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Pleased to be participating in the Exhibition Jerusalem: A City for the Ages at the AACI Glassman Center. Opening Monday May 8, 2017, 6-9 pm. 02 566-1181 for details or at the post in this site: http://heddyabramowitz.blogspot.co.il/2017/05/jerusalem-exhibition-invitation.html

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eight out of Nine: Chagall and Contemporary Responses


The Destruction of Jerusalem was depicted by Marc Chagall  in an etching from 1956 where he places an Angel of Death image over the victims of destruction, holding a knife in one hand, apparently in response to  Jeremiah’s prophesy. The strewn bodies bring to mind the devastation of Word War II and the Holocaust,  which were fairly recent events at the time his works on biblical images were being created. The people below are being led by a king and the image is enigmatic and haunting.

While this is a subject that has occupied artists over centuries, my informal and incomplete exploration into this topic seems to suggest that artists are less pre-occupied with it today. Perhaps visions of horror do not require extending a long look back through history and artists who choose bleak moments deal with more contemporary times, such as recent wars, the Holocaust, and terrorism as a focus for their work.

One wonders whether the image of a destroyed Jerusalem is one which may be too plausible in a country that has undergone repeated wars and continues to require ever-ready defenses; simultaneously too close a possibility  for tranquility to be taken for granted and also too precarious to be distant and remote history.  Or, another possibility is that modern Jerusalem as a real and not imagined city, by its very success has diminished  the pull of a destroyed Jerusalem as a collective memory. As a vibrant, living city, is it less pressing on our national consciousness as the object of theoretical and spiritual yearning? 


Two Jerusalem artists who have dealt with this subject are Hadassah Berry and Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov.

Berry, a painter and printmaker, originally from London and a long term Jerusalem resident undertakes, amongst other subjects,  biblical themes in her work. In this series she examines the power of the word and this example is her depiction of destruction.

"Destruction," Lithography on Stone, 2011, Hadassah Berry
Ben-Dov,  U.S. born and Israeli-trained, pairs two customs from disparate cultures as she explores loss and incompleteness; the Jewish custom to leave a part of a home unfinished in memory of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (here, represented by the grey square), and the Arab custom to display a plaque of the Dome of the Rock. She juxtaposes these images and queries whether a dialogue is created or is even possible.

"Remembrance I" oil on canvas 2005  Ben- Dov


Sitting in my Jewish Quarter home, where the sun is setting and the Ninth of Av approaches, I hear the Ramadan cannon strike, which indicates to Moslems that their day-time fast is over and that  they may resume eating. I am aware that observant Jews, at almost the same time, will be entering their day of  fasting. The ironies of life in the close quarters of the Old City continue to give pause.

Tomorrow, my photos from a community reading of Lamentations (Eicha) in the ruins of a synagogue.


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