The Orphaned Synagogue in Lomnice, Czech Rep. Built 1780-85

Synagogue in Lomnice.

 1780-85 בית הכנסת המיותם בלומניץ, צכיה

בציור הראשון וישן יותרממוקם בגלות האירופאי. בשניבשיבת ציון. מה שנשאר בעיירההיא רק בית הקברות היהודי. בית הכנסת עבר שיפוץ, ומשמש למרכז תרבות

In the first, older painting from 2012, I placed the  synagogue in the gray European exile. In the second painting from 2014 it is surrounded the Mediterranean fruit trees and sun of home.

בית הכנסת בלומניץ 2014 ציור חנן מזל ירושלים

Bohemia and Moravia once had the densest Jewish population in Europe. Jews were prohibited from living in the same municipality as Christians, and separate Jewish towns and villages were created, usually cordoned off by a stream or wall.

Other than Prague, which also had its own famous parallel Jewish town, Jews were not allowed to live in or near any other cities.

Discrimination reached a new peak under the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. “Familiant” laws were introduced, restricting the number of Jewish households in each locality, and in the country as a whole. Accordingly, only one son per family was permitted to marry. Any secret “attic” weddings among younger siblings were unrecognized and illegal. Their children were considered to be illegitimate, and forced to emigrate at age 14. The mothers were sent to forced road construction as punishment for “wanton” behavior.

The Jewish population froze, and was forced to remained scattered in a vast number of tiny communities. Their physical reminders can still be found today in almost every townlet in the country.- such as this synagogue building. During the 19th century, these residence restrictions were gradually lifted. Most Jews moved to the cities. Many rural synagogues closed.

By the 1930s only 30 Jews were left in the Lomnice. The last sign of Jewish life is in a grave, from shortly before their deportation to Terezin, and onwards to death.

Jewish cemeteries were mandated to be built “over the hill” and out of the sight from Christian homes. The beautiful cemetery dating from the 17th century is well preserved, as are many old homes in the ghetto. The synagogue was used as a warehouse, but has been restored, and now serves as a cultural center and wedding venue.

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And I Saw a Cypress | ואני ראיתי ברוש

Cypress - gouache painting by @Chanan Mazal 2014

And I saw a cypress tree, standing firm in a field. Facing the sun, hot desert winds and frost. Facing off the storm.

The cypress had doubled over, and bowed down to the weeds, without breaking.
And now, that cypress stands up straight up facing the sea, and is still green and towering….

If only I could learn the path of that single tree….

From the upbeat song Brosh / Cypress. Lyrics by Ehud Manor, melody Ariel Zilber.

This happy song ends however with self doubt,
And I am like an infant, broken and incapable. Unable to stand firm, facing the sun, the desert winds and frost. Unable to face the storm. La la la.

Cypress - painting by Chanan Mazal ©2014  Jerusalem

This series reflects the battle between my hidden, wild and naughty exuberance, and my mask of decorum. While painting, I felt as if my own, real life value conflicts, were right at the surface. I enhanced my true confusion, by repeatedly reversing the sense of order and disorder, and of positive and negative images within each painting.

Cypress - gouache painting by Chanan Mazal ©2014 Jerusalem

Tall cypress trees and falling leaves or else tall ladders appear in all paintings. Are they connecting Heaven and Earth? Or perhaps connecting body and soul? Balancing freedom with obligation? Symbols of mortality and the afterlife? Self-discipline and commitment?

Whatever. 

חשבון נפש

Cypress-Gouache painting by Chanan Mazal ©2014 Jerusalem

16 Works in gouache over pencil, pastel and ink, on clay coated wooden panels. 30×30 30×40 and 40×50 cm. Painted in spring and summer 2014.



Before he left us so young, I drank coffee next to the lyricist Ehud Manor and his family in the airport. Several travelers complemented the shy celeb, and interrupting their breakfast.

A cleaning woman, a gold toothed immigrant from Soviet Georgia speaking very broken Hebrew, simply looked for a kind face. She found an unwanted ticket entitling passengers to a free Hebrew language newspaper. From all of the dozens of people around, she chose to ask Ehud to collect one from the news stand, somehow explaining that she wanted her children to practice reading Hebrew.

She sensed correctly whom to pick. Ehud left his coffee, and brought it to her with his modest smile.