If you wander off Jerusalem’s main drag, don’t be surprised if you spot an Inukshuk. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if you don’t realize that’s what it is at first. Over a hundred guests of the Jerusalem Foundation gathered at dusk on Oct. 17 in Jerusalem for the big reveal of a giant Inukshuk-inspired Jerusalem stone sculpture created by renowned Israeli artist Israel Hadany.
The Inukshuk, which stands at the entrance to the Jerusalem Foundation’s newly-rehabilitated Canada House, was the inspiration of Toronto lawyer Lewis Mitz, president of the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada. Mitz has long been fascinated by the symbolism of these human-made stone landmarks created by Inuit people throughout northern Canada. The term, as he explained in his talk at the unveiling of the sculpture, means “helper.”
For Mitz, the Inukshuk represents everything Canada House stands for: culture, community, and coexistence. It is also a perfect representation of teamwork and balance. “If you remove one stone, you destroy the integrity of the whole,” he said.
Hadany was one of five finalists in a design contest commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Jerusalem Foundation. The Foundation challenged leading Jerusalem artists to create a sculpture for the Canada House site inspired by the symbol of the Inukshuk. All five finalists’ designs will be on display in Canada House once construction is complete.
Hadany told The CJN that he’d never heard of the Inukshuk before this competition, and was at first hesitant about taking on a symbol of another culture. “My first question was, if Canadians want to put an Inukshuk in Jerusalem, why not bring an original Inuk person to build one here?”
Studying the symbol further, however, he became intrigued with the fact that an Inukshuk is not merely a decorative sculpture, but rather, “It was an information-giving object in the space. Emphasizing a religious space, directing people to where there is good fishing; it’s actually a language. It’s sculpture that creates a language in space.”
Judges for the competition included not only Jerusalem Foundation board members and experts from the Israel Museum, but also representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality and residents of the surrounding neighbourhood, to ensure that the sculpture would fully be accepted as part of the area.
Indeed, Hadany was initially displeased with the planned location for his sculpture. “In the beginning they wanted to put it down there [in the Canada House courtyard, away from the street] and I said no, it has to stand here.”
At his insistence, the Inukshuk was ultimately built on a site where it’s easy to see from the road, and where it will be illuminated at night. “It not only belongs to Canada House and the neighbourhood: it’s part of Jerusalem.”
In a spirit of coexistence aligned with the values of Canada House itself, Hadany collaborated with a Palestinian sculptor he’d worked with before to create the actual full-sized stone monument. “I guided him; I watched what he was doing, but the hands that physically did it were his hands.”
The Inukshuk installation was the culmination of a $4-million Canada House renovation and expansion project kicked off with a gala dedication in Jerusalem in 2013 which included Joe Oliver, former minister of Natural Resources, Senator Linda Frum, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and many others.
Numerous Canadian philanthropists have contributed to the project, including Julia Koschitzky, former president of Jerusalem Foundation of Canada.
“This is an idea that was conceived many years ago,” Koschitzky told The CJN at the event. “Canada House should be a hub for the neighbourhood, for the residents, for diversity, to add vitality and strength to the neighbourhood for residents and visitors alike.”
Koschitzky also praised the contributions of others, including Mitz himself and donors like Shirley Granovsky, who recently dedicated a dance theatre for the centre. “Look around Canada House,” Koschitzky said. “You’ll see the names on the wall of all the people who have contributed to and supported the different programs.”