As Israelis head for the polling booths for the fourth time in two years, political activists resort to a bizarre tactic: setting up idols.
On Tuesday morning, as the polls opened, visitors to Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv were greeted by a statue depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding aloft a set of tablets reminiscent of the Ten Commandments inscribed, however, with the number ‘61’ repeated ten times. 61 is the number of Knesset seats necessary to establish a majority coalition and declare a prime minister. The right-wing sculptor contacted News 0404 with his message:
“Netanyahu is a huge leader,” the anonymous artist said. “The leader of the generation. Most people see it as such and on Election Day it is important that we remember who should continue to lead us. This is our answer to hate speeches. All we do is out of love and appreciation for the leader of Israel ”
But statues (or idols) are becoming a prominent form of political protest in Israel. Last Wednesday, a statue resembling Netanyahu squatting naked in a corner was set up in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. Some suggested that the statue depicted the PM defecating. In any case, the identity of the artist remained unknown so the police set up barriers around the statue and posted a removal note on the statue.
Yet another statue appeared in front of the PM’s residence. Made by Itay Zalait and titled “Hero of Israel,” the bronze statue depicted a kneeling protester who was photographed in anti-Netanyahu protests in July 2020 while holding an Israeli flag against a stream of water from a police water cannon. The statue was removed on Sunday, the morning after it was erected.
כחלק מההכנות להפגנה אתמול האמן איתי זלאיט הציב שוב את הפסל שלו, ״גיבור ישראל״ בסמוך למזרקה בכיכר פריז. הבוקר הגיעו שוטרים כדי לפנות אותו שוב. הבעיה היא שכדי למנוע הזזתו מאתמול בערב נעולים אליו שני אנשים. כרגע נעולים שם האמן ואדם נוסף pic.twitter.com/SfkPULwb7U
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 21, 2021
Even the non-partisan had idols this year. The artist Sophie Halbreich had an installation this week in HaBima Square in Tel Aviv featuring 90 heads individually sculpted with gags on their mouths. The implicit message was for people to come out an vote.
או שתלכו להצביע
(מייצג בהבימה הבוקר) pic.twitter.com/tabivGSKvm
— esty segal إيستي (@EstyS) March 21, 2021
The display of idols is becoming an Israeli tradition. Last year, an anonymous artist installed an exhibit in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square of a life-sized statue of Netanyahu seated at a table by himself, enjoying a lavish meal. The installation was clearly a parody of Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of Jesus at “The Last Supper.”
Two years ago, Zalait erected a statue of Israel’s then-culture minister, Miri Regev, wearing a long white dress and staring into a full-length mirror. The depiction was meant to protest Regev’s criticism of state-sponsored anti-Israel projects. In 2016, he installed a golden statue of Netanyahu in Rabin Square comparing the Prime Minister to the Biblical Golden Calf.
Though not an idol, vandals made a public political statement in June when they dyed the water in the fountain at Donald Trump Square in Petach Tikva a vivid red with graffiti stating, “annexation will cost us blood” on the ground in front of the fountain.