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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin’

Artifact Found in Time for Shavuot Proves Bethlehem Existed During First Temple

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ir David Foundation announced that a clay seal was discovered bearing the name of the city of Bethlehem, evidence that the city existed during the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  The find fortuitously coincides with the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, during which time Jews from around the world focus on the story of the biblical figure Ruth, set in the city of Bethlehem.

The 1.5cm seal – called a bulla – was discovered during sifting of soil removed from the archeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.  The sifting is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, which treated The Jewish Press to a private tour.

The clay bulla was meant to seal a document or object, used as a way of showing that the private item had not been tampered with.

The new bulla bears the words:   בשבעת   Bishv’at    בת לים    Bat Lechem [למל[ך   [Lemel]ekh

Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (either Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem.”

“The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE,” Shukron said.  “The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”.

According to Shukron, this is the first time the name Bethlehem has appeared in an inscription from the First Temple period, proving that Bethlehem was a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly in earlier periods.”

The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible occurs in regard to the matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob, sister of Leah, and mother of Joseph, who died while giving birth to Benjamin “in Ephrat, which is Bethlehem, and was buried there (Genesis 35:19; 48:7).

In later generations, when the region was settled by the descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son Judah, a man named Boaz made Ruth, a Moabite convert and daughter-in-law of Naomi, his wife (Book of Ruth).  The couple’s great-grandson, David, became the most celebrated king in Jewish history, and made his capital in Jerusalem, on the site of the modern day “Ir David” – City of David.

The Terrorist Cell that Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Today’s’ revelation by Israel’s security forces, about a Palestinian terrorist cell comprised of nine Arabs from the Ramallah area who were recently indicted on several failed abduction attempts of Israeli civilians in the Benjamin region of Judea and Samaria last March, is reminiscent of Jimmy Breslin’s comic novel “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

The terrorist cell in question attempted several violent kidnappings of Israeli civilians. The idea was to repeat the Gilad Shalit successful abduction which led, eventually, to the release of 1,027 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails. But this cell was unable to execute even one successful abduction and was eventually rounded up by a joint Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), IDF, and Israeli Police operation.

The terrorist gang was affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and their preparations for the abduction attempts included obtaining electric tasers, tear gas, clubs, and a cigarette lighter in the shape of a very realistic pistol.

The gang used rental cars in their operations.

The cell used lookouts that alerted them when Israeli vehicles were approaching. The civilians they planned to kidnap were going to be hidden in a cave or in a secret apartment in Ramallah. They even planned to film the abduction and post the video on You Tube, to advance the negotiations over the hostage’s release.

On March 11, 2012, The terrorists attacked an Israeli driver near the Beit Aryeh community in Judea and Samaria. The terrorists blocked the road and attempted to pull the driver out of his vehicle, but he managed to escape.

The next day, March 12, the terrorist cell attacked a female Israeli driver near the Ma’ale Levona community in Judea and Samaria. They blocked the road and tried to shatter the vehicle’s windshields using heavy objects, but the driver was able to escape.

On March 15, the terrorists attacked another female Israeli driver, who was riding with her baby daughter, around midnight, near the Beit El community. The terrorists were able to block the vehicle and even managed this time to shatter its windshield using heavy objects, but were chased from the scene by the appearance of another Israeli vehicle.

The terrorists are associated with several other abduction attempts. Last March, they tried to pick up two Israeli civilians who were soliciting a lift from a gas station. The hapless squad stopped next to the pair and one of the Israelis almost got on, but his friend became suspicious and pulled him away at the last minute.

“The arrest of this terrorist cell enabled security forces to thwart all their remaining planned attacks as well as any additional terrorist and kidnapping attempts,” says an IDF Spokesperson’s Office press release.

During the first half of May, 2012, the Judea military court received indictments against the cell’s leader, Mahmed Ramdan, and against his cohorts, all of whom were charged with kidnapping attempts.

The ISA stressed that this case “shows the ambition of terror organization to kidnap Israelis” and the threat they pose to peaceful civilians.

Arab Rioters Attack Israeli Vehicle in Benjamin Region

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Palestinians rioters at around 11 p.m. Monday blocked with stones the Benjamin-crossing highway near the settlement of Neve Tzuf in south-west Samaria. An Israeli vehicle with four Tel Aviv residents hit the barrier and was damaged.

The event took place at the Abud bypass, in front of the village of Deir Abu Mashal, about 500 meters from the point where a resident of Neve Tzuf was injured last week when her vehicle was stoned by Arab rioters in broad daylight. The wounded woman was treated at the scene and did not need to be evacuated, but her car suffered serious damage.

Security forces from the settlement of Neve Tzuf and IDF forces reached the scene Monday night and began searching for the attackers.

Neve Tzuf was established on the ruins of a Talmud-era village, in November, 1977, by 40 families of both National Religious and secular Israelis. The murder of a Jewish resident at the settlement’s gate—a unique event back then—caused a mass desertion of the place, with only seven families choosing to stay.

