Israeli Artist Paints a Path to Healing

There is something raw about the rough brush strokes in the work of native Israeli artist Rhea Carmi, and about her textured materials, such as sand and stone. But then, there also was a rawness to the tragedy that originally informed and inspired her work.

Carmi lost her brother in the Yom Kippur War and needed a way to cope. When she turned to painting, friends and family told her that she had talent.

The result of this new life path will be on display this summer at the Lawrence Asher Gallery in the museum district of Wilshire Boulevard. Most of the exhibited works will be from Carmi’s “Humanity’s Struggle” series, but there also will be selected works from her “Humanity’s Resilience and Everlasting Spirit” series. The exhibition explores themes the 53-year-old artist has wrestled with throughout her life; the paintings themselves represent her work over the past 12 years.

Carmi’s artistic evolution quickly became about more than confronting the grief of her brother’s death: She’s also had to process warring sides of her personality — the scientist vs. the artist. Carmi studied physiology at Tel Aviv Open University before switching her major to art at Ramat-Gan Institute for the Arts, where she studied under artist Moti Mizrahi, an artist recognized for his conceptual art and use of space, and mixed-media artist Arie Aroch.

“In my work you can see a war between certain characteristics of mine,” Carmi said. “One side of me that wants everything to be in order [with a] vertical flow … like in science. The other is my wild side.”

The paintings in her “Humanity’s Resilience” series utilize Carmi’s chemistry background, tapping into her inner scientist. Jerusalem stone and other raw materials such as sand and rocks recreate the look of antiquity in this series. Through carving into the paint, painting on stone and using ancient Hebrew letters, Carmi creates a cave-painting look that symbolizes the resilience of the Jewish people throughout history. This series is as much about touch as sight; the textures Carmi uses let the viewer feel the layers of history.

Some of the paintings in “Humanity’s Struggle” deal with the universal emotions people experience after trauma or tragedy. Her mixed-media pieces with cookie-cutter figures illustrate the loss of identity that can occur after a tragedy.

One example is “Survivor’s Dance,” a red painting in which various uniform figures dance in a circle, like they are jumping on a trampoline. Carmi described it as a dance of life. The various figures illustrate diverse and individual reactions to tragedy.

An example of her wild side taking over is “Suspended: Humanity Struggles VIII,” with its vibrant primary colors and strong masculine lines, depicting the senseless violence and loss of life in the Middle East. The painting shows several figures being hung. The shock of the subject matter and the rough nature of her brush strokes had museum visitors mesmerized at her last exhibit.

In “Humanity Struggles XXIV,” there are Hebrew letters and a red tzitzit that Carmi said is supposed to look as though it has been soaked in blood. It juxtaposes the struggles occurring in Israel with the calmer constant of Judaism.

“Even though the struggles are very hard, most of the time we fix it. You become stronger and better if there is another disaster because of those struggles,” Carmi said.

Her works, with their vast range of styles, materials and symbols reflect her conflicting sensibilities: “Sometimes one side takes over the other. It depends on the mood…. I could separate my work into the one that comes from my guts and the one that comes from my head. I convey my feeling via the material and the colors and the texture.”

She expects and welcomes a broad swath of reactions to her work.

“People can relate their personal experience to my paintings,” she said, “even though I experience something different than them.”

Rhea Carmi discusses “Humanity Struggles” at the Lawrence Asher Gallery, June 23, at 7:30 p.m. The Humanity Struggles Series (1991-2003), will be on display through July 9 at the Lawrence Asher Gallery, 5820 Wilshire Blvd. Parking available behind 5858 Wilshire Blvd. For more information, call (323) 935-9100.

Cherry Blossoms Inspire Capital Walk

As the Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off on March 26, the spring weather descending on Washington, D.C., makes it great for walking among the cherry-inspired events throughout the nation’s capital. And one neighborhood ripe for a stroll during a D.C. weekend getaway is prestigious Georgetown.

Shady tree-lined streets showcase a treasure trove of historic homes that look much the same as they did when George Washington and Thomas Jefferson walked them. Georgetown is a charming, hip mix of Old South and New North. It’s the getaway of choice for savvy tourists and D.C. locals who want to do more than a visit to the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, or a walk along the National Mall to see the Washington Monument or the Capitol Building.

Established in 1751 in honor of King George II, Georgetown was once part of Maryland until it was annexed to Washington, D.C., in 1871. Dotted with Queen Anne “curb-up” row houses, elegant mansions and Federal townhouses, the neighborhood is a quiet residential community that is home to those making history today. Notables include New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (Whitehaven Street), Henry Kissinger (3026 P St.), Watergate reporter Bob Woodward (3027 Q St.) and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (3322 O St.).

