The Story Behind the Artwork
Back in May 2021 my elderly mom called me at an unexpected hour. It was the middle of the night in Israel, where she lives, and she was calling from a bomb shelter. An air raid siren woke her up at an ungodly hour, forcing her, and all other citizens in the country, to get out of bed and run for cover. Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, was firing missiles at the civilian population of Israel. Yet again.
In the following days, Gaza fired thousands of missiles. My mom, siblings, little nephews; friends, acquaintances and their families; people old and young, had to wake up, night after night, and run for safety. Luckily, the Israeli defense forces managed to intercept many of the missiles, preventing mass casualties. But when Israel fought back in defense, a tsunami of hate washed the world. Shockingly, that hatred wasn’t directed at the terrorists who tried to kill civilians. Rather, it was directed at the Israelis who defended themselves, and at Jews in general. In Europe and the USA random Jews—and even non-Jews suspected of being Jewish—were attacked, verbally and physically. It was ugly. Unjust. It also has a name: antisemitism.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long and extremely complicated. Like every conflict in the world, it has two sides. But no matter one’s position, here are simple truths: an indiscriminate attack on civilians is a war crime. And no sovereign country would sit quietly when its citizens are attacked.
I’ve been living in the US for most of my adult life. I’ve experienced antisemitism before, but never to this extent. This past May, like many Jews in this country, I felt overwhelmed. Hate of Jews flooded my social media feed. People who knew nothing of the history, nothing of Israel, nothing of Judaism, felt like they had a right to voice opinions. People who couldn’t tell the difference between Israeli and Jew, who didn’t know what Hamas was, thought they had a right to criticize. I had to take a social media break, and forced myself to stop reading comments on online newspaper articles. I, and many other American Jews, felt wounded. We felt betrayed. The sense of betrayal ran especially deep, because in the preceding years many liberal Jews came to the defense of other oppressed groups, and yet now these very groups also turned against us.
Feelings Into Art
Once again, an image planted itself in my mind, and I knew I will have to create it. It took a while, though. I couldn’t do it in the heat of the moment, and had to wait until things felt a little less raw. Once I was ready, I posed for the camera again, and also took weird pictures of my hands. My kids were perplexed.
I put these pictures against the window, and traced them onto fusible interfacing. Then I cut them out and ironed them onto fabric. I used the same red fabrics I incorporated into my Interdependent quilt, the fabrics meant to represent all human races.
I cut the hands out, and spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging them.
The resulting collage expressed how I personally felt back in May, attacked and threatened by a large array of people. I thought of calling the piece “Antisemitism,” but then realized it was more than that.
The last few years exposed many social schisms, in the US and around the world. Many different groups felt imperiled. In the US alone, people of color, Asians, gay people, Jews and others were targeted, all of a sudden unsafe in their own communities. I realized that this quilt speaks for them, too. It speaks for anyone who suddenly finds themselves turned upon. And so, I decided to call this piece Hateism instead.