On Time, Change and Memory
- In memoriam - Yitzhak (Yitzhaki) Cohai -
On an afternoon boat ride along the coast from Latchi north of Paphos I am spellbound by the changing colour of the sea, from turquoise to ultramarine, to almost black. Is it the because of the clouds or the depth of the water? The sea is constantly changing; smooth and shimmering one moment, churning and crashing the next. It is like a living thing.
Landscapes too are fluid and transforming, though they change at a much slower pace than the sea and in the short span of our lifetimes sometimes appear to be entirely static. I recall, when I first saw the desert; the landscape which would seem to be the least mutable; I observed a massive rock that had broken off from a mountainous outcrop and fallen down the hillside to a point where it stopped, caught by a slight change in the slope's angle, and there it had remained precariously hanging on the very edge of a sheer drop. It seemed as if this momentous event had just occurred, but it must have happened millennia ago.
Landscapes can, and often do change at a faster rate as a result of rapid urban growth, agricultural activities, environmental changes and political and military developments. The landscapes of the Holy Land have undergone substantial changes in all the many different periods of its history. In the two centuries of Frankish rule changes to the cities and countryside were extensive and many of these are still easily observed today. War and the needs of defence, prominent themes of the crusader period, are among the greatest catalysts of rapid change. Cityscapes generally recover quickly following war as the restoration and rebuilding hide much of the evidence of conflict. But abandoned places such as devastated and derelict villages and ruined castles remain as dual monuments - on the one hand preserving evidence of a lost past, and on the other as monuments to the act of destruction itself. The ruins of castles can teach us as much about how they were destroyed as they do about the castles themselves.