What do they have to say?

One of the biggest inspirations for the Medinat Weimar is the video Mary Koszmary (Nightmare) by Israeli artist Yael Bartana. The video starts with the sounds of the Polish national anthem, and a young man in a suit strides into the huge, empty stadium in Warsaw.

“Jews! Fellow Countrymen! People! Peeeeople!
Return to Poland, to your country!”

In a thundering excited speech, to an empty stadium, he asks three million Jews to return to their homeland to help the Poles deal with their nightmares, and invites them to gather together under the thin blanket the Poles stole from a Jewish girl 60 years ago.

“When you were gone, we were pleased, we told ourselves: At last, we’re alone. But since we still weren’t happy, we always found some Jew to get rid of. Even when it was clear that there were no more of you, there were always some who were still trying to get rid of you. And then what happened? Today, when we look with boredom upon faces that are so similar, we know that we can’t live alone. We need the other and no other is dearer to us than you. So come, take with you what you have and what you’re missing. We miss you. With one language we don’t know how to speak, with one religion we aren’t able to hear. With one color, we can’t see, with one culture, we can’t feel. Without you we can’t even remember”

“It’s a Leni Riefenstahl-style, just turned inside out,” explains Yael Bartana. “An appearance like that of Hitler, but instead of expelling the Jews he’s calling on them to return. It was really exciting at the screening. The audience was quite confused. People came to speak to me; they didn’t know whether to take it seriously or not.”1

Slawomir Sierakowski, an editor of Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), a left-wing journal who brings together people involved in creating a new left-wing formation in Poland, is the speaker and the writer of the speech in the video. “We are Adolf Hitler’s dream- come-true: 100 percent Polish-speaking, we have the same colors, we’re all alike, in literature, culture, architecture. Everything’s so homogeneous that it gives rise to cultural degeneration like incest does and has implications for all kinds of things, such as a very homophobic and negative attitude toward women, homosexuals, abortions. There were once 400,000 Jews in my city and today you can cross all of Warsaw without knowing that other people ever lived here. You don’t hear Yiddish in the streets, there’s no Jewish literature, there are no leftist Jewish traditions, no architecture, no customs, no cuisine. To me it seems crazy. I think about the difference between the country I was born in and the country in which I could have been born. At every opportunity we had, we threw out the Jews. And this is what’s absurd, because most of the intelligentsia was Jewish, which means that we tossed the baby out with the bathwater.”

Seeing Bartanas’ brilliant video, I was deeply moved but also amazed. It felt almost as someone was reading my mind and made the video for me. Since hearing the remarks of the Iranian president about the Jewish state in Europe, I was playing with the idea in my mind and then seeing how well Bartana and Sierakowski articulated it was so exiting. But then I asked myself if I should I keep on dealing with it. Isn’t Bartana’s job done well enough? However, Bartana’s work was relating to Poland and it was connected to a political movement there, working on a national project: automatic restoration of the citizenship of all those who were expelled from or have left Poland. What I was thinking about was Germany as the main perpetrators, “the root of the problem”, in President Ahmadinejads words. In addition I wanted to take it further than the (powerful) speech in a video. I wanted to create a movement, get people active, take the idea to the streets and test it there.

In times of crisis, authorship loses its significance, collective forms of thinking are created and many of the same ideas pop up in different places. Unsurprisingly, I discovered many young Israelis engaging in similar ways to the idea of a Jewish state in Germany.


Novelist Dudu Busi in his book, Mother is Longing for Words from 2006, touches the current German-Israeli-Jewish relationship in a very direct way. The main character of the novel is Ovadya, an only son of Jewish Iraqi immigrants to Israel. Ovadya who served in Lebanon as a paratrooper officer in the IDF, realizes that as a Misrachi (non-European Jew) he will never be treated as an equal and decides to move to Germany. In Berlin, while working in a friends failing shoe store, he comes up with a plan on how to promote sales. “…I took a brush and drew a Star of David on the display window. From the six corners the paint was dripping, and it awoke associations from a dark time in German history. As I was holding the brush, images of the Neo-Nazi beating up the old Jewish man came to my head along with the holocaust pictures I saw during my whole childhood on television…” the provocation worked immediately and attracted much attention. When the store was attacked by neo Nazis, as Ovadya had anticipated, the sales of shoes skyrocketed by good German sympathizers who came to support the “poor Jews”. Clearly the book is a bit more complex than my short description, as well as how Ovadya cynically takes advantage of the situation for making money. But, as in many cases it is not only about money or exploiting the feelings of the “good Germans”. It is not only cynical opportunism, but its also ideological.

