*Designed with Kwak Chulan
The Tablecloth table stems from an extensive research work that framed Israel as a designed state (more in the article “designed as Israel”, featured under articles). This table explores the technique of layering as used in the design of Israeli landscape by the KKL (Jewish National Fund). It deals with the play of natural and unnatural layers, questioning which is covering which, in the way the question arose in Israel’s planted forests and the ruins of abandoned Arab settlements hidden within them.
The KKL had an important role as a designer of Israeli landscape. In five decades, it planted the trees that covered 900,000 acres of land, thus drastically altering the landscape. At the beginning of the 20th century, Israel was a land of wilderness, rudimentary agricultural techniques and almost no major industry in the modern sense. It was at that time settled mostly by sporadic Arab villages, and there were almost no forested areas to be found. The KKL and the new Jewish state sought to quickly change all that, actually designing landscape as well as infrastructure to better suit their ideals. While these forests were planted for many different reasons, some researchers (notably architect Sigal Barnir, in Shaping Memory, published in 1998) point out the deliberate patterns of the Israeli forests, sanctioned by KKL and the early Isreali governments. More than 80 Arab villages, abandoned during the war of independence and the Six-Day War and subsequently nationalized by the Israeli state and destroyed, have been identified amongst the KKL forests. This research offers the theory that these forests were planted in order to erase the history of those inhabitants, presenting a façade of a new, uninhabited country, which was intended for the Jewish people to re-colonize. Nor was the choice of trees an accidental one. Eucalyptuses were imported to dry the swamps and marshes around the coastline and pines were planted to create a European image of the terrain, a Switzerland in the middle of the desert.
It can consequently be argued that the technique used for the design of Israeli landscape was ‘layering’ – a new natural layer (forests) covering a man-made layer (the Arab settlements). This project aims to reveal the designed nature of Israel, choosing the table as a metaphor, which is inspired by the Hebrew word, Mapa, which signifies both ‘tablecloth’ and ‘map’. The technique used for the design of Israeli landscape mimics the interplay of layers between tabletop and tablecloth, blurring the order of their appearance, playing with the question of which layer is in effect covering which layer.