Jerusalem is, not only for me, an enchanting city. In the spring of 2017, my friend Lukáš Přibyl, who is also the head of the Czech Centre in Tel Aviv, approached me with news that he and Mrs. Francoise Cafri from the Jerusalem Municipality possibly found a way to build an artistic object, a tower, in the centre of Jerusalem. And that it would be a great way of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, as well as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. Of course I did not hesitate, not even for a second.
Right away we set to work and an idea occurred to us: that the tower should resemble a cactus. Why? Well, when a cactus blooms with a beautiful garland of flowers, in its resilient and prickly nature it is a movingly beautiful plant. I found it symbolic. This combination of tenderness and determination was, as I noticed, similar to the character of the people I had encountered in Israel. Furthermore – what do we call Israelis born in this spectacular yet somewhat hostile land, who manage to turn deserts into blossoming gardens? Sabra. A cactus! So, we found ourselves constructing a sabra in order to celebrate the people who possess the strength, courage and toughness, yet also have much love for and devotion to their country.
The tower is topped with a platform where, like with the cacti flowers, individual petals of the outer cladding peel up, allowing visitors to take delight in observing the beautiful environs while sheltered from harsh sunlight or inclement weather. We paid a lot of attention to adjusting the parameters of the tower to the fairytale-like setting of the Hansen House and its gardens – so that it wouldn’t try to outshine the historical building, but rather be a humble companion to the old olive trees and other plants in the garden, as well as houses in the immediate vicinity of the Hansen compound.
To make the project as easy to complete as possible, we manufactured all individual components in the Czech Republic, so they could fit into two large containers. Those were then shipped to Jerusalem and assembled in the Hansen garden according to the design.
The highlight of this entire project is the feeling that our cactus will become a new landmark in a region that is the cradle to the world civilization. Thus, this rather small building will become the embodiment of a deep symbolic message.
Photo credit: Ivan Němec