“I have a right to arouse a provocation. I am not a settler on German land. Although, if I have lived here sixty years ago, as a punishment on the genocide that those Nazi bastards carried out, I would have demanded from the free world to expropriate a small unsettled part of German land and established there a Jewish state”2…”when an Aryan comes into my shop and leaves their money in my cashier something inside of me says: you, the Germans, who didn’t want the Jews, who feel and felt so part of the European culture, instead you got a proud Misrachi Jew working inside of you, and consciously overstresses the stereotypes that you stuck on us – arrogant, manipulator and greedy. And most important, they can’t do anything against that.”3

Looking at his Iraqi parents, eating the kosher food they brought with them from Israel, sitting in his designed apartment in Berlin, Ovadya reflects on the history of the Jews in the twentieth century:

“I thought of that strange secular European who wanted to establish a Jewish state in the hot Levant full of traditional Moslems. No question the dream turned into a nightmare. I thought about the great missed opportunity of the Jewish people… a Jewish state should have been established on a small part of German land after the fall of the third Reich as a punishment on the genocide that the Nazi carried out, not in Palestine. If they would have insisted… the Jewish people could have an independent neutral state in the heart of Europe. We could have avoided the endless conflict with the Arab world, the Jews from the Moslem countries could have kept living in their home in peace, or at least visit there as they wish. And maybe, the world would have been spared the radical Moslem terror that started develop at the time of the first Zionist immigrations, grew with the establishment of the state, grew more after the occupation of sixty seven, and today terrorizes the whole western world.”4

When Ovadya shared his thought with his parents, his father made it clear just what he thought of such mad ideas:

“What do you know about life? You should be ashamed! A Jewish state in Europe? Who put that crazy idea in your head? If there would be a Jewish state here, there would be another holocaust”5


Musician Daniel Khan in his song takes the idea of revenge to a much more direct conclusion in his song Nakam. The song is about the aborted plan, devised by one of the leaders of the Vilna Partisans, Abba Kovner, to take revenge on the Germans after the war, by poisoning their water supply and extracting an equal number of German victims to match those who were sent to their death in the camps. It’s a very uncomfortable and incredibly strong story that challenges our ideas about healing, history, victimhood and the place revenge plays in history.

Press to hear Nakam

In nineteen hundred forty five
Among the Jews who were left alive
There came a visionary man
Who turned his wrath into a plan

Abba Kovner was his name
As a partisan he earned his fame
He was a Vilna rebel Jew
A poet warrior through and through

He met some surviving ghetto fighters
Zionists and socialists conspired
They gathered in a Lublin flat
And round the kitchen table sat

They gave themselves a Hebrew name
And with this word they did proclaim
That vengeance is what god would will,
Were there a god, and so they’d kill

Six million Germans
You might say it was insane
Six million Germans
That it was misdirected pain
Six million Germans
They didn’t want the war to end
Six million Germans
They wanted one thing- Nakam: Revenge
For every Jew the Nazis gassed
For every racist law they passed
For every wrong that wasn’t right
For all the dead Nakam would fight

They formed a band of forty strong
To straighten out what had been wrong
They chose to poison water mains
Just as the Jews of old were blamed

In Nuremberg and Hamburg town
Their agents worked the underground
They took up jobs by the riverside
And waited for the poison to arrive

And Kovner went to Tel Aviv
To see what help he could receive
But the Haganah did not agree
To join in his conspiracy

Six million Germans
You might say it wasn’t right
Six million Germans
An eye for and eye leaves all without sight
Six million Germans
They didn’t want to make amends
Six million Germans
They wanted one thing- Nakam: Revenge
So Abba Kovner headed back
With viles of poison in his sack
Upon an English navy ship
But to his plan the brits were tipped

They took him into custody
And the poison fell into the sea
Kovner spent a year in jail
And so plan A did not prevail

The rest of the group it was dispersed
And all their backup plans were cursed
But an agent in a bakery
Secured some poison from Paris

As soon as the poisoned bread had risen
He took it to an allied prison
And various reports have said
There were hundreds of SS prisoners dead

Six million Germans
You might say that it was wrong
Six million Germans
But were their actions weak or strong?
Six million Germans
And who are we to judge and condemn?
Six million Germans
They wanted one thing- Nakam: Revenge
And so Nakam was all disbanded
On Palestina’s shore they landed
And Abba Kovner and his crew
Became like many other Jews

They put aside their rage and hate
And worked to build a Jewish state
With Jewish towns and Jewish farms,
Jewish guns and nuclear arms
Can vengeance put upon a shelf
Be taken out later on someone else?
Well be careful how you read this tale.
‘Lest your own prejudice prevail

For look around the world today
And consider the role that vengeance plays
‘Cause history has its unpaid debts
And is it better if we forget?

