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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Druze Artist Marches Among the Living at Nazi Death Camps

"Art from the soul cannot be sold," agrees Syrian Jewish artist Robin Antar. " One cannot sell one’s soul.”
Jewish youth from all over the world participating in the March of the Living  walk the tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland. (illustrative)

Jewish youth from all over the world participating in the March of the Living walk the tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland. (illustrative)
Photo Credit: Yossi Zeliger / Flash 90

A Druze artist who has devoted the lion’s share of her work to depicting scenes of the Holocaust joined the 12,000 participants in this year’s March of the Living.

Buteina Halabei, 38, lives in the northern Israeli town of Daliyat al-Karmel with her husband Tamir, a teacher, and their three children. The artist was invited to join the March by Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of the event, and his deputy and general director Aharon Tamir, to thank her for her work in this area.

Both she and her husband offer classes on the Holocaust in the Druze community, and give lectures at local schools. A professional artist, she has devoted most of her career to painting scenes of the Holocaust – but the works are not for sale.

Halabei explained in a past interview that the pieces are expressions of her “thoughts and feelings, and one doesn’t sell one’s thoughts and feelings.”

It’s not an uncommon decision among artists; Brooklyn-based Syrian Jewish artist Robin Antar, a sculptor whose ancestors hailed from Aleppo and settled in the United States three generations ago, also hoards a number of special pieces that she absolutely will not sell. Antar was recently in Israel searching for stone to use in new works, and to retrace the steps of her son, who passed away a few months ago.

“Art from the soul cannot be sold,” explains Antar. ” One cannot sell one’s soul.” She would know. Antar is about to begin working on a knot that transforms into a memorial flame reaching to the heavens, symbolizing the tortured soul of the son who passed away.

“In many ways he was tortured in ways not unlike some of those in the concentration camps,” Antar told The Jewish Press in a telephone interview. The horrified mother discovered years ago that her helpless toddler had been repeatedly abused and forced to witness acts of sexual abuse and torture of other children by an adult pedophile in his Brooklyn daycare. His perpetrator ultimately managed to escape justice despite strenuous efforts by the Syrian community and his parents to force the legal system to hold him responsible for his crimes.  An Orthodox Jewish rabbinical court (Beis Din) did, in fact, rule in favor of the parents and validate their accusations but the civil justice system refused to recognize the document.

About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.


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