In 2016 a new urban outline plan was approved for the City of Holon. As part of the plan, urban renewal is expected to be carried out in the Jessy Cohen neighborhood, where the Israeli Center for Digital Art is located. Following approval of the plan, we decided that in 2016 the Digital Art Conference would be entitled “Pinui-Binui” (Evacuation-Reconstruction), and would specifically engage with urban renewal in the Jessy Cohen neighborhood as well as with more general content on housing, home, and the connection between residents and where they live.

The housing crisis is a burning issue in Israel and worldwide. It is an emotional and practical crisis alike. Underlying it is the undermining of “home” and the fear of displacement, of remaining without a place, without shelter. In Israel, virtually every ethnic community, nationality, or public harbors memories of refugeeism or migration, and it seems that this issue is even more highly charged.

Urban renewal is presented as one of the solutions to the housing problem. In an urban renewal process (including Pinui-Binui and National Outline Plan 38), old and neglected neighborhoods are given a facelift. The buildings, streets, and infrastructures in the neighborhood are improved, and quality of life rises. Many residents pin their hopes on urban renewal and impatiently look forward to Pinui-Binui. The promise of improved quality of life (to live in a tower instead of a tenement block), and the possibility of increasing property value are particularly tempting. But this process is liable to be a double-edged sword. Urban renewal is liable to become gentrification, whereby the neighborhood is improved at the expense of its longtime residents (quality of life indeed rises, but so does the cost of living, to the extent that the original residents are forced to leave).

The Center for Digital Art Conference, the lectures and workshops of which are presented in this issue, provided information on urban renewal processes in general and the processes planned for the Jessy Cohen neighborhood in particular.

The conference focused on four main topics:

  1. A review and critical perspective of urban renewal processes. Introduction to the subject, discussion on the problems or dangers of Pinui-Binui (gentrification, rising cost of living, and so forth) on the one hand, and on the other proposals for establishing a basis for collaboration and coordinating expectations between the various entities.
  2. Practical assistance and advice for residents of the neighborhoods designated for Pinui-Binui.
  3. City and urban renewal. The advantages and disadvantages of employing planning tools to solve social problems.
  4. Art and gentrification. Artists and art institutions have played a part, and still do, in gentrification processes – oftentimes art advances gentrification processes. As an art center committed to influencing and changing political and social reality, it was important for us to investigate theoretically and practically how art constitutes a tool that serves a specific community of residents (and not only the art community).

This video issue of Ma’arav is devoted to the Pinui-Binui Conference and presents most of the lectures and workshops that were held within its framework.