Today some 250 families (close to 1,000 residents) live in Neve Tzuf, which is situated 35 minutes from Jerusalem and 45 minutes from Tel Aviv. The community is religious, with 55% Ashkenazi, 33% Sephardi, and 15% Yemenite.

Prime Minister to Israelis: ‘You Touched My Heart’

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu penned a letter to the people of the State of Israel, thanking them for coming to console him after the death of his father.

The letter, written by the Prime Minister and posted on his Facebook page, expressed gratitude to the thousands of Israelis who paid respects at the shiva house of his father, Dr. Benzion Netanyahu, who passed away on April 30 at the age of 102.

“I’d like to thank from the depths of my heart the many thousands of you who came to my father’s house to give your condolences to my family and me, and to the tens of thousands who sent messages of comfort and support ,” the letter said.

“You touched my heart in my time of grief,” he wrote.  “From Jerusalem, I send my thanks to all of you.”

Benzion Netanyahu was laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. His sons Benjamin and Ido will conclude the shiva seven-day mourning period on Sunday morning.  His son Yoni was killed in 1976 during the famed raid on Entebbe, Uganda, to free a group of Israeli hostages.

Netanyahu was an expert in Medieval Jewish history, as well as an ardent Zionist.  In his youth, he worked for Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and raised his sons to believe in the importance of maintaining Jewish control of the land of Israel.

Court Delays Destruction of Ulpana Apartments

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The Supreme Court on Sunday ruled that the buildings of Givat HaUlpana in Beit El targeted for destruction because of an ownership dispute would receive a 60 day reprieve.

Located in the mountains of the Benjamin tribal region in southern Samaria, the Ulpana buildings were ordered destroyed by the Supreme Court in May, after the extreme anti-Jewish settlement group Yesh Din filed a lawsuit claiming the property had been built on Palestinian land.

Though the court demanded that the residential apartments be razed, the question of who actually owns the land has yet to be resolved in court.  Parties in Beit El have appealed to the lower court, arguing that they own the land, having bought it outright from Palestinians.

Justices Edna Arbel, Asher Grunis, and Yoram Danziger granted the stay, giving 60 days to find an alternative solution, rather than the 90 days initially requested by the government.

Approximately 550,000 Israelis live in Judea, Samaria, and the eastern part of Jerusalem.

IDF Soldiers Save Critically Ill Palestinian Infant

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Last Sunday night, a Palestinian woman arrived with her 12-day-old baby girl at an IDF post in the Benjamin region of Judea and Samaria. The infant was having trouble breathing and needed immediate first aid.

IDF Home Front Command soldiers stationed at the post treated the baby, stabilized her, then called an ambulance, which evacuated her to a nearby hospital in Ramallah.

“The baby was suffering from severe difficulty breathing and was vomiting at the same time,” explained the battalion doctor, Cpt. Dr. Michael Findler. “We provided her with initial medical care and succeeded in stabilizing her condition.”

Commanders from the Benjamin Regional Brigade explained that Palestinians in the region know that if they have a life-threatening emergency, they can come to the IDF post for assistance.

“Every Palestinian in the region knows there is an IDF post permanently stationed here that will provide aid,” said Cpt. Dr. Findler. “Such incidents have become commonplace.”

Over the past two weeks, the battalion stationed at the post treated three similar cases of emergency medical care. “Last time one of our paramedics treated a Palestinian girl suffering from meningitis, and in another incident I treated a jaundice patient that arrived with a severe cerebral hemorrhage,” explained the battalion doctor. “In both cases the patients were evacuated for additional medical care at Israeli hospitals.”

IDF soldiers have a long history of saving Palestinian lives. In recent months, IDF medics have treated a an elderly Palestinian suffering from pulmonary edema, an unconscious Palestinian man, an injured Gaza teenager and victims of a severe car accident.

Lilith by Siona Benjamin

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Finding Home: The Art of Siona Benjamin

The Laurie M. Tisch Gallery (in partnership with Flomenhaft Gallery)

JCC Manhattan

334 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC; 646-505-5708

9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

Free Admission (Photo ID required)

Until July 30, 2011

 


Siona Benjamin’s exhibition “Finding Home: The Art of Siona Benjamin” is simply beautiful.  Set in the spacious lobby gallery of the JCC Manhattan, it allows for a peaceful (when the kids, nannies and crowds subside) contemplation of this complex artist’s meditations on biblical women, war, exoticism and contemporary society.  The painted walls range from soft ochre to a pale turquoise, setting off Benjamin’s palette to maximum effect, each work sensuously vibrating with the atmosphere of Benjamin’s native Mumbai, India.  As has been explored in previous reviews of her work (September 23, 2008, March 25, 2011) these Persian/Indian/Mughal influences are meant to express exile and foreignness.  Her work is an autobiographical narrative as much as a worldview paradoxically meant to bring us all together. 


