Haifa, 32202 Israel
The Hebrew letters are from Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel:
Ayin l'tziyon tzofiyah = An eye still watches toward Zion
I got the following background material from Zipora Ne'eman:
Zipora Ne'eman is a second generation paper cutter, she learned the craft from her father in law the noted artist, Ya'akov Ne'eman.
Paper-cutting was an inexpensive art-no fancy materials were needed, just a scrap of paper, a pencil, a pair scissors or a knife. The tradition of Jewish paper-cutting can be traced as far back as the 14th century, and it continued to play a major cultural role in Jewish tradition through the 19th and early 20th centuries. The craft takes a simple art- cutting paper, and transforms it into an expression of devotion. The artist would take a line of text, from Psalms, for instance, and would strive to bring the imagery of the text alive in the paper-cut.
As time went on, paper-cutting became more esteemed, and soon paper-cut designs became connected with certain lifecycle events and holidays. Artists used paper-cutting to illustrate ketubot (marriage contracts), for example, and would create certain designs for the Jewish festivals of Sukkot and Shavuot. While Jewish literary tradition focused on the importance of words, the folk art tradition brought visual representations of words and ideas to life.
Artists often used paper-cutting to create a mizrach (which literally means "east"). The mizrach was a wall hanging for the most eastern wall of the Jewish home, reminding them which way to face while praying toward Jerusalem and directing the family's thoughts to that holy city during prayer. In Eastern Europe, the mizrach was frequently an object not just of devotion, but also of beauty. Elaborate mizrachim (plural of mizrach), created by paper-cutting techniques adorned many Jewish homes. Though the intention of the mizrach was to serve a simple, religious function, the art of the mizrach shows the high regard that was paid to good craftsmanship and beautiful aesthetic sense.
Another example of Jewish folk art, dating back to the Middle Ages, was the creation of the shivviti (meaning "awareness."). Similar to the mizrach in that its function was to focus attention, the shivviti would hang in the synagogue. Inspired by a line from Psalms, "Shivitti Adonai Lanegdi Tamid"-- I am ever aware of the Eternal One's presence"--the shivviti employed the Hebrew letters "yud, hay, vav, hay" which together symbolize God's name. It is interesting to note that while it was forbidden to try to utter the name of God, the shivviti used these letters in an artistic design to represent God's presence. The shivviti might include other Biblical phrases or lines from Psalms, but the focus of its design was always the letters "yud, hay, vav, hay." The shivviti, like the mizrach, was often created by paper-cutting.