Zohar Elmakias

I am deeply interested in cultural exclusion, effacement, and revival.

I am a second-year MA student at the Cultural Studies Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where I work on the politics and poetics of urban space in the context of colonial Palestine and present-day Israel. 

Born and raised in the Jewish-Arab city of Ramla to a family originated in Morocco, I am deeply interested in cultural exclusion, effacement, and revival. As an inhabitant of yet another mixed city, Jaffa, I have been involved as an activist working with Arab and Jewish youth for the past ten years. For the past 2 years I had been also involved – as a writer and editor – with Cafe Gibraltar, an online magazine dealing with peripheral culture within Israel/Palestine, its neighboring countries, and the wider Jewish diasporas in the non-Western world.

Prior to conducting my studies at the Hebrew University, I completed my BFA in Film at Tel Aviv University. For my final project I directed a short documentary film, “Duties of the Heart” (2012), a portrait of a young poet. I also wrote a final paper on Western and non-Western musicological conceptions of time in the films of Spike Lee, soon to be published on the TAU Film Department’s Journal.

My current research project, written under the supervision of Dr. Carola Hilfrich, seeks to explore the cultural evolution of a peculiar site in Jaffa: the Station (“Hatachana” in Hebrew). The first train station built in what is present-day Israel in 1892, the Station witnessed dramatic transformations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. While in its initial form it served a civil function, linking Jaffa to the wider Middle East, the Station was transformed in 1948 into an IDF base and arsenal. Finally, fueled by Tel Aviv’s White City acknowledgement by UNESCO in 2003 as a World Cultural Heritage Site, the Station underwent a vast reconstruction and preservation project. Six years later, the Station resurfaced on the urban map as a modern hybrid space, combining a high-end shopping center and a historical landmark.

Located at the elusive crossroad of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, the renewed Station plays a key role in the long and contested relationship between the two cities. Most recently, this relationship is depicted in a broad and strategic act of history-shaping initiated by the municipality of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.

I wish to explore the means by which nationalist intentions join commercial interests in creating spatial notions of cultures worth preserving, through the flashing out and the effacement of historical layers. I believe the historical and architectural changes the Station has undergone imply a profound notion of what is the function of a place, Makom, in today’s Israel and demonstrates the modes in which it functions in an imperial context, past and present: the Station has been transformed from a place of movement, immigration, and change to a static, fenced and frozen locale, a fortress of immobility.