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PAGE 16A I By Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line RISHON LEZION, Is- rael--"Two interrogators came to my cell and said, 'So, you're the traitor. You are the one who wants to be a white man.' I told them 'No. I'm not a spy just a teacher,'" recalls Yaacov Elias, an Ethiopian Jew and former Prisoner of Zion. He was tortured and jailed for over two years by the Marxist government in Ethiopia for Zionist activi- ties in the late 1970s before moving to Israel..Decades later, he is telling a group of high schoolers gathered in his living room about his experience. "I was tortured six dif- ferent ways and it hurts me just to tell you about it," he says in low voice. "They hung me from a tree and beaf the daylights out of me. They bent my back to my feet till I thought my spine was going to break." Yasmine and Batel, two hig h school juniors inter- viewing Elias, squirm in their seats. Two of their classmates are handing the technical part: Yuval zooms in with his video camera while Yosefmaneuvers the microphone boom. They have taken on the endeavor with two missions. By Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line More than 80 years after he died, the father of Leba- nese modern art finally has a home for his oeuvre and the country is getting its fir.st museum of modern art. It's all thanks to a dona- tion of 30 major works of KhaliI Saleeby to the Ameri- can University of Beirut (AUB) and an equal number of paintings by other leading Lebanese artists of the early 20th century. Together, they will form the anchor of Lebanon's first modern art museum. "He [Saleeby] is consid- ered to beone of the found- ing fathers of Lebanese HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 13, 2012 Ethiopian teens uncover their heritage One is to use an oral history to teach Israeli high school students filmmaking and interviewing techniques by getting the Elias and other former Prisoners of Zion to talk abouttheir experiences. The-other is teach Is- raeli high schoolers, most of whom Were born in Israel to Ethiopian parents, about the heroic struggle of their community in the 1970s and 1980s to leave Ethiopia and come to Israel. Retelling the history aims to boost their self esteem of the men and women who led the struggle as well as the next genera- tion that benefitted by it. "I'm involved because it is important for us. I want to know what our parents had to go through to get to Israel and it is not to be taken for granted that we are here and we need to know this. Especially as time goes on we forget," Yuval Tamano, 16, told The Media Line. Ethiopian-born film- maker David Gavro is guid- ing the students in video, editing and interviewing techniques and serves as a role model. "This video film is a tool really. It's aimed at having them meet their history. I'm the professional and they are experiencing the stories and the encounter with these people. We had kids whose parents were Prisoners of Zion and who knew nothing about it all until we put them before the camera," Gavro says. For the Jews of Ethiopia making the journey to Is- rael, the Promised Landwas not always an easy endeavor. Over 4,000 perished along the way and were buried in unmarked graves in the des- erts of Ethiopia and Sudan. In a stunning feat in 1991, Israel brought over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel one weekend called Operation Solomon. They joined some 10,000 who had managed to arrive or be airlifted in the 1980s. Today, there are an estimated 90,000 Ethiopi- ans living in Israel. They have had a troubled absorption in Israel, since a large number came from farming villages and were unprepared for modern life. Many remain poor and unemployed. The younger generation, however, has embraced Israel, fighting the stigma of coming from an underprivileged com- munity, sometimes at the expense of their being aware of their own heritage or family history. This is where the AT'ZUM, a non-government organi- zation set up about a decade ago to encourage social activism, has stepped in. Launching Project Abrah, ("illuminate" in Amhar- ic), ATZUM has brought together high schoolers, mostly from Ethiopian backgrounds, to interview prominent individuals and Prisoners of Zion from Ethiopia. "We want to bring honor and recognition to the Ethi- opian Prisoners of Zion and immigration to tell stories, and their story isn't know by Israelis society," says Project Coordinator Yael Rosen. "We also want to empower high school students and raise self esteem for those who are Ethiopians so they can know more about their heritage, know more about what their parents went through and know more about their own community and for non-Ethiopiansl re- ally, to give thema w!ndow into the Ethiopian commu- nity which is a community that Israeli society at large has so much to learn from," she adds. Batel Cohen, 17, says she got involved because it was important for people to break out of the bubble of their own lives. "I want to know the stories of other families, not just my own or in my ethnic group," Batel says. "This will help the image of the Ethiopian community a lot. It will show People a side they never saw." Elias is proud of his role in helping bring the bulk of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel in the 1990s. As a youth in the 1950s, he was chosen to come to Israel for school- ing. He was sent back as an emissary and taught Hebrew and Zionism to Ethiopian Jews until he was jailed. He returned to Israel in 1984 and worked to help absorb the community into the country. Elias and scores of others were imprisoned or exiled for their Zionist activities, yet few are awae of this. Prisoners of Zion is a term that was used usually in reference to Jews of the former Soviet Union who suffered the same fate. Today, Elias is retired and lives in a high-rise apart- ment in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv. "Maybe we didn't toot our own horn enough or the media didn't write about us enough," Elias ponders. "Still, it was my fate to be part of this history of im- migration of the Ethiopian Je,wry and their absorption in Israel. I helpeda lot in the areas where I was able to help." Glancing at the teenag- ers in his living room, he told The Media Line he