The Citrus Grower 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin marked the opening on Tuesday of a new art exhibit
in the Knesset’s hallways, which sparked debate on its depiction of an Arab
family in Jaffa during the pre-state era.
In his remarks at the exhibit’s
opening ceremony, Rivlin compared art and politics, saying that in “a sad and
parallel process in the current era” the public has lost interest in both
Livnat: West Bank film 'one-sided'
The exhibit, titled “Israeli Texture,” is the result of an open
call to the public to submit works of art for purchase by the
Over 500 artists answered the call – the first of its kind in
the Knesset – and 46 works by 31 Israeli artists were chosen. The idea was
suggested by MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), and adopted by Rivlin.
courted controversy after the paintings were hung in the Knesset’s halls in
After the exhibit’s paintings were hung two weeks ago, MK
Aryeh Eldad (National Union) demanded that one of the 46 works on display be
removed, claiming it glorifies the Arab narrative.
The painting in
question, “The Citrus Grower,” by artist Eliyahu Arik Bokobza, is based on a
photograph of an Arab family in Jaffa from 1939.
“The innocent, the naïve
and the stupid among us may say: What’s wrong with that?” Eldad wrote in a
letter to Rivlin.
“You are not in any of those categories. You, like me,
understand what organizations are trying to achieve in strengthening the Arab
Eldad added that the painting is “telling us that we banished
the Arabs – we exiled them,” and said that even if Rivlin is careful to protect
freedom of expression “you do not have to be a tool in the hands of the knights
of the ‘Nakba.’” “I don’t understand why you are turning the Knesset into a
stage for presenting their lie,” Eldad concluded. “I beg of you, do not let this
supposedly innocent ‘Nakba picture’ hang in the Knesset.”
Rivlin did not
heed Eldad’s call, saying that the picture “is open to interpretation. It does
not express a clear political stance.”
“Just like I let you express
yourself in the Knesset, I have to let every other opinion be heard,” Rivlin
“The Knesset, which represents all layers of the Israeli
population, is proud to present contemporary art on its walls that displays the
variety in Israeli society,” Rivlin said.
“I hope that from now on, art
lovers will visit the Knesset and find impressive, modern art in the arena for
exchanging opinions and ideas,” he concluded.