Nira Pereg's films, Abraham Abraham and Sarah Sarah (both 2012), follow the temporary "changing of hands" at an ancient and sacred burial site in Hebron on the West Bank that, historically, has been a place of worship for both Jews and Muslims.
Today, 80% of the cave's area is used as a mosque and 20% as a synagogue. However, ten times a year, in accordance with special holidays and under close Israeli military supervision, each side is given full use for 24 hours of the entire cave.
Pereg's film, Abraham Abraham documents such a switch on the occasion of a Muslim holiday in July 2012. We see how, within a matter of hours, the Jewish area is cleared out of all Jewish artifacts, inspected by the army for security, and, then, stands vacant for a few short moments before the Muslims enter with their own artifacts and turn the empty rooms into a mosque for the next 24 hours.
In Sarah Sarah, Pereg filmed a similar switch, this time on the occasion of a Jewish holiday in November 2012 celebrating the parsha, “the life of Sarah.” This unique occasion is celebrated specifically at the cave in remembrance of its purchase as a burial site by Abraham on the occasion of Sarah’s death. Pereg's film shows the Muslim areas being cleared of Islamic artifacts, again inspected by the army for security, and then, after a few short moments, the Jews enter with their artifacts to turn the empty space into a synagogue for the next 24 hours.
Pereg’s films document a process that has never been depicted publicly before, and each was shot under supervision of the Israel Defense Forces. The works continue the artist’s focus on events that help shed light on the complex manner in which belief systems, social rituals, and politics intertwine.
Nira Pereg (b. 1969, Tel Aviv, Israel) received a B.F.A from Cooper Union, New York and an M.F.A. from the Bezalel studio program, Jerusalem. Her work has been included in exhibitions at P.S. 1, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; KW Institute, Berlin; the Israeli Museum of Art, Jerusalem; Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, as well as many other museums and galleries internationally. Her work was also presented at the Shanghai and Sao Paolo Biennials and she is a recipient of the Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation Israeli Art Prize for Young Artists.