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'Leftist art project' irks religious community
Leading rabbis say 'State of Judea' exhibit, which depicts fictitious collapse of Israeli democracy and rise of extremist elements, divides nation. Artist says project 'warning sign', not anti-religious

The controversial final project of a graduate of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design has Israel's religious community up in arms.

 

Yossi Even-Kama's "State of Judea" exhibit, which has been posted on Facebook and picked up by various religious websites, is a fictional depiction of the gradual death of Israeli democracy in the years 2020-2023 and the establishment of a religious, anti-democratic state in its place.

 

The "collapse", as Even-Kama puts it, will begin with the signing of a peace agreement with the Arabs, which will include the "division of Jerusalem, a withdrawal from the territories and additional concessions."

 

In the exhibit, the "death of democratic Israel" is announced on posters glued to public message boards, a once popular advertising tool in Israel.

 

"What we will see, in my opinion, is a standoff between two opposing camps: Left verses Right; supporters of democracy against those who oppose it; moderates against extremists," says Even-Kama.

 

According to the project, the clash will end with a party celebrating the end of the world and a mass exodus.

 

The third and fourth message boards depict the "day-to-day reality" in the "future state", whereby women are forbidden from bathing in the sea and the images of Baruch Goldstein and Rabbi Meir Kahane appear on Israeli currency.

 

The poster which stirred the most controversy presents rabbis calling for the killing of anyone who opposes the "new regime". However, the fictitious ad named real rabbis: Azriel Ariel (chief rabbi of Moshav Ateret), Shlomo Aviner (rabbi of Beit El aleph), Zalman Melamed (head of the Beit El bet yeshiva) and Shimon Elituv (chief rabbi of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council).

 

'Warning sign to society'

The arguments in forums on various religious websites began to heat up, with some talkbackers referring to Even-Kama as a "yehudon" - a Hebrew invective translated variously as "Jew boy" or "kike". Others criticized the artist for advertising the exhibit before the Tisha B'Av fast, which commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem.

 

Another talkbacker wrote, "We will also celebrate on the 12th of Cheshvan (anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination)."

 

Rabbi Ariel said, "I am in fact a rightist who resides in Samaria (northern West Bank), but I take part in meetings with leftists. On the eve of Tisha B'Av, I feel as though (the exhibit) is a repeat of the sin that divided the nation and led to the Temple's destruction."

 

Rabbi Elituv called the "nonsense" written in his name a "disgrace", adding, "As a Chabadnik, the (fictitious) ads do not reflect my beliefs. The leftists are our brothers."

 

Rabbis Aviner and Melamed have threatened to sue. "We love every person in Israel, regardless of their opinions. But this exhibit stirs hatred," said Rabbi Aviner.

 

Even-Kama told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that the rabbis' names were mentioned in the exhibit by mistake. "When I drafted a fictitious list of rabbis, I googled 'rabbis' and many names came up. I changed the first names, but because I was distracted I apparently forgot to change all of them," he said, adding that he had erased the rabbis' names from the ad after the mistake had been brought to his attention.

  

"This project is not anti-religious, and it is not against the Right or religious-Zionism. This project is a warning sign to Israeli society against extremists. Those who vote for (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman don’t realize that he is destroying the pillars of our democracy, and this will result in the rise of extremist groups."

 

'I love this country'

Some critics of the exhibit were also upset because of the symbol of the "new state," which Even-Kama designed in a manner resembling a swastika. However, he insists this was not his intention.

 

"This does not originate from Nazism, but rather, from the language of fascist rightist organizations across the world. It's a language of crude shapes and sharp lines. It's very easy to take it to the Nazi direction, but come on, let's move on. Those who focus on it miss out the project's main message."

 

However, the director of the Jewish Leadership movement, Michael Foa, disagrees.

 

"The scary translation of this exhibit of hate to ideas that could have saved the State of Israel from the Oslo disaster reflects the artist and his cultural environment," he said. "I hope that on Tisha B'Av, the hearts of the sane public shall open to understanding and listening to voices offering a real alternative to the people of Israel."

  

Aside from angry talkbacks, Even-Kama received some nighttime phone calls and personal messages on Facebook. Some of them seem to reinforce his arguments.

 

"They said they'll remember me when the State of Judea is established, or called me an enemy of Israel. Yet there were other reactions from the rightist camp; people who tried to talk to mean and engage in dialogue. I happened to get messages I wasn't happy with from the radical left; all sorts of proposals and invitations to join various organizations."

 

"I'm not leftist by definition. I'm centrist. I too am divided on many issues, but I love this country," he says.

 


פרסום ראשון: 07.20.10, 15:30
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