found myself in a courtyard outside the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate:-
I was directed to take a short cut through a subterranean chapel:-
And found myself outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where evensong was in full swing:-
Some time ago I was asked if I had ever visited Israel. The answer was no. Then I was asked if I would be interested in doing so. The answer was yes. I received early instruction in the Old Testament and retain murky memories of plates in family bibles of the Holy Land. Before university, my parents wanted me to stay on a kibbutz; I wanted to go on a motorbike to Jerusalem. One of my first teachers of history is now a Rabbi in Paris. I missed the Bizot group visit to the Israel Museum and have never seen the Bauhaus houses of Tel Aviv. I have been the beneficiary of long-term support from those who are deeply associated with Israel and its institutions. Why not ? I discovered that it was a leading question following the publication of a letter in the Guardian which called for a total cultural boycott. Not long afterwards, I was invited to visit by Culture for Coexistence, a group which exists specifically to encourage a better understanding and knowledge of the cultural politics of Israel. So it is that I am with a group of fellow neophytes struggling to understand the impossible complexities of Israeli and indeed Palestinian history, politics and culture.
Reference to Terence Davis and his book about Tunbridge Wells made me check whether I could find out anything about him, other than what I could remember as crumbs from his dinner table. He was born in the Midlands and must have inherited quite a bit of money, although this did not prevent him complaining endlessly about the cost of feeding and, more especially, supplying drink to his many friends. I think he might have trained as an architect at the Bartlett because he was sufficiently good as a designer to have designed his own library in Wadhurst and he had a good eye. He worked for a time at House and Garden (I think) before embarking on a biography of John Nash. He and his partner, always known as The Baron, lived in a grand first floor apartment in Cornwall Gardens before moving out to the country. He was very generous to us when we were no more than kids and it was in his company that we met, amongst many others, Rebecca West and Steven Runciman.