The sensitive curator at the JCC, Megan Whitman, has chosen a wide range of Benjamin’s work including works including the exploration of the diverse narratives of Tziporah, Miriam, Ruth, Chava, Sarah, Esther and Sarah/Hagar.  Intriguingly almost all of her works are subtitled Fereshteh, meaning angels in Urdu, her native Indian language. For Benjamin these biblical characters are angels, i.e. messengers between the divine and the mundane, between the ancient Torah and our contemporary concerns.  And while she claims that “Finding Home” is no longer a central artistic concern for her, it is clear that Benjamin continues to search for a meaning to be extracted out of her own personal exile and the larger exile of her fellow Jews.  These paintings are deeply concerned with searching, challenging and yearning for some kind of salvation.


At the risk of slighting much significant artwork in this exhibition, Benjamin’s seven works on the subject of Lilith (Leelat) demand special attention.  Representing fully one-third of these exhibited works, no other subject is as extensively developed.  And no other subject is as infused with troubling ancient and contemporary meaning.


Lilith represents an ancient male fear of the feminine.  She is the terrifying other, the disruptive feminine force that is violent, rebellious and assertive. But, perhaps more significantly, she represents the all-too-real perils of female creativity. Bringing life into this world is an inherently risky proposition, and Lilith’s demonic reign reflects the terrible reality of infant mortality seldom acknowledged.


Lilith is fleetingly mentioned in Isaiah 34:14, is described in the Gemara at least four times, and her demonic activity is fully explored in the Midrash and in the Zohar.  It is there that she, like all demons, becomes a scourge to man and woman alike.  Her fury at men takes the form of illicit nocturnal relations that result in demonic offspring that fill the world with chaos and evil.  Nonetheless it is her hatred of vulnerable women in childbirth, postpartum and their newborn children, that is especially feared.   From antiquity amulets and kimiyahs (angel texts) were routinely placed around those thought to be vulnerable to Lilith’s murderous attacks.


Significantly, Benjamin does not address the Lilith that terrified Jewish women for centuries.  Rather she utilizes the ancient character of rebellion to fashion a uniquely contemporary Lilith.  It should be noted that Benjamin gives all these paintings the same name: Finding Home (Fereshteh), distinguishing them only by different numbers.


A web of demonic forces traps the emergent Lilith in Finding Home #88. She is bound at the waist as she reaches up to a host of heavenly angels and to a blindfolded messenger bearing a basket of divine powers.  Below a swarm of blue demons radiates in free fall from the newly created Lilith. This female being is constricted by all manners of strings, demonic, heavenly and those pinned outside the image itself; Lilith here is compromised and trapped, not yet liberated from her creators.


Lilith in Finding Home #79 is a victim of late 20th century wars.  She bleeds from a wound mysteriously self-inflicted, splayed out over a New York Times map that details Iraqi battles not yet 10 years old.  This is Lilith in agony who suffers terribly from mankind’s violence, perhaps resurrected by our own cruelty.

 


Finding Home #102 “Lilith” (Fereshteh) 2008;

gouache & gold leaf on panel by Siona Benjamin  – Frame collaboration with Shifaz Usman

Courtesy the artist 

 

 

As we proceed around the gallery, the next Lilith, Finding Home #102, coyly interrogates the viewer in a text balloon; “Who Goes There?  Friend or Foe?”  The blue figure is simultaneously the artist herself and Lilith peeking mischievously from behind luxurious purple drapes. The painting is surrounded with an elaborate carved wooden frame that radiates a Pop Art explosion, exclaiming “WHAM!” It was specially carved in collaboration with Shifaz Usman and represents the tension between Benjamin’s view of Lilith as a dangerous feminine force and a sly seductress. Her self-identification with the ancient female demon treads the fine line between a forceful challenge to patriarchal authority and arch Pop-inspired ironic humor.

 

 


Finding Home #80 “Lilith (Fereshteh) 2006 

Detail; gouache & gold leaf on panel by Siona Benjamin

Courtesy the artist

 

Finding Home #80 continues narrative of the genesis of the contemporary Lilith.  The text explains to us “THEN TO THE AMAZEMENT OF ALL, THERE AROSE FROM THE FIRE A BLUE MAIDEN, WAFTING THE FRAGRANCE OF LOTUSES IN BLOOM.”  Here Lilith wishes to simultaneously be Jewish, an archetypical blue goddess and a wounded avenging angel.  She wears a diminutive hamsa necklace and a tallis even as she totes a six-shooter and ammunition belt. Her eyes are closed in a kind of blissful agony from the arrow that has pierced her side in reference to the Roman Catholic martyr St. Sebastian, much beloved of medieval and Renaissance artists.  In this deeply complex and conflicted image one red bird flies off the right side of the canvas as a single ray of hope.  An ornate classic gold enclosure reinforces the iconic nature of this image, a startling birth of the anti-Venus housed in a frame more suitable to an Italian Madonna and Child.


Through the lens of Lilith (and other characters) Benjamin clearly sees the world as a deeply violent and dangerous place.  Shell casings surround this image in Finding Home #105.  The Lilith here emerges from a blue sea, each of her