Updated: Oct 11

Precious Resource Neglected by City

Nestled in the corner of Rechov Tet Vav sits a beautiful sculpture garden, left to the city by Moshe Ziffer, one of Israel’s most prolific artists of the late twentieth century.

At 17, Ziffer, (1902-1989) immigrated to Israel from Poland. After studying sculpture with masters in Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, he established himself as one of Israel’s pre-eminent sculptors. His work was exhibited in galleries all over the country, as well as New York and Brussels.

Recipient of the prestigious Dizengoff Prize three times, he created large monuments of great men like Chaim Weitzman, David Ben Gurion, and his friend Professor Albert Einstein, who said, “I am a stone but you work with stone and I work with figures". Einstein also described his work as "simple and noble as the man who created it."

Moshe Ziffer was an environmental sculptor and worked in stone, wood, and bronze. The park houses several large sculptures, measuring over two meters high and four meters in circumference, and were created between 1961 and 1972. The building housed miniatures of his larger pieces, but the majority of his collection is in Ziffer House at Tel Aviv University.

An accomplished gardener, he connected a synthesis between the local vegetation of Tzfat and installed flowering plants that softened the austerity of the sculptures, organically linking them to the landscape.

In 1984, Moshe and his wife Rachel bequeathed their Tzfat gallery to the municipality. They requested that, in return, the city care for the premises and use the small structure (built in the 1800s), as a venue to assist new artists. Chaim Asoulin, who was the most critically injured survivor of the Maalot Massacre, worked as the caretaker.

Lush and peppered with large impressive sculptures, it was a green, calm space for residents and tourists in an under-parked neighborhood. Local children used it as a play area, and it was a favorite spot to stroll, sit and gather with friends. Inexplicably, the city closed off the two entrances, effectively restricting the community from a valuable resource on public land. It has been walled, gated, and locked. While locals have dug an opening to get in, it has been twenty years since the public has been able to utilize the space.

Overgrown, littered, and neglected, the current condition is in direct conflict with Ziffer’s artistic vision. His magnificent gift is an incalculable asset to the entire city, and it sits abandoned.

Locals met with Mayor Ohana over a year ago with a plan to revitalize the landscape and revive the structure as a music and art venue. After months of conversations, the keys were finally given to a committee of Anglos with permission to start a clean-up.

Volunteer crews from the community went in over the course of several weeks and cleaned and tended to the neglected landscaping. They brought in an expert to evaluate the structure, and plans were underway to program events according to the guidelines set out by the Ziffers.

After a great amount of work had been done, Mayor Ohana visited the site, and the group was told to return their keys. Despite numerous requests, the municipality is yet to discuss the issue or to make any of its own plans public.

It is a showpiece with a storied history that is at the heart and soul of our historic and legendary Artists Colony. As Tzfat struggles to rebuild its reputation as a thriving center with a past rooted in art, it would serve residents and guests alike if it was restored to its former glory immediately.

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