1990. Israeli artist, Royi meets Italian artist, Roberto, somewhere in Palm Beach. Sitting on a beach they talk about the Bible. In the year 71 A.D the Roman Emperor Titus burned down the second Temple of Jerusalem and stole the Menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum shown by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Its plunder was an act of aggression designed to obliterate a most vital symbol of a vanquished people. History is an endless succession of similar tragedies buried in the collective unconscious. Prominent symbols like the Menorah, however, give the mind the power to resurrect certain events, refocus them and in so doing, change they’re meaning forever.
>Royi says: your ancestors stole the Menorah, what are you going to do about it? That was the beginning of the Menorah project and two and a half years of an all-encompassing collaboration. Two artists split the canvas in half. Together they pick a story. Then each one proceeds to paint. How do you arrive at a concept? People often ask. “We argue until we are blue in the face and until we finally agree”. They criticize each others work while continuing to paint until they are both satisfied about their own and each other’s work. This process is truly about compromise and listening to the other.? It is truly a peace process. Two thousand years after the robbery in the Temple, two artists, an Italian and ? An Israeli, through the medium of their art, have attempted to soothe the old wound. In a project about compromise, healing and working? Side by side, they have figuratively rebuilt the Menorah of old and brought it to the 21st Century. Menorah as the Tree of Life: the seven branches as the seven days of creation. Twelve ?paintings. Twelve tribes. Twelve months of the year. The ritualized burning of the flame. The fire of life being kept alive through the connection with the nourishing Earth. These are some of the most powerful myths which have sustained people of all religions and cultures throughout history. Against the dark tapestry of contemporary social issues, homelessness, prejudice, war, miscommunication, child abuse, AIDS, hunger, drugs, injustice and old-age the artists have conceptualized the Menorah as light flickering against the dark walls of a cave. They have affirmed the need for a new mythology, a “re-connection” with lost or forgotten traditions from which we can build a new social framework. Perhaps the value of this project lies the fact that a Gentile and a Jew, together, have metaphorically reconstructed a religious symbol that transcends both religion and culture. Subordinating the ego to the advantage of common purpose might be one of the most needed messages of this Century. The value of this project lies the fact that a Gentile and a Jew, together, have metaphorically reconstructed a religious symbol that transcends both religion and culture. Subordinating the ego to the advantage of common purpose might be one of the most needed messages of this Century.
Aytun Altindal Writer-Historian
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer donates a print of “The Menorah” to Mr. Kenich Kinokuni Managing Director of the Sezeon Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. The print is housed in the permanent collection. Dr. Kazuko Hillyer was born in the renowned family of silk, the Tatsumura of Kyoto, Japan. She was a celebrated international impresaria with exceptional pioneering…
The symbolic journey starts in Rome with Roberto and Royi climbing the Arch of Titus and lifting their large menorah painting to the middle of the Arch. This is the spot with the actual Roman carving of the carrying of the menorah. This performance was interrupted by the arrival of the Roman police. The artists were reprimanded…
On June 24th 1992 in New York, during a celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, New York City Mayor Dinkins and Sen. Alfonso D’Amato present a print of “The Menorah” to Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem. Tedy Kollek invites the artists to come and visit with him in Jerusalem.
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