Shema

Museum of Art, Kibbutz Ein Harod  1998

Shema

Shema, 1997, oil on canvas, 19 X 15 cm, collection of Linda Zisquit, Artspace Gallery, Jerusalem

Shema – Hear O Israel – hearing vs. seeing.  While saying this prayer it is customary to cover one’s eyes in order to concentrate.  Seeing is troublesome, perhaps dangerous.  But the painting of this act is all about seeing, about the eye.

This is a meeting point and a point of conflict between two traditions: the Jewish tradition, at the center of which lies the text, passed on by reading, speaking and hearing (the Torah), and dictated physical acts (the commandments); versus the tradition of Western painting, at the center of which lies the eye and the world revealed to it, a tradition with roots in Christian Europe.

A meeting of opposites, between birth and death, resonates in many of the works and is central to the act of immersion.

Finally, perhaps another encounter occurs here: between the Judaica collection of the Kibbutz EinHarod Museum, which showcases a glorious past culture, and the place of that culture in my present, a place that is not necessarily glorious, but is most definitely alive and kicking.

Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov