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They do bear the markings of all they've been through since being off the tree," Rakowitz told's Christine Lagorio.The skin on the large, plump Kheary dates was peeling.ELLEgirl Magazine for teens with a passion for fashion, beauty and entertainment.Meet and chat with other girls from around the world. Covers social issues, technology, pop culture, sports, and entertainment.Rakowitz already had an infrastructure for shipping goods into Iraq due to an interactive project called "Return," which consisted of a drop box offering free shipping to Iraq.A few members of the Iraqi community in New York took him up on the offer, sending a cell-phone charger, a bootleg CD of Microsoft Office 98 and a Paul Auster book - in Rakowitz's words, "everyday things.""I loved how non-monumental they were," he said.Research showed him sanctions against Iraq were lifted in May 2003, making importing directly from Iraq legal. He put out a query on the Baghdad Business Center Web site, and met the general manager of Al Farez Co., who was willing to sell - and ship - one ton of dates from Iraq to America. 6, the date of Rakowitz's storefront opening reception - a gathering of well-heeled artists that resembled a Chelsea art gallery opening - the ton of dates was en route to Amman, Jordan.

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("Some of these are grown in a city called Mecca, Calif., I kid you not," Rakowitz told the crowd.) Neighborhood newspapers in Brooklyn spread the word, and Rakowitz took out ads in Arabic newspapers in Chicago and Dearborn, Mich.

The allure of Iraqi dates in the United States can be compared to that of the Cuban cigar: difficult to obtain - and therefore expensive - but with a distinctive taste that makes it, well, worth it.

"I think that level of desire that is created from something that has a sort of adversarial history to it is always interesting when a desire builds around it," Rakowitz said.

But Rakowitz - fortunately - viewed the whole enterprise as a work of art.

"I view my projects as performing a necessary disturbance or jolt in everyday experience that will, maybe, slowly change our relationship to a crisis or a problem," he said.

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