Perhaps because I was born in the USSR and lived there until I was ten years old, I have a very strong gag reflex against any kind of propaganda and there is no worse kind of propaganda than propaganda masquerading as art. When John Lennon sings “nothing to live or die for”, I do not hear the beautiful melody or his voice that is so beloved from earlier and more “naive” songs, no, what I hear is progressive propaganda designed to convince people that their lives have no meaning beyond the here and now, beyond the sex, drugs, or alcohol that can be had this very minute. I hear a call to abandon all that is human, which is to say all that is elevated above the animal plane of mere existence, and wallow in the mire, to borrow a phrase from yet another talented musician, Jim Morrison.
Yaffa Wainer draws olive trees and it is indeed a worthy subject. Israel, like many parts of the Mediterranean basin, has olive trees that are over two thousand years old, that is to say they witnessed the Second Temple and its destruction and the birth and crucifixion of Jesus. While the oaks and other hardwoods that once grew in the Galilee were nearly all cut down, olive trees were simply too valuable to destroy.
There is not much, if anything, that we experience in our daily lives today that is in any way similar to what our ancestors experienced two thousand years ago. Even our air and water are different now. The closest experience we can share with them is a dish of extra virgin olive oil, simply the juice of the ripe olive fruit, nothing added or subtracted. Maybe it doesn’t taste quite the same, but it surely must come close, the closest we can ever come to sharing anything with our remote forefathers and mothers.
We all know about, we are immersed, submerged, in fact, in the century and a half old conflict between the Arabs and the Jews for our ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel, Eretz Israel. That struggle tales place on many levels an takes on many shapes and forms, one of which is a very ancient form of fighting; the hands on fighting for every square inch of ground, every olive tree. This fight is taking place right now between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria. The planting and uprooting of olive trees, by both sides, is a part of that fight.
Ms. Wainer chose to politicize her drawings of olive trees by using them to state her opinion that “It is time to learn from the past and adhere to the values upon which the State of Israel was founded, equality for all citizens; and from our tradition, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This opinion is a minority opinion in Israel, as most Jewish Israelis believe that the primary value upon which Israel was founded was its definition as a Jewish state and only after that a democratic one. The newly passed nationality law specifically negates the rights of non-Jews to any communal privileges in Israel, while leaving them with a full slate of personal rights.
Ms. Wainer, like most progressives, cherry picks sayings from Jewish sources and ignores much more numerous and compelling commandments to maintain separation from the Gentiles and mercilessly annihilate those Gentiles that wish to harm us, as is the case with Amalek, a tribe that caused Israelites much grief during their sojourn from Egypt to the Promised Land. Palestinian Arabs are the modern-day Amalek and no amount of selective quoting can change this fact.
Artistic expression and the ability to engage in it are a gift from God. There are those that use it to enrich the world around them and there are those that abuse it to score poilitical points. To me, Ms. Wainer finds herself firmly in the latter camp, but my readers can judge for themselves by visiting Ms. Wainer’s solo exhibition, “Chaos in Springtime:The Olive Tree as a Symbol of Hope and Despair” at the Jaffa Art Salon Gallery.