Georgetown is bordered by Rock Creek Park on the east to Georgetown University on the west, and from R Street in the north to the Potomac River Edge in the south, Georgetown is a short walk from D.C.’s “other” trendy neighborhood, Dupont Circle.

Start your stroll by the waterway that defined its prosperity in the early 1800s. Barges pulled by mules floated tons of cargo through the calm and shallow Chesapeake and Ohio Canal until floods sent it into receivership in 1924. Its adjacent towpath is popular with cyclists, joggers, birdwatchers, skateboarders and anyone else who likes to wander through one of the only places you can walk without traffic. In less than 15 minutes on foot, the hustle of the city morphs into the serenity of the countryside. Once you pass under the 34th Street Bridge, vine-covered trees and wildflowers replace the flowerbeds and the bricks. If you’re lucky, you may share the path with wood ducks, beavers, foxes and turtles. It’s particularly busy when the sun sets at 5 p.m.

The oldest-standing building in Washington, D.C., is the Old Stone House (3051 M. St.) that sits incongruously in the middle of the main shopping drag. Built from locally quarried blue granite as a one-room dwelling in 1765, this pre-Revolutionary house has had a few facelifts over the years, including the addition of a second and third floor. Its handsome garden and majestic weeping willows is a patch of tranquility on an otherwise busy street, and an ideal spot to take a load off.

Further down M Street, at Wisconsin, is the gold-domed Riggs National Bank, which dates back to an era when only farmers and mechanics were allowed to use its services. North on Wisconsin to Martins Pub you’ll find the local version of the bar from “Cheers.” Every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush has eaten there since it opened 70 years ago. Although discreet about his famous customers, fourth-generation owner Billy Martin may dish a secret or two if you ask nicely.

The Tudor Place House at 1644 31st St. was purchased with an $8,000 legacy from President Washington, and six generations of Martha Washington’s descendants have lived in this manorial mansion since 1805. Perched on an entire city block and overlooking the former wilds of Virginia across the Potomac River, the long-fronted house with its striking white portico and four tall pillars is one of the notable survivals of Georgetown architecture. A sizeable collection of Washington relics remains and trees planted more than 100 years ago still stand on the sloping south lawn.

Also significant but less grandiose is the three-story chocolate-colored stucco house at 1527 35th St. It was home to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and is believed to be where he contemplated the idea of the telephone. If the walls could talk at the Dumbarton House (2715 Q St.), it would be about that day in 1814 when Dolly Madison took refuge in one of its rooms as the British burned the White House. During World War II, the Red Cross moved in and today it’s a museum owned by the National Society of Colonial Dames.

The first public market in the area stands uptown at 32nd and M streets. Built for butchers, fishmongers and dairy farmers in 1795, the current tenant is quite thematically correct. The gourmet food store, Dean and Deluca, has taken over continuing Georgetown’s love affair with the freshest and the finest.

The Four Seasons Hotel at Pennsylvania and M streets is where people watching is at its finest. Kings, queens, dignitaries, politicos and movie stars pay big bucks for the hotels unrivalled discretion, but if you sit long enough in the lobby there’s a good chance you’ll see a famous face or two.

And then there are those cherry blossoms. If the weather forecasters are right, they should be in bloom by March 26, with celebrations lasting until April 10. This year marks the 93rd celebration of the original gift of the 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, D.C.

Highlights include the Cherry Blossom Opening Ceremony (March 26 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel), Smithsonian Kite Festival (April 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m), Lantern Lighting Festival (April 3. 2:30 p.m. at the Tidal Basin Viewing Area), Cherry Blossom Parade (April 9, 10 a.m. Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th Street), Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival (April 9, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue).

There’s also plenty to do for sports enthusiasts, including Bike the Blossoms tours, Blossoms Secrets Walking Tour, Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race (April 3), Cherry Blossom Festival Rugby Tournament (April 9 -10) and the George Washington Invitational Crew Classic (April 9).

For more information, visit

Jewish D.C

Kosher Restaurants


• Ben Yehuda Pizza.1370 B Lamberton Drive, Silver Spring, Md. (301) 681-8900.


• Carolyn Cafe at The Holocaust Museum, 100 Raul Wallenberg Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. (202) 488-6151.


• Center City Cafe. 1529 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 387-3246.


• Max’s Kosher Café and Market Place, 2319 University Blvd. W., Silver Spring, Md, (301) 949-6297.


• Nuthouse.11419 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. (301) 942-5900


• Pita Plus. 4425-4427 Lehigh Road, College Park, Md. (301) 864-5150.