was warmed by the students' interest in their history and says he hopes the film would enhance the image of the Ethiopian community. Many of the Ethiopians dealt with torture and hard- ships they suffered in a way similar to survivors of the Holocaust. But they buried the stories deep inside them and never spoke about it, not even to their own children. "Exactly," says Gavro, the filmmaker. "That's because many times the Jews of Ethiopia went through hu- miliations along the way, they buried a lot relatives and don't even remember where they are buried. So it is an open wound they are trying to forget. There are stories you'll never fathom, difficult stories." Yuval agrees. "When we'd asked our parents they tried to ignore us or say, go to your room. But with this project we have been able to find people who are willing to talk about it and share their experiences with us and per- haps afterwards our parents will share a little with me." The video these students are making will be joined with others and the final film is to be screened in various communal and edu- cational settings, allowing the message to be spread far and wide. Father of modern Lebanese art gets a home modern art, but he is not well known," Henri "Rico" Franses, a professor of art history at the AUB, told The Media Line. "Even though his name is well known, not many of his paintings are well known. We have no real art museums here in Lebanon, so people have not really seen his work." Born in 1870, he went off at age 20 to study in Europe and America. Saleeby died tragically in 1928 when he and his wife were murdered in a'disput over water rights. His paintings were inherited by a relative and for last 80 years the bulk of them have been tucked away in the private home of one of his descendants. A Senior Living Community where Hospitality is a Way of Life. Assisted Living - Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care Variety of Apartment Suite Selections, some with Lake Views ,, kly HaPpy Hour hosted by the Jewish Pavilion " Monthly Shabbat Service Mly Bagels and  luncheon Sial Celebts and Meals during High Holy Holidays or Samir Saleeby, today a retired olehthalmologist, is the donor. Delighted by the paintings that adorned the family home as a child, he later inherited them from his father and over the year rebuffed lucrative offers to purchase pieces. He wanted the collection to stay in Lebanon to be displayed together in a museum. "I loved them and at times talked to them and the men and women that [Khalil] Saleeby made so vivid, and his landscapes I used to talk to because they were so real," he told the BBC World Service. Saleeby's other work that remains in Lebanon is in private collections, so for the first time that ordinary Lebanese will be able to view the work of the founding father of their country's modern art movement. "There are almost no spaces for modern art," Franses said, saying that this did not mean that there vere no galleries showing con- temporary art. The contemporary art scene in Lebanon.is boom- ing, and Beirut is home to scores of galleries and exhibition spaces. But for modernthat is art from the late 1800s to the early 1900s--there are "very, very few places," especially to see modern Lebanese art, Frances said. "We are almost unique I 1301 W. Maitland Blvd. t Maitland, FL 32751 -J 407-645-3990 I www.SavannahCourtMaitland.com in that respect and we are hoping to bolster that col- lection. This is really part of Lebanon's history, artistic history and also a par t of its national history. There are scenes of Beirut painted that no longer exist." Franses said that dis- playing of Saleeby's works will also help today's artist in Lebanon become more aware of their roots. "I suspect they will be fasci- nated by his technical skill. He was really a master oil painter and it just provides one more layer of history, of what was happening inside this country, which has had such troubled history, ahundred years ago." Saleeby's family chose AUB because they felt that in the absence of a national art museum, the university would be able to give it the care and prominence the  paintings deserved. The university is hoping for a summer opening at a reno- vated building located on campus. Conservation of the Bei- rut paintings is currently being undertaken by Lucia Scalisi, the former senior conservator of paintings at the Victoria and Albert Mu- seum. while the entire col- lection has been appraised by Sotheby's, the AUB said. The collection also includes works by Saliba Douaihy (1915-1994), Cesar Gemayel (1898-!958) and Omar Onsi (1901-1969). Saleeby worked with and was influenced by Puvis-de Chavannes and John Singer Sargent. He was mostly a portrait and landscape painter, but he also did nudes, four of which are currently on display in Paris. Four of his works will figure in "Le Corps D6couvert," an exhibition exploring the theme of nudity and .representation of the body at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. "There is nothing cheese- cakey about the nudes. They are all solid figures, bursting out of the canvas and it will be very interesting to see the kind of paintings that were being done in the Middle East in the early part of the 20th century." The. Beirut museum comes at a time when the world-class exhibition halls are sprouting up acrossthe Gulf, with major museums planned in Abu Dhabi that will serve as outposts of Par- is' Louvre and New York's Guggenheim. In Qatar, the most the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Museum of Is- lamic Art opened in Doha in 2008, But in the traditional cultural capitals of the Arab world--Beirut, Cairo, Damascusand Baghdad--a lack of funds and political unrest have left museums ignored when they are not being looted. "I always said that it was important for there to .be Arab art museums in the Middle East. There are none really," Said Abu Shakra, the curator of the Umm Al- Faham Art Gallery in Israel, told The Media Line. "There are good, even great artists and galleries in the Middle East. The problem is that there is lack of awareness  to support local art." He said his gallery has just completed the purchase of the first collection of Palestinian art and hopes to display it next year and eventually in a museum of Palestinian art slated to be built.