Six million Germans
You might say it was absurd
Six million Germans
But what becomes of a debt deferred
Six million Germans
How could they just start again?
Six million Germans
They wanted one thing- Nakam: Revenge

Daniel Kahn is clearly not letting the Germans off the hook, yet he is more interested in asking what is growing inside the hearts of we who are the children and grandchildren of the victims, and how we live with a history of “unpaid debts”. In his album Dos tsebrokhene loshn (the broken tongue) Kahn’s song Son of Plenty asks what it means to have an inheritance of victimhood, while not being a victim oneself. And what does it mean to be the grandchild of perpetrators when one is not guilty of anything except being born into a troubled national legacy?

So speak not of your righteousness for though you may be true
The tree of evil might just have its seed inside of you
Waiting for the proper time to bloom
& we the chosen children of this martyrdom must learn
That martyrs turn to murderers when tables have been turned
& history repeats its bloody tune


Michael Blum, an artist born in Jerusalem and now living in Austria, in his project Exodus 2048, returns to the initial fears that that lay in the heart of so many Jews. Similar to Michael Chabon’s Novel “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” where the Jews who found refuge in Alaska are again on the way to being homeless, just looking for a place to lay their heads. Blum’s work recreates the situation of the wandering Jew with no home as well as making a reversal of Zionist utopian ideas so that Zion in the future is placed in peaceful Europe.

Year 2048. The US no longer play a prominent role in world politics. After the wars of Afghanistan, Irak and the guerilla warfare imposed by Al Qaeda over the years, American leaders have decided not to intervene any longer in the affairs of the world and consequently withdrawed all support to Israel. In addition, the demographic balance has been shifting in the Middle East. Palestinian population has tripled in the last 50 years and is bursting out of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The pressure of Arabs over Israeli Jews has become so strong that the latter, having lost the support of the US, have no other option than leave the Holy Land and emigrate. Some sporadic fights take place but, like the Arabs who hardly fought in 1948 (according to popular belief), the majority of Israel’s population leaves without opposing resistance. While an Israeli government in exile tries to rule from Brooklyn, New York, other Israeli representatives successfully negociate with the UN the re-location of the state of Israel in Uganda, as proposed by Theodor Herzl in 1903. A majority of Mizrahi, unable to return to the countries of origin of their great-grandparents, accept to relocate in the New State of Israel. Nonetheless, a large number of Ashkenazim, wealthy and educated members of society, refuse to settle in Uganda. Some manage to be granted a visa to the US – despite a drastic visa policy – and join their families all over the 50 states. Some others spread over Europe and South America, depending on their connections and opportunities.

It’s in this context that the Exodus 2048, a Maltese ferry, is found roaming in the North Sea with about 4 500 Israeli refugees aboard. Rejected from many European ports, it is finally allowed to dock in Rotterdam after a heated debate in Dutch parliament. Initially not allowed to disembark, the refugees are eventually accomodated in a variety of public buildings requisitioned throughout the Netherlands. The Van Abbemuseum being one of the requisitioned buildings, it now hosts a group of 113 Israeli refugees awaiting the result of their asylum application. They hope to receive, with their resident permit, a piece of land to establish a kibboutz named Eretz Hoven, which should revive the utopian spirit that led to the creation of the first kibboutzim in pre-Israel Palestine.
The installation consists of two parts: a dark maze which contains 6 lightboxes displaying press dispatches telling the story (ground floor), and a whimsically staged refugee camp (clocktower).

exodus 2048

Blum’s project touches on the many fears that are expressed regularly by those who concerned with the fate of Israel, its reliance on the USA and gentiles in general for security, the Moslem threat, the tension between Misrachim and Ashkenazim as well as the betrayal of the Europeans. Yet, Blum returns to the utopian spirit of the kibbutzim and gives hope through the spirit of renewal of building something new.


Soon after] Medinat Weimar became public , we received a message from Amit Epstein, an Israeli artist living in Berlin, telling us that he is working on a similar project. When Epstein sent me the proposal of his project it shocked us. The resemblance of his proposal to Medinat Weimar is astonishing. This excited but also scared us; he was asking the same questions I was. I had to ask myself why so many artists are dealing with this issue. Are building such alternatives more than just a game, an exercise of thought? Do we really need to start thinking about our Jewish state in Germany seriously?

“Bundesland Israel” is a performance/ exhibition happening in Berlin. It is a respond to Iran’s Prime Minister Achmadinijad interview, in which he claims that if the alleged holocaust is the reason for the state of Israel’s existence, then it should be taking place in Europe, on the land of the people who are directly responsible for it, and not on the territories of the Palestinians. I take the prime minister seriously, being one of the far most visible diplomats in the world’s political affairs of today; therefore I – an Israeli artist living in Germany – will try to check out the possibility of grounding a new and improved version of Israel, on German land.

