National parks in the service of nation building: The pioneering work of Lipa Yahalom and Dan Zur in Israel
My time at Dumbarton Oaks has been one of the most productive and stimulating/enjoyable periods of my academic career. The fellowship provided three important resources. First and foremost it granted the time, space and peace of mind that are essential to think and write. The result speaks for itself: during the course of the year, I submitted 5 journal papers, presented 3 lectures, and co-edited a book (forthcoming October 2011, in Hebrew), all of which form part of the legacy of Lipa Yahalom and Dan Zur in designing Israel's national parks and the inherent ideological gap between their urge to develop and beautify the country's barren landscapes, and their obligation to preserve the landscapes of its past as cornerstones of identity and belonging.
Time is a rare asset for anyone immersed in teaching and administrative work, but Dumbarton Oaks adds yet another benefit – offering it in an intellectual and beautiful setting. Discussion with John Beardsley, J.D. Hunt, my fellow fellows Sonja Duempelmann, Anatol Tchikine, James Schissel and James Nisbet and Mike Lee, and outside colleagues, deeply inspired new insights of my current research and informed future explorations. The library offered access to historical and contemporary resources (and human attentive help) unavailable elsewhere. It helped to anchor my research in a broader theoretical scope of landscape design, but also it initiated a deeper exploration into Byzantine studies, resulting in a paper on Caesarea as a test case to landscape design in a multi-layered archaeological site. The beautiful garden proved to be a complementary essential asset to the mind and the soul.
The third resource while at Dumbarton Oaks was indirect, yet invaluable. It included living in the rich cultural setting of Washington DC, and the opportunity to visit, at the end of the fellowship, national parks across the USA. Both experiences have transformed my understanding of the American landscape and of the American people, and informed my perception on designing national parks. I am grateful for all.