On Wednesday at noon, the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), in partnership with the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast and the City of Jerusalem, will hold the long-awaited dedication ceremony for the “#1 Lion of Judah” bronze sculpture created by the American evangelical artist Max Greiner, Jr. The statue stands at Bloomfield Park in Jerusalem located between the Old City and new Jerusalem, behind the King David Hotel, in sight of Mount Zion and the Jaffa Gate
The bronze sculpture is impressive by any metric. Weighing in at 1,134-pounds and measuring 11-feet long, the bronze sculpture is valued at more than $100,000.
The official dedication of the sculpture was previously planned for the summer of 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. It was rescheduled to coincide with the annual Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast conference attended by Christian delegates worldwide.
The massive piece of bronze art was sculpted to honor the God of Israel specifically. Greiner, who is an evangelical Christian and strong supporter of the Jewish state, said:
“My goal with this realistic yet stylized lion composition was to visually communicate majesty, dignity, strength, and courage while also expressing shalom. I prayed to the God of Israel that He would help me sculpt the lion’s face, so it conveyed wisdom and authority, but also love and peace. I sculpted the original carving out of clay, patterned after the largest lion that ever lived. Then, I increased the size by 5% for God! My art foundry, Eagle Bronze, also donated their profits on this project because the Christian owners, Monte and Beverly Paddleford, love Isreal too!”
The dedication of this beautiful piece of fine art was over 16 years in the making and resulted from the prayers and donations of thousands of Christians and Jews. Giving a lion sculpture to Israel was the dream of Greiner and his wife, Sherry, as an eternal symbol of friendship and love between Christians and the People of Israel.
Greiner started work on the original sculpture in 2006, carving it out of foam and then adding clay. He finished the clay carving in August 2017. The clay carving was then transported to Lander, Wyoming, where Eagle Bronze – the famous art foundry that created giant bronze monuments such as the Bull of Wall Street – cast the bronze statue over the course of four months. The statue was then shipped to a humanitarian charity warehouse in Bet Shemesh, Israel, where it was stored for two years, waiting for a place to be designated for it to stand in Jerusalem. This required approval by Jerusalem’s Mayor Moshe Lion, the City Council, and the Public Art Committee headed by Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. A suitable location had to be found.
The situation seemed grim with the statue languishing in the warehouse until a chance encounter in June 2019 had former congressman Michele Bachmann sitting next to the deputy mayor at a luncheon hosted by the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast. Bachmann advocated for the project, and Hassan-Nahoum was so impressed that she went to see the lion statue in person. The process was fast-tracked, and official acceptance was finally granted.
“The container arrived at the Port of Ashdod, ISRAEL on July 18, 2018, where it was finally transported to the warehouse in Beit Shemesh,” Greiner told Israel365 News. “This followed the ancient path of the Ark Of The Covenant (1 Samuel 5:1). The bronze lion statue was stored in a wooden box for two years, waiting to be ‘called’ into Jerusalem. This was like the Ark of the Covenant, which was stored for 20 years in the house of Abinadab in Beth Shemesh before arriving in Jerusalem under the reign of King David (2 Samuel 6:11).”
A strong supporter of the art project, the Deputy Mayor, wrote:
“The Lion of Judah is the symbol of the strength and glory of the City of Jerusalem,” Hassan-Nahoum wrote about the lion. “We are honored to accept this wonderful gift symbolizing another strength, and that is the friendship between the evangelical community and the Jewish people. We thank the artist Max Greiner for this beautiful initiative that will stand forever in our capital city as a sign of love, friendship, and mutual appreciation.”
After selecting Park Blumfield as the ideal display location, Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, the executive director of the CJCUC, was assigned the responsibility of installing the statue in the park after he volunteered his services to the artist and the City of Jerusalem. Rabbi Wolicki’s personal ministry endeavors to build bridges of love and trust between Christians and Jews. After the bronze installation on May 5, 2020, Rabbi Wolicki commented:
“The Lion has always been the symbol of the strength of Israel and the Kingdom of God in Jerusalem. It is no mistake that the coat of arms of the City of Jerusalem today is a rising lion. The majestic Lion of Judah sculpture by the eminent artist, Max Greiner, represents the highest aspirations of the Jewish people as we are reconstituted in our land after 2000 years of exile – exactly as the Bible foretold. Israel has risen like a Lion. Jerusalem is being rebuilt. The face of the lion, as Max planned it with such great artistry, projects power and strength without conveying arrogance or intimidation. This is a feat of remarkable artistic skill and sensitivity. The word for this complex expression is quite simple — Majesty. This is what the Nation of Israel strives to be in the world. We are powerful and strong, and at the same time, we are a beacon of love and compassion for the entire world.”