'Female bomber' exhibit sparks fury in Tel Aviv

Art displayed at Sokolov House depicts female suicide bombers as the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

female bomber 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
female bomber 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An art exhibit depicting various female Palestinian suicide bombers as the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, which opened at the Sokolov House press center in Tel Aviv on Thursday, was quickly taken down following an outcry from the families of those killed or wounded in the attacks, as well as by organizations that represent terror victims. The exhibit, which featured the work of artists Galina Bleich and Liliah Check, consisted of a series of paintings of the women - some with halos around their heads - rendered to look like Renaissance-era portraits of Catholic saints. Sokolov House agreed to take the portraits down on Thursday afternoon, but another section of the exhibit - sand and dirt that had been taken from the scenes of the bombings and spread out across canvas - remained on the gallery's walls. The artists defended their work on Thursday, but the victims' families expressed outrage over both the content of the exhibition and the fact that Sokolov House, the headquarters of the Israeli Journalists Association, had agreed to show it. Dalit Levy, whose 17-year-old stepdaughter Rachel was killed in a suicide bombing as she shopped at the Supersol supermarket in Jerusalem's Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood on March 29, 2002, along with the store's security guard, Haim Smadar, 55, arrived outside Sokolov House on Thursday afternoon with an Israeli flag draped over her shoulders, and placed plastic sheeting on the sidewalk. "You want art?" she asked a group of reporters who had gathered around her. "Here's art!" she said, before spilling a can of red paint next to a photograph of her stepdaughter and two memorial candles. "This is the blood of our children!" Almagor, The Association for Terror Victims in Israel, also issued a stern response to the exhibit, and threatened to take legal action if the portraits were not taken down. "Nahum Sokolov [for whom Sokolov House is named] is rolling in his grave today," said Almagor's chairman, Meir Indor. "We've contacted the attorney-general and asked him to take legal action against the exhibition's representatives," he added. "Any action that strengthens or praises the murderous acts of terrorism is violating the law and hurting the general public by legitimizing the murders." Indor said his group was worried the artists would try to show the exhibit elsewhere. "We've been in contact with the artists, and made it clear that we want them to add information to the material so that people will understand that this is not promoting terrorism, but against it," he said. "But at this point it's unclear if they are willing to agree to that. As it stands, if they continue to show the work the way it is now, we will obviously continue our struggle against it."