According to a report Thursday morning in Yedioth Aharonoth, the exhibit showing the works of Galina Bleich and Liliah Check includes paintings of seven female suicide bombers being depicted as Madonna holding a baby Jesus. Organizations of terror victims as well as the political establishment protested the pictures, demanding that they be removed from the exhibition.
Tel Aviv Journalists' Association Secretary General Yossi Bar-Moha carried out a telephone survey of 17 association members, who together decided whether to allow the exhibition to go ahead in its current format or to partially censor or remove it all together.
The exhibition pending opening in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yariv Katz)
"On a personal level, the paintings bother me," said Bar-Moha to Ynet. "If I need to weigh freedom of expression against the outcry of the bereaved families, I prefer the terror victims. They are more important to me than freedom of expression in this case. But I can't determine this. I am turning to my colleagues, one by one, and asking their opinion. As of now, I have spoken with four of them, and all have authorized the removal of the exhibition."
According to Bar-Moha, even if members of the Journalists' Association decide to remove the pictures, they will wait for a legal opinion. "In any case, we apparently won't hide the whole exhibit. There are pieces that won't be taken down, such as the one on clumps of earth collected from the site of the suicide terror act on the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. There is no reference or halo around this earth, as opposed to the pictures of the female suicide bombers," said Bar-Moha.
Galina Bleich, one of the artists, is unapologetic. "I don't understand how this turned into an insult to bereaved families. We came actually to emphasize the exact opposite. The baby in Madonna's hands is in danger. This really needs to disturb people. It isn't just an Israeli problem, but a global one. Therefore, we chose Madonna, who is a symbol of Christianity.
"This issue came up for me after I personally experienced a trauma when I was next to a terror attack on French Hill in Jerusalem. Ever since, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It isn't at all a political issue, but a personal issue. We are trying to ask how a woman, who is meant to love and give birth, became a source of hatred and murder. I don't at all go into politics. But because we are such a political country, everyone is trying to figure out if we are left-wing or not," explained Bleich.
Bleich hopes that the exhibition will be allowed to be shown. She is actually pleased with the media buzz her works are getting.
"I hope it will all be okay this evening. If it impacts people so much, this means that the message is getting across. We wanted to think together with the audience about what is happening, and, apparently, now they are reflecting on it. Modern art can speak in a free language without a framework. Modern art is actually a language that shakes up the subjects that are painful to us. It's not only flowers in a vase. Art asks questions and doesn't provide answers," said Bleich.