Secularizing the Sacred

Aspects of Israeli Visual Culture


As historical analyses of Diaspora Jewish visual culture blossom in quantity and sophistication, this book analyzes 19th-20th-century developments in Jewish Palestine and later the State of Israel. In the course of these approximately one hundred years, Zionist Israelis developed a visual corpus and artistic lexicon of Jewish-Israeli icons as an anchor for the emerging “civil religion.” Bridging internal tensions and even paradoxes, artists dynamically adopted, responded to, and adapted significant Diaspora influences for Jewish-Israeli purposes, as well as Jewish religious themes for secular goals, all in the name of creating a new state with its own paradoxes, simultaneously styled on the Enlightenment nation-state and Jewish peoplehood.

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Alec Mishory's publications deal with the origins of Israeli art and its links with Jewish themes and Zionist utopias including The Jewish Art Scene in Israel 1948-1949 (2013) and Joseph Budko's Design of H. N. Bialik’s Works Edition of 1923 (2006).
List of Illustrations
Note on Terms and Transliteration

Part 1: Before Statehood

1 The Clarion Call: E. M. Lilien and the Jewish Renaissance
 1.1 Life, Heroism, and Beauty
 1.2 Lilien’s Winged Figures
 1.3 Restrained Decadence: Jewish Angels
 1.4 Olympus and Golgotha in the Service of Zionism

2 Boris Schatz’s Pantheon of Zionist Cultural Heroes
 2.1 A Day Dream
 2.2 A New Florence
 2.3 A Hebrew Pantheon: Individual Commemoration
 2.4 Collective Commemoration
 2.5 Schatz’s Legacy: Models for a Sovereign State Heroes

3 “The Garden of Love”: Early Zionist Eroticism
 3.1 The Garden of Love: A Remedial Institution for Nervous Atrophy
 3.2 In the Song of Songs Pavilion
 3.3 The New Jew: Intellect and Sensuality Combined
 3.4 Kisses and Embraces
 3.5 Orientalism and Symbolism in the Zionist-Biblical World
 3.6 The Secular Bride

4 Zionist Revival and Rebirth on the Façade of the Municipal School in Tel Aviv
 4.1 Past and Present Come Together
 4.2 Four Hebrew Cities

Part 2: Objects and Conceptions of Sovereignty

5 Israel’s Scroll of Independence

6 Hues of Heaven: The Israeli Flag
 6.1 The Zionist Flag
 6.2 The Magen David (David’s Shield) or the Jewish Star
 6.3 The Blue Stripes
 6.4 First Proposals for an Israeli Flag
 6.5 A Multitude of King David’s Shields

7 Menorah and Olive Branches on Israel’s National Emblem
 7.1 In Search of a National Emblem
 7.2 Archaeology and Socialism: Jewish Tradition versus Secularism
 7.3 The Shamir Brothers Studio’s Proposal
 7.4 Prophet Zecharia’s Vision: Harmony between State and Church
 7.5 A Visual Precedent from 1300
 7.6 Public Reactions to the Design of the National Emblem

8 From Exile to Homeland: the Mythical Journey of the Temple Menorah
 8.1 An Icon of Destruction
 8.2 The Arch of Titus: A Symbol of Destruction and Exile
 8.3 “Oh Titus, Titus, If You Could Only See!”
 8.4 The Menorah Returns Home
 8.5 A Miraculous Translocation
 8.6 A Gift from the Mother of Parliaments to the New Israeli Parliament
 8.7 Benno Elkan: A Self-Anointed Modern Bezalel
 8.8 The Menorah’s Penultimate Station on Its Way Home: Kssalon Settlement
 8.9 Visual References to the Israeli Menorah Motif

9 Zionism Liberates the Captured Daughter of Zion
 9.1 The Judaea capta Coin
 9.2 Jewish References to the Roman Judaea capta Coin
 9.3 From Judaea capta to Judaea liberata
 9.4 The Judaea capta Image on Official Israeli Publications
 9.5 A Late Israeli Daughter of Zion

10 The Twelve Tribes of Israel: From Biblical Symbolism to Emblems of a Mythical Promised Land
 10.1 The Twelve Tribes of Israel: Symbolizing the Unity and Diversity of the Jewish People
 10.2 Biblical and Midrashim Sources
 10.3 Verbal Turned Visual: Heraldic Emblems of the Twelve Tribes
 10.4 From Christian Bibles to Jewish Synagogue Decorations
 10.5 E. M. Lilien’s Legacy
 10.6 Beyond Lilien’s Legacy
 10.7 Symbols of Sovereignty
 10.8 Emblems of a Mythical Promised Land

11 Old and New in Land of Israel Flora
 11.1 Israeli Plants as Local Icons
 11.2 Familiar Biblical Plants: The Seven Kinds
 11.3 The Four Species
 11.4 Grapes, Figs, and Pomegranates as Symbols of Sovereignty
 11.5 The Spies Motif
 11.6 The New Jew as a Tiller of the Soil
 11.7 Herzl’s Cypress Tree Myth
 11.8 Unfamiliar Wild Plants
 11.9 “A Very Lovely Cyclamen”
 11.10 “We Shall Return as Red Flowers”
 11.11 “Nobody Understands Cyclamens Anymore”
 11.12 Local Plants Revisited
 11.13 A Symbol Shared by Two Peoples: The Israeli Cactus

12 Ancient Magic and Modern Transformation: The Unique Hebrew Alphabet
 12.1 Hebrew Calligraphy
 12.2 Hebrew Typography
 12.3 Hebrew Typography in Israeli Design
 12.4 Uses of the Hebrew Alphabet in Non-textual Israeli Visual Media

Part 3: Sculptural Commemoration within the Israeli Public Space

13 From Pilgrimage Site to Military Marching Grounds: Theodor Herzl’s Gravesite in Jerusalem
 13.1 Herzl’s Coffin Brought to Tel Aviv
 13.2 Herzl’s Burial Ceremony in Jerusalem
 13.3 International Competition for Herzl’s Burial Site Design
 13.4 Winner of the Competition: Yosef Klarwein’s Design
 13.5 Runner-up Prize: Danziger and Shalgi’s Design
 13.6 The Committee for Herzl’s Burial Site Doubts Its Own Decisions
 13.7 Herzl’s Tomb Final Design and Unveiling

14 Natan Rapoport’s Soviet Style of the Yad Mordechai and Negba Memorials
 14.1 Ghetto Heroism and Israeli Valor
 14.2 The Yad Mordechai Memorial
 14.3 The Negba Memorial

15 Holocaust and Resurrection in Yigal Tumarkin’s Memorial in Tel Aviv
 15.1 Is It Possible to Render the Holocaust Visually?
 15.2 The International Committee, Auschwitz
 15.3 Israeli Holocaust Memorials at Yad Vashem
 15.4 The Memorial to the Holocaust and the Resurrection of Israel

16 In Conclusion: Secularizing the Sacred, Israeli Art, and Jewish Orthodox Laws
 16.1 The Hebrew Bible: A Spring Abundant with Narratives and Allegorical Figures
 16.2 A Visual Discourse with Jewish Artists from the Past
 16.3 Israeli “Graven Images”
 16.4 Hybrids
 16.5 Jewish Angels and Israeli Cherubs
 16.6 Taharah and tum’ah (Purity and Impurity)
General Index
All interested in the history of Israel, visual communication, heraldry, emblems, and national identity through visual designs
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