There are, of course, many important questions to be dealt with, for example;
Where exactly in Germany should it be established, and under which terms?
Does it have a full autonomy, or is it obeying to the German constitution?
Does it reawake the original Zionist ideal, invented in Europe, or does it forsake the idea of Zionism all together, and finds other common grounds?
Does the flag, the hymn or the language stay the same? If not, which ones replace them?
Is it a state limited to Jewish people, or is it open to Israeli Arabs as well? Is it open to non Israelis at all?
What about Jerusalem? Can it be replaced? How would the new capital city of new-Israel looks like?

Based on over 50 years of experience, I would like to invite Israeli and German artists, architects, musicians, authors, poets, philosophers and others, of various ages and backgrounds, to take part in this theoretical trial, researching the possibilities of making Achmadinijad’s dream true – an Israel away from Israel, a new political situation in middle east. Will that help forwarding world peace? After all, it is known that the majority of people in Europe take Israel to be the responsible for the highest risk to world’s peace. How will it be then accepted on European territory? Will the future of new-Israel follow the steps of the Jewish community in Europe? If so, will it be more like the golden age of prosperity, or will it bring up a second holocaust upon the returnee Europeans?

The intention is to first form an office, in charge of collecting information both in Israel and in Europe generally, but specifically in Germany, for example:
How does this idea sound to people on the streets?
Who will take part in it? Who is against it, and who supports it, and for which reasons?
How many Israelis have already regained their European passports?
How much money has Germany invested in Israel? How much does it still pay, and for which purposes? How will it work when Israel is a member of the German Bundeslaender?

The second phase will be approaching possible participants with certain questions, asking them to respond or reply in either an artistic manner or in a text.

The third phase is curating this presentation of new-Israel (or Bundesland Israel), to be an open exhibition. The opening of the Exhibition will be celebrated in a formal diplomatic way, with guests of all relevant countries, including the Iranian PM Achmadinijad, the German Kanzler Merkel and the current highest political representers of the Jewish people around the globe (meaning not only Israel’s, but the American community, the Russian community etc.)

The fourth and final phase will be a symbolic performance in which the corner stone of Bundesland Israel is founded, and a ceremony with speeches and an entrance ritual is obliged on all visitors.

All of the phases will be followed by a documentary film maker in total clearance. On top, I will be in contact with various media systems through which we will inform the public of how people can contribute to the conclusions and development of the research.


In the last section I mostly related to the state of Israel and the alterative that is needed for Israelis. However, anti-Jewish oppression is still very common worldwide and centuries of institutional anti-Jewish doctrines do not simply disappear. Sometimes people think the oppression of Jews stopped being a problem after the Holocaust, but one just has to look at the global picture starting at Russia, moving to Muslim countries and on to football stadiums in everywhere for example.

Anti-Semitism is still used by mainstream politicians and rebel forces alike that expose “the Jews” to prove they will speak truth to power. Even in the U.S., where Jews have had 200 years of exceptional physical safety, it’s a background hum: be it rumors placing
Jews or Israelis behind 9/11, the hit film that restaged the “Passion plays” which sparked annual Easter massacres of Jews in medieval Europe, or theories arising amid growing public disenchantment with the Iraq war that it was fought for Jewish or Israeli interests.

The point is not that the Holocaust is on its way back; in fact, several other oppressed groups are in more imminent danger as we speak. Rather, it is about a status quo in which anti-Jewish theories are ‘common sense’ in countries around the world, and that is a serious problem.

It’s not the place of this post to prove that anti-Semitism still exists or that Jews are in danger and must be saved immediately. I would just like to point out the project is not only talking about Israel and relates to the Jewish problem worldwide.


1 Aviva Lori, Breaking the wall of indifference, Haaretz, 1.5.2008
2 Dudu Busi, Mother is Longing for Words (2006) p. 84
3 Ibid p. 88
4 Ibid p. 98-99
5 Ibid p. 99



BaJah Senger added these pithy words on Jun 25 08 at 17:25

I am deeply impressed by the light on life there is in this work. Congratulations!

I wonder when is people, both in communities and individually, going to start thinking as human beings, with all it means in terms of responsability for humanity, instead of thinking in terms of useless pretended samaritanism for whoever the victims, fear and selfness, distorsing any happenings to form the tale of history beyond these emotions and not expansive circunstancial states. These emotions with no fate of improving as a person nor understanding are really not the thing we are claimed to promove, as human beings.

Rocío Martin Ruiz-Jarabo added these pithy words on Jan 14 09 at 17:54

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