Chapter 6 Messianic Affinities: Tali Keren’s The Great Seal and Un-Charting

In: Imagined Israel(s): Representations of the Jewish State in the Arts
Chelsea Haines
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This article analyzes how Tali Keren’s The Great Seal (2016–2018) and Un-Charting (2021) reveal “messianic affinities,” the complex and contradictory web of projections and transferences crisscrossing the Atlantic that make up the ideological basis of the close Israeli-American relationship. Taking up American revolutionary ideas positioning the United States as the “promised land,” The Great Seal explores Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson’s design for the US seal, proposed in 1776. While ultimately not adopted, the seal—which depicts Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and carries the maxim tyrannis seditio, obsequium deo (“rebellion against tyrants, obedience to God”)—represents an undercurrent in American ideology, the legacy of which remains in the dozens of New Zion towns dotting the North American landscape. Like The Great Seal, Un-Charting provides a vision of Zion refracted through the lens of prophetic Christianity and North American settler colonialism. In Un-Charting, the prophecy of a new Jerusalem as harbinger of a new world order is mapped out in painstaking detail through the eyes of Richard Brothers (1757–1824), a British naval officer who believed himself to be a prince of the Hebrews. In both exhibitions, Keren connects these histories to contemporary Israeli image-making abroad by examining how Israeli-American relations today are driven by a growing Christian Evangelical block insistent that support for the State of Israel will hasten the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

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