Eitam Tubul’s light-hearted art project proposes amulets for modern misfortunes such as hangovers, awkward silences or email hacking.
Jerusalem art project “Amulet Authority” places amulets to ward against daily problems such as “ordering during happy hour,” as seen pictured in Jerusalem, Oct. 29, 2018.
Jerusalem has known many masters and many faiths in its 3,000-year history, but one thing has remained a cultural constant: amulets against evil spirits. The modern city abounds with beads, pendants, pictures, strings, jewelry and a wide assortment of talismans — a custom that is shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.
One Israeli artist is tapping into this millennia-old tradition and adapting it for Jerusalem’s 21st-century streets. In homage to this deep-rooted tradition, Jerusalemite artist Eitam Tubul launched the light-hearted “Amulet Authority,” an art project that has produced a variety of intricate plaques designed to thwart modern misfortunes.
Tubul said that instead of competing with traditional amulets, he struck on the notion of mystical remedies for the “very prosaic” problems of modern life. His plaques offer protection against everyday misfortunes such as hangovers, awkward silences and meter maids, or act as good luck charms for finding free Wi-Fi, long cell phone battery life or balanced air-conditioning in the office.
“[These are] things that people know can’t really be solved,” he told Al-Monitor.
Under the guise of officialdom, Tubul has created absurdity. The art project’s website informs visitors that “the amulets passed all the necessary and required references” — of which, of course, there are none. Tubul’s fictitious Amulet Authority bears a logo combining an eye and a fish, two common apotropaic symbols.
“Every month or so, somebody tags the Amulet Authority [on Facebook] in a picture,” Tubul said, chuckling. “Lots of people say ‘these Jerusalemites are totally crazy. They have an Amulet Authority. What’s happening in this city of morons?’”
The amulets are scattered along central Jerusalem’s Hillel Street and around the Mahane Yehuda market, placed at eye level on sandy limestone walls.
“To use the amulet, photograph it and save it as a picture on the telephone in your pocket,” the plaques instruct passersby.
Amulets to ward off evil and ensure good fortune are common to the many peoples who have inhabited the Levant in the past few thousands of years to the present day. Just this week, Apple added the ubiquitous blue eye amulet, common throughout the Middle East and further afield, to its latest batch of iOS emojis.
Over the ages, they have taken on a dizzying variety of forms, from scarab seals with hieroglyphs to inscribed slips of metal or parchment, to colored stones or beads. The oldest known copies of biblical text are etched into two silver amulets dating to the sixth-century BC that were found in a cave outside Jerusalem’s Old City.
“They are a phenomenon in popular culture, and it doesn’t really matter who’s here — whether it’s Christian or Jew or Samaritan or Muslim,” Lenny Wolfe, an antiquities dealer and collector of Middle Eastern amulets both ancient and modern, told Al-Monitor.
Among the local Arab population, apotropaic amulets occupy the realm of folk medicine and magic, filling the void between organized religion and science, and are “an essential part of the Palestinian people’s cultural heritage,” wrote Baha al-Jubeh, a curator at the Palestinian Museum in the West Bank city of Birzeit, in a 2005 article. The museum has an assemblage of 1,400 amulets, talismans and other magical objects from Palestinian communities and around the Arab world collected by Tawfiq Canaan, an early 20th-century collector.
“Arguably, amulets are the ultimate expression of popular culture,” Wolfe said, adding, “It’s an undercurrent in the culture that lasts hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”
The “Amulet Authority” art project was conceived in 2014 during Tubul’s artist residency with Beita, a municipal art center in Jerusalem. He was tasked with creating works that span the divide between the home and public space. He decided on amulets because of their intimate nature and his familiarity with them from growing up in a Moroccan Jewish home.
Tubul, who also teaches graphic design at the Musrara School of Art in Jerusalem, said his amulets adhere to a certain “intuition.” Their eccentric figures combine abstract shapes and lines with Hebrew letters and the occasional word and are inspired by traditional Kabbalistic Jewish designs.
“Every time I start to see that the design is starting to look like something that I understand, I throw it out,” he said. “I make it so that the imagery is meaningless. People really connect to it.”
Of the original 14 amulets placed around the city, several have been damaged or pilfered, Tubul said, including one, ironically, to protect against email hacking.
“I guess someone really needed it,” he said.
Undeterred, Tubul is in the process of designing another seven based on “bizarre” suggestions submitted by Facebook users. One suggestion is an amulet to “to find all the amulets you put up,” but until Tubul erects the new series, visitors will have to explore the streets and alleys around downtown Jerusalem to find them.
The US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.