• Red Heifer Restaurant. 4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, Md, (301) 951-5115.


• Royal Dragon Glatt Kosher Restaurant. 4840 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, Md. (301) 468-1922.


•Â Stacks Delicatessen, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 628-9700.

Hotels With Kosher Options

(The following hotels offer prepared meals for guests through the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington-Vaad.)

Capital Hilton Hotel

16th and K St. NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 393-1000

Doubletree Hotel

1750 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Md.
(301) 468-1100

Grand Hyatt Hotel

1000 H St. NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 582-1234

Holiday Inn Bethesda

8120 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, Md.
(301) 652-2000

Hyatt Dulles

2300 Dulles Corner Blvd.
Herndon, Va.
(703) 834-1234

Park Hyatt Hotel

1201 24th St. NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 789-1234

Washington Hilton Hotel

1919 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, D.C.
(202) 483-3000

Unique Film Flies on

Ami Ankilewitz, 34, weighs 39 pounds. He is lying on the front seat of car, because he cannot sit without support, and he occupies about half of the space that the seat creates. He is wearing leather pants, and sports a tattoo on his arm of the astrological sign Leo, and another that says, "When love flies, the heart dies."

Ankilewitz is an arresting site — bony, angular limbs that hang off a tiny frame and menacing coal-black eyes that stare out of his sharply pointed face. He has just come back from riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the first time — something he has wanted to do for a while.

He could not ride astride the motorcycle and instead had to sit in a sidecar, savoring the experience. "I felt free on the Harley," he said softly, the words straining from a mouth that cannot open properly.

Ankilewitz is the subject of a film being produced under the auspices of the master class program of the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership. The film, which will be titled, "39 Pounds of Love," is the story of Ankilewitz, an American-born Israeli suffering from a severe form of muscular dystrophy that has left him incapacitated, except for the use of one finger.

Although he is unable to support his body weight, and needs an attendant to help him with all basic living tasks — from bathing to brushing his teeth — Ankilewitz has used that one finger to become a successful 3-D animator and to build a business in future contracts trading. Ankilewitz is also a rebel who likes to party, frequenting Tel Aviv bars.

It was Ankilewitz’s defiant spirit trapped in a disabled body that inspired Israeli filmmaker Danny Menkin to tell his story and U.S. producer Lynn Roth to produce it.

The master class, one of the many reciprocal programs of the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, is now in its fourth year. Under the program, Hollywood filmmakers travel to Tel Aviv to give summer seminars to budding Israeli filmmakers from Tel Aviv University and teach them about the industry. Past instructors have included "Father of the Bride" producer Tzvi Howard Rosenman, and "Boiler Room" director Ben Younger.

During the program, the students make a Hollywood-style pitch on a film project, and the instructors critique it.

Menkin pitched a video of Ankilewitz’s story. He had seen Ankilewitz in a bar and mistakenly thought he was some kind of a doll. Menkin started to collect footage of Ankilewitz, which he edited down to a three-minute promotional video.

The video told the story of Ankilewitz’s unrequited love for his Romanian nurse, his desire to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and to travel to the United States to find the doctor who, when Ankilewitz was a baby, told his mother that he had no chance of survival.

"I told the producers I was going to tell them a story they had never heard before, and they all started laughing — they didn’t believe me," Menkin said. "But when they saw the video they said ‘Wow.’"

Menkin’s pitch was successful. Roth watched the promo and burst into tears and vowed to help Menkin make this "My Left Foot"-type road movie.

So Menkin, 32, came to the United States with Ankilewitz, his attendant and a small film crew. They embarked on a two-week road trip across the United States, beginning with Ankilewitz riding the Harley-Davidson and ending with him being united with his brother in Texas and the doctor whose prediction proved wrong.

They shot more than 80 hours of footage, which is currently being edited into a documentary. The footage is raw and emotional. Ankilewitz’ meeting with his brother is happy and emotional, but it also reveals long-held bitterness when the brother in Texas tries to come to terms with the resentment he felt growing up because Ankilewitz received the lion’s share of his mother’s attention.

Menkin, who had been a director in Israel, credits the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership with enabling him to make his first international movie.

"The Tel Aviv-L.A. Partnership introduced me to Lynn Roth, and she opened the door for me here. She is letting us sleep in her house, and she is looking intensively for funding," he said. "The whole thing is unbelievable. I am pinching myself."

Although not all of the money has been raised yet for the film’s budget, which Roth estimated will be $100,000, the producer is confident that the film will make it.

"I want the world to see this, and then I want to be nominated for an Oscar," she said. "Is that so much to ask for?"