Israel votes Batman – Can the world’s greatest detective form a gov't?

Link Hotel honors the comic-book hero with a series of street artworks honoring his 80th anniversary.

Batman "That's All Folks" by Rafael Edgar (photo credit: HAGAY HACOHEN)
Batman "That's All Folks" by Rafael Edgar
(photo credit: HAGAY HACOHEN)
“Perhaps Batman could save us Israelis from yet another round of elections.”
Ami Federman was joking, but the vice chairman of the Dan Hotels Group board of directors was taking no chances. Beginning on the first night of Hanukkah, his Link Hotel at 39 Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech became a place where the real city of Tel Aviv meets the fictional city of Gotham with the opening of the Link Street Batman exhibition.
With daring street art all based on the Caped Crusader displayed at the hotel, not only can visitors enjoy original street art made by a variety of talents, they can also buy some and take it home with them.
Gotham City, as well as its most famous resident, were created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, both Jewish American comic-book artists. Kane and Finger, like the creators of Superman, could not have known at the time the importance of their character to American culture. If Superman came to symbolize truth, justice and the American way, Batman came to mean several other things. Lacking super-powers of his own, he is an expert detective, a martial-artist and a master of daring escapes. While Superman is inspiring thanks to his moral character, Batman is inspiring thanks to his ability to face a tragedy, the death of his parents, and train hard to make something worthwhile out of it – meaning, to save innocent lives.
The character never went out of fashion, but it did go through some very significant changes. The playful cartoonish aspect of Batman, so powerful in the 1960s television show with Adam West playing the Dark Knight, went out of style with the successful 1989 Batman film directed by Tim Burton. Since then, comic-book artists such as Frank Miller and directors like Christopher Nolan reimagined Batman as dark, very dark, and at times brutal and unforgiving. Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, also changed in step with these trends since his introduction in 1940. The 2019 Joker played by Joaquin Phoenix is meant for adults, not for children like the Joker as played by Cesar Romero. The Joker is presented in the exhibition as well in a few works, especially in reference to the late actor Heath Ledger’s iconic 2008 take on the role.

IN A RARE nod to the cartoonish aspect of the Bat, Rafael Edgar chose to paint him alongside the famous cartoon characters Porky Pig, who took on the role of trusted butler Alfred, as well as a grinning Daffy Duck aiming a mock pistol at the hero. Other works display Batman in a James Bond-like scene alongside Israeli actress Gal Gadot in the role of Wonder Woman – a fitting choice, as Wonder Woman inhabits the same fictional world as Batman and Superman in DC Comics. Guy Sebbag [aka SMIG] has a different view of Batman, clad in a black hood, the hero is painted as a member of a crowd of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, proving that the character can fit in even the most unexpected areas of Israeli society.
Fifteen artists contributed works to the exhibition, including Karin Akoka [Pakin], Yankel Azolai [Yankel Art] and Urban Lover. The original works will be sold at the price range of from $2,000 to $9,000 with smaller-scale posters to be on offer as well for less well-heeled art lovers.
Seeing as Batman is so closely connected to animation, geek-culture and video games, many among those present were connected to the social media group HaGikiya, which currently has 40,000 members, and IGN Israel, a portal devoted to video games and animation. Curator Daniel Sivoni described the exhibition as “a meeting of current street art with the eternal franchise – Batman.” Yet the power of the character tends to pull the exhibition into itself. Higher floors contain other examples of Israeli street art, such as a large painting by Yoni Danzinger [LOL] in which nature takes over the city, going so far as to demolish the IDF HQ situated on Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech, something the Hulk might approve of, but never Batman.
“It’s not a coincidence that Batman was created in the 1930s by Jewish creators,” Sivoni said. “The Jewish people were looking for a hero to save them during the Holocaust.”
It’s notable that character himself has visited Israel briefly – during the famous 1988 storyline Batman: A Death in the Family.
If Batman were to attempt to become prime minister of Israel, he certainly wouldn’t have any issue getting citizenship. Not only are his creators Jewish, and not only is he portrayed by Jewish actor David Mazous in the TV series Gotham, but Bruce Wayne’s mother, Martha, has been confirmed to be Jewish, making Batman Jewish according to halacha, Jewish law – although he was raised Protestant, like his father.
Of course, while Batman’s Judaism is never really focused on in DC lore, it is an important plot point for Katherine Kane, Bruce’s cousin on his mother’s side who has taken the mantle of Batwoman. This is made explicit in the recent 2019 Batwoman television show on the CW, where the titular character is presented as a fully Jewish character.
In other words, had Bruce Wayne really existed, he would have been able to move to Israel under the right of return and start a new life, away from Gotham. Though he would have to go up against Israel’s own Batman – former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who was considered in that light after stopping a Palestinian stabbing attack in 2015.
Workers of the Link Hotel all wore black shirts with the bat symbol on them during the opening, and there is little doubt that until the exhibition closes at the end of January, guests and visitors to the hub will be under the sign of the bat. The space is a pleasant spot to have a hot drink, walk and see the artworks, and perhaps let one’s imagination fly on leather wings.