A Palace of Windows

photo: Bill Slott
photo: Bill Slott

Yoram Amir Z’L was an artist, an activist, a wedding photographer, a poet, a philosopher, and a shopkeeper in the Machaneh Yehuda market, but he was most of all a lover of Jerusalem and passionately devoted to its international and eclectic architecture. His special obsession was windows, which he collected from abandoned buildings, condemned buildings, and buildings undergoing renovation. He even sought out buildings being demolished to search the site for a gem amidst the ruins. His windows reflected the mind-boggling assortment of cultures, ethnicities, religions, sects, kingdoms, and empires that have left their mark on Jerusalem.

Yoram Amir passed away last March, but his legacy to Jerusalem was a palace of windows that is a featured installation of the Mekudeshet Festival. The name of the creation, “Chalonót Mitgashmìm”, is a play on words which literally means “windows realized” but is only one letter away from meaning “dreams realized.” It is a grand, three-storey fantasy of a palace constructed of 550 of Amir’s windows. It dazzles, moves, and welcomes. I found it in the little pocket park called Gan haSús (Horse Park) at the corner of King George and Ben Yehudah Streets, and was enchanted. It reminded me of nothing so much as Burning Man, the event in Nevada that features several hundred installations, all of which, like Amir’s Palace, are the size of a house, and invite the sensory or physical participation of the viewer.

It was no surprise, then, to discover that the collaborators who transformed Amir’s plans into a reality were two veteran artists of the Negev-based Midburn Event, Lily Peleg and Itamar Falujah. It is through their architectural vision that this glorious palace has become a gathering place in the middle of a city.

When I visited, people were exploring the palace, playing music inside, children were running up and down the steps and waving to friends from the balcony, and families were sitting outside on the grass enjoying a picnic in the shade of its sparkling wonder. In the heart of this city that never disappoints, Jerusalemites rushing home from work stopped in their tracks, and smiled.

Windows are the eyes of a city: They reveal, they invite, they look out at the city during the day, and they haunt a city’s dreams by night. “Chalonot Mitgashmim” makes a statement about cities in general and about Jerusalem in particular, and what an alphabet soup of cultures it has been for over 3,000 years. I spend my career trying to communicate that to visitors, and this palace brought the idea to life without a word.

About the Author
Bill Slott is a licensed Israeli tour guide who has hiked and biked the length and breadth of the country. Bill is a member of Kibbutz Ketura, where he has lived since 1981 with his wife and three daughters.
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