The Ilana Goor Museum Building in Tel Aviv
The Museum building stands on a hill in Old Jaffa and constitutes an architectural pearl and a work of art in itself with its unique view of the Mediterranean Sea. The Museum experience allows the visitors to depart on a fascinating journey which starts in the 18th century. The building was constructed in 1742, as the first Jewish home outside of the Jaffa walls, by Yaakov Zonana, who served as the head of “Committee of Officers in Kushta” in Constantinople and took care of the financial debts of the Jewish community. The original function of the building was as an inn for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Apart from it being a half-way stop for the pilgrims, it also served as a shelter protecting them from robbers, who roamed the walls of Old Jaffa.
In the second half of the 19th century, the building served as a factory for the manufacture of soaps and perfumes based on olive oil which was, at that time, a major export for the Land of Israel.
In 1949 the building was used in part as a synagogue for a community of Libyan Jews. In the fifties, new immigrants from the Balkan States were housed in Jaffa and the Museum building also served then as housing, under difficult sanitation conditions, without a regular supply of electricity and water. In the seventies, Old Jaffa attracted many artists who decided to live in the area and to open small, unique galleries there. Ilana Goor also came to the area and in 1983 purchased a small part of the ancient building which served her at that time as a private residence. At the start of the nineties, she decided to open a Museum in Israel in which she would be able to display her artworks and her huge art collection. In due course, she purchased the rest of the building without knowing what was contained in it. She immediately began intensive reconstruction work which took three years during which she found some sensational discoveries including pieces of actual information which verified records found in historical documents.
Restoration of the Ilana Goor Museum Building in Tel Aviv – Israel
At the start of the nineties, Ilana Goor decided to open a private museum in Israel in which she would be able to exhibit her artworks and her huge art collection. Whilst she lived for 40 years in New York, due to her affinity to Israel and the strong roots she had there, the final location of the Museum was only natural for her. Therefore Goor purchased the remainder of the building without knowing about the enchanted treasures it contained. She started the reconstruction and renovation works which took about three years while faithfully maintaining the ancient style of the building. It was abandoned, deserted and neglected and she needed to make a hole in the wall in order to enter for the first time as there was no door. When the exhausting works were finished the building was opened as a private museum in 1995.
During a visit to the Museum, visitors can see for themselves and find the areas that were reconstructed and those that were preserved. For example, as there was no appropriate flooring in the entrance space of the Museum, Ilana Goor went looking for authentic floor tiles which would correlate with the character of the building. She found, in a mission in Bethlehem, similar tiles from the time that the building was constructed, and offered the owners new tiles instead of the old ones so that she could assemble them in the upcoming Museum. Some of the arched openings inside the building remained as they were and were reinforced by new additions and some were rebuilt using the same architectural technique.
During the renovation of the building sensational discoveries were discovered which constitute historical documentation of the various incarnations and functions of the past. Concealed rooms, openings, hidden brick walls were discovered one after another; the more that Ilana Goor researched one clue, other clues followed.
One of the sensational discoveries in the building was an ancient stone oven found in the basement, in which the Museum Shop is presently located, which constitutes an authentic relic of the lengthy production process of the soap and perfume which were produced in the ancient building. The chimney opening of the large oven was discovered during the renovation of the building when one of the workers accidentally slipped into it. In this way the hidden basement floor was exposed, which had been sealed up many years previously by the family that operated it. Ilana Goor decided that she would leave it as it was in its original form and now visitors can envisage for themselves the activity of the factory while the chimney gave out the aroma of the cosmetic products produced from olive oil made in the Land of Israel.
In 2010 some of the cement started to flake from the ceiling of the Sculpture Room. As part of the Museum’s maintenance program, Ilana Goor was quick to repair it and examine what was concealed under that same cement. During the repair works a unique ceiling from the original building, constructed in the 18th century, was revealed in all its glory. The decorative ceiling, which has the appearance of a lacy fabric, was constructed using the “beehive technique” method. It is comprised of tens of amphorae (clay pitchers) which were impressed into the cement in order to support the massive weight of the ceiling and insulate the building from heat and cold.
Other meticulous searches for this splendid ceiling in other places in the building took several months and were carried out using special work tools designed for archeological projects. Eventually, an additional amphorae ceiling was found in the building in the kitchen area.
In the period that the ceiling was constructed it actually had a practical function but today visitors can enjoy it as a decorative motif, when it awards the space a sense of unique lightness. Many amphorae were found in the Old Jaffa Port located at the foot of the Museum, which verified the findings regarding the ceiling’s origin.