A Piece of Historyby Yuval Saar | 16.04.15
The first product of ‘A Piece of History’ was designed by Asaf Harari, back when he was studying economics and political science at Tel Aviv University. It was a ‘Herzl Action Figure’ in the image of Benjamin Theodor Herzl leaning over the balcony in Basel. The large enthusiasm over the piece made Harari understand that there was demand for more items like it in Israel and abroad.
“My main goal was to conduct a type of ‘revolution’ in the field of Israeli/Jewish souvenirs – to design products with a bit of humor and a western-modern vibe that could be an alternative for the traditional Judaica objects”, he says. “In our days, a young person doesn’t have the opportunity to decorate his home with artifacts that characterize his national culture; whether he defines himself as Jewish or Israeli. There are very few objects with an Israeli identity, and Jewish objects can only be found in Judaica, which is looked at as something old, religious, grey and dated”.
His love for Jewish/Israeli folk culture, gift shops, pop art and vinyl figures (common in the United states), lead Harari to try to modernize the historical culture of the State of Israel and Judaism in general. Therefore, after the success of his Herzel figure, he decided to continue on and design a figure series of national leaders named “Zion’s Action Figures”, that includes the figures of Menachem Begin, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan.
“The figures are made out of vinyl and come in a package that includes a description about historic leader. The development of the series was done alongside the development of the overall business concept that included creating a fresh and modern image while designing other products such as t-shirts and posters. I believe that souvenirs, figurines and collectives are an integral part of the cultural identity of a state, and perform as its window. They contribute not only to the way the country looks outwards (towards tourists), but also, if not mainly, to the county’s self image. That’s the small contribution ‘A Piece of History’ has to the local Israeli folk culture.
“Today the artifacts are sold in about 20 museum stores and tourist shops around the world, in addition to a virtual gift shop where t-shirts and posters are sold alongside the figures of the national leaders and other items. The newest design is a series of tiles and miniatures of the kings of Israel. The tiles are a set of three ceramic tiles – ‘when art deco meets Israeli landmarks’, that display Masada, the Sea of Galilee and the David tower. ‘KINGS’ is a set of three miniatures of Israeli biblical kings – Saul, David and Solomon – that are decorated with a passage and an object, reflecting on the character”.
What are your plans for the future?
“In the short term a figure of Ze’ev Jabotinsky will join the Zion’s Action Figures series this upcoming year, in addition to another special product that is still to early to expose. In the long run I hope to continue to grow, design and develop other products that could hopefully find themselves in every home in Israel and in every Jewish home abroad”.
“Unfortunately, because of subjects I deal with – Judaism, Israel, and Zionism – I am forced to face criticism and anti-Israeli messages on a daily basis. I very much try to stay out of politics, both in my design style and in the array of the products I create, but the audience finds it difficult to avoid those topics, and truthfully, it’s pretty understandable why.”
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Another version of this post was originally published in Hebrew on http://byfar.co.il and translated by Yuval Regev.