“Immersion indicates the abandonment of one form of existence to embrace one infinitely higher. In keeping with this theme, immersion in the mikvah is described not only in terms of purification, revitalization, and rejuvenation but also -- and perhaps primarily -- as rebirth.”

                                          ~Rivka Slonim, Total Immersion

 

"WELLS OF MIRIAM" is a photography series exploring the hope of pure water becoming available for all who need by transforming parched desert lands into water-retention landscapes.  These landscapes are mikveh, ritual waters of transformation in Jewish tradition.

Mikveh had a many meanings. In Hebrew, the word means not only "immersive bath" but also "gathering" and  "hope."  In the prophetic tradition (Jeremiah 17:13), "God is [our] mikveh."  We can understand these ancient words to mean that spirituality – symbolized by pools of living water – is both our hope and our source of transformation.

Not only we ourselves but also the whole planet need transformation.  Clean water, and the life and nourishment that clean water provides, are inaccessible to countless millions as landscapes once green and lush become polluted and parched.  Slowly, we are learning that humanity must shift our behavior,  so that clean water and spiritual clarity both can flow in needed abundance.  One innovative way is through water-retention landscaping, which can rejuvenate environmental damage and provide a sustainable source of water, food, and new life.  This environmental design practice also provides a space for spiritual renewal.  The overlay of environmental design and spirituality itself is a source of transformation – a mikveh in mind, vision, spirit, heart, ethics and action.

Emily first learned of water-retention landscaping when she traveled to the Tamera Peace Research Center, in a desert region of Portugal. Using these environmental design practices, Tamera transformed parched land into the deep and flowering springs in this photography series. The Tamera landscape is a series of interconnected areas of natural materials that help parched land to absorb rainwater, which seeps deep into the Earth to rejuvenate the landscape.  The result is a series of pools of pure water – a string of mikveh pools – that transform and replenish the land for renewed life.  Like the first Biblical creation itself, when "water below the sky gathered so that dry land may appear" (Genesis 1:9), the mikveh creates and sustains new life.

Bernard Mueller, Tamera’s water specialist, observed that “There are no regions of human habitation unsuitable for the construction [of a water retention landscape], especially areas of low precipitation. The greater the length of time between rainy periods, the more urgent the development becomes.”  No place is beyond the hope – the mikveh – of reclamation and transformation.

Jewish legend records that Miriam, prophetess sister of Moses, heralded water for the Israelites traveling in the desert from bondage to redemption.  WELLS OF MIRIAM imagines that the spiritual essence of Miriam – the hope of planetary and spiritual transformation – travels with us still.  We can immerse in the ever abundant spiritual flow, the pure potential of creation and transformation, and make the whole world like a mikveh – a pool of pure hope from which renewed life flows anew.

(edited by Rabbi David Markus)

Book this photography exhibit at your shul or JCC. 

View more details at

www.jewishartsalon.org/emily-stern

Sepp Holzer and Bernd Mueller explain the construction, the effect and the basic ideas for the construction of a water retention landscape: a local and natural solution to the global problem of disturbed water balance.