The Palestinian Paintings: A must-see exhibition

By Steve Atherton, Justice and Peace fieldworker

In January we celebrated the Epiphany – the revelation, through the coming of wise men from the East, that the child in the manger at Bethlehem is the One the world has been waiting for, the One who will announce the coming of God’s Kingdom, as prophesied in the psalm:

‘In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
[…] He shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.’

We believe that the coming of Jesus into our world has made a decisive difference. We see signs of good things happening in our world: our growing awareness of our responsibility to care for the planet; the generosity of so many who give to charities committed to enabling partners in the Global South to grow in dignity and prosperity; small gestures of solidarity like the Christmas cards sent from across our diocese to parishioners in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. But we also see signs of contradiction: situations in our world where justice is denied, peace is destroyed and the poor and weak are abused.

The Palestinian Paintings – an exhibition of 12 original paintings of everyday life in the land where Jesus was born – give a unique insight into one of the many situations of conflict and injustice in our world.

Currently travelling around parishes and venues in the diocese is an exhibition called ‘The Palestinian Paintings’ which gives an opportunity to gain a unique insight into one of the many situations of conflict and injustice in our world. It contains 12 original paintings of everyday scenes in the land where Jesus was born.

The artist, Israel Zohar, born in Kazakhstan in 1945, was taken to the newly formed state of Israel as a small child. He is a Hebrew-speaking Israeli citizen who witnessed the 1967 Six-Day War, the occupation of territories and the chaos and brutality that has followed. He dissociated himself from Israel and moved to England where he enjoys a successful career as a portrait painter of society notables and international elite figures, including Princess Diana.

His growing anger and frustration led him to look for a way of challenging the everyday injustice he read about and heard of from his friends who had not moved away. Eventually, it dawned on him that he could use his artistic talents to create powerful scenes of the reality of life in the country we call the Holy Land. They are shocking images but they are not devoid of hope. In the simple dignity of the people oppressed by military occupation, we can discern the patient desire for the justice and peace which will one day surely come.

If your parish could host this exhibition, contact the J&P office and we can arrange it. Please take time to ponder these images, to pray for a just solution to the complex and worsening conflict in the Middle East and to consider what small steps you can take in your own life to build what Pope Francis calls ‘a civilisation of love’.

Photo caption: Altar boys in Gaza