26 April 2017

"Behold the Man": Jesus in Jewish and Israeli art

The exhibition at the Israel Museum, Christmas through Easter, revealing an unusual Jesus: a faceted path that represents a new milestone in the relationship between Jews and Christians.

Actuality and events

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The picture of a rabbi preaching in the temple.
A chest X-Ray
A cross made of tanks remnants and scrap military uniforms.
These are some of the unusual representations of Jesus displayed in the exhibition "Behold the Man: Jesus in Israeli Art" at the Israel Museum.

Exhibition curator
"The purpose of this exhibition is to show how the figure of Jesus has become part of Jewish and Israeli art. Everything started when I found many Christian symbols in different artworks: many expressions of the figure of Jesus, represented in various ways and at various levels. This has aroused my curiosity: why do Jews relate so deeply to the figure of Jesus?”

Over 100 works created by 40 different artists were selected for the exhibition, according to different artistic languages: painting, sculpture, photography and videos.
Different ways to deepen the bond between the figure of Jesus and the Jewish-Israeli world, a bond that is often silent or troubling, but still open.

Exhibition curator
"I realized that the relationship between Judeo-Israel artists and the figure of Jesus is very positive at different levels. Even without believing in his divinity or truly being the Messiah, these artists believe and compare themselves with Jesus' human, moral, and universal significance.”

The journey dates back to 1870 and it progresses not only according to a chronological order, but also according to different thematic sections.

Exhibition curator
"This is the section in which we talk about Jewish art that is not directly related to the State of Israel, but to the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and to the fact that Jesus may become a bridge between the two peoples and a symbol of the suffering of the Jews . Portraying Him as a Jew could foster an even closer relationship between Jews and Christians. "

This is an area dedicated to Zionist artists who arrived in the Holy Land at the beginning of the 20th century: the figure of Jesus is deepened by a strictly personal perspective.

Exhibition curator
"This piece is by Moti Mizrahi, a disabled artist. He walked the Via Dolorosa on his crutches wearing the image of his own face on his back. It is therefore a very personal piece that speaks of the suffering of the person who takes on himself the path of Jesus."

The journey widens the horizon again: Christ's passion becomes an expression of the suffering of the least of society. A cross is made with the remains of a destroyed Bedouin village and a picture that expresses the pain of a mother is exposed.

Exhibition curator
"This photograph was taken by Milia Kioshnol in 1998, at the beginning of the first intifada. The woman, Aisha el-Kord, was put in jail, where she gave birth to her son and the photographer, with this shot, gives a beautiful message of universal compassion. Mother and child, in a classical Christian representation. So, we have a Jewish artist taking a picture of a Muslim woman with her son in a Christian format."

The exhibition does not aim at mixing up the different identities, but on the contrary, it allows room for the questions of each individual artist. Walking through the halls, we are struck by the works of art, some graphic and some provocative, while the liturgies of the Holy Week come to mind. And Jesus' death on the cross for all humanity is now enriched with new nuances.