Artist: Aliza Freedman, Australia/Israel
The narrative of the Torah portion (parsha), Shelach Lecha, recounts the journey of the twelve scouts, representing each tribe of Israel, as they make their way into the land of Canaan for the first time. The lesson of this portion rests in the foresight of two men, Caleb and Joshua. Of the twelve scouts sent to reconnoiter, only these two men recognized the true beauty of the land bestowed to them by God and, through unwavering belief, had the vision to trust in the success of the venture.
This work, rendered on parchment, was a unique experience for me and serves as an interpretation of parshat Shelach Lecha. The acrylic paint I always employ took to the material perfectly and helped me overcome the challenge of working in a new medium. Surely, this challenge was small compared to that of the life-changing trial overcome by Caleb and Joshua that I sought to recreate in this piece.
The piece concentrates on expressing the strength, wisdom, and compassion of Caleb and Joshua, who were confident in their decision to enter the land of Canaan. It portrays them in contrast to the other ten men, who convey a mixture of doubt, anxiety, disagreement, and opposition, alongside the women of the community who had to build their own strength in face of the difficulties.
The lessons of Shelach Lecha are timeless, and we can still apply them to our own lives today. The parsha teaches that what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. The popular opinion would be that of the ten men who resisted entering the land of Canaan while the vision and faith of Caleb and Joshua would be considered unpopular. Just as the parsha describes, a large portion of the international community has no faith in the reality and potential of the land (and now nation) of Israel.
The popular opinion calls for a deligitimization of Israel as a nation. The popular opinion has resulted in the refusal of many to enter the country. It has resulted in an internationally organized boycott of its businesses, citizens, academic institutions and its basic right to exist. Only an unpopular and small group of people around the world has the insight, courage, and faith to seek the truth and see this beautiful land for what it is: a thriving, democratic country. Just as the Israelites faced doubt and danger, we are a nation faced with the same challenges. As illustrated perfectly by Golda Meir: “We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when cotton is grown, and when strawberries bloom in Israel.” – As Good as Golda: The Warmth and Wisdom of Israel’s Prime Minister, published 1970.
Such is the ongoing life of the nation of Israel, meeting enormous challenges with innovation, strength and great development.
Reflections on being a Jewish Woman Artist: 397 After training as a graphic designer in South Africa and working in advertising for many years, I began concentrating on producing work connected to my Judaism. This coincided with my move to Australia and with the creation of my first piece of Jewish artwork, my own Ketuba (Jewish marriage contract).
Now that I’ve finally settled in Israel, the connection between my work and the strong feeling I have for the traditions and history of the land come as a blessing to me. The Wandering Jewish artist has come home.
I grew up in a small town in South Africa with an ambiguous sense of Jewish observance. My interest in connecting my artwork to Judaism only grew significantly after my three children attended Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne, Australia. I developed a relationship with the Jewish Museum of Australia, and produced several works over the years. Many have been placed in the museum’s permanent collection, or were auctioned by Sotheby’s as fundraisers for the museum. My work as a Jewish artist was further enhanced by conducting workshops with the students at Mt. Scopus. The workshops focused on teaching the largely Eastern European tradition of papercutting, which was a flourishing craft connected to the festival of Shavuot. As with so many things, the Holocaust had a hand in the decline of this tradition, alongside the growth of technology and the emergence of mass-produced imagery.
My work with Mt. Scopus lent me the privilege of serving as Artist in Residence, once in the Middle School and once in the High School. During both residencies, I worked with students to develop and deepen their personal connections to their lives as young Jewish artists.
In 2001, I completed a certificate in 4-shaft weaving and produced a silk and cotton Tallit for my son’s bar mitzvah. 4-shaft weaving challenged my conventions as an artist and took me from working on paper with paint and cutting paper with a knife to weaving on a loom. I saw the experience as yet another extension of my work as a Jewish artist connecting me to a traditional craft.
Being a part of the Women of the Book project is a unique opportunity for me to grow on my journey as an artist. It has challenged my conventions yet again and exposed me to the incredible ideas and work of 53 other marvelously talented Jewish women.
Aliza Freedman is a Hebrew calligrapher, artist, and weaver with work showcased throughout the U.S.A., London, and Australia. Aliza made Aliya in November 2014 and currently lives in Netanya. Her art is integrated into the Women of the Book’s logo. www.ayinfey.wix.com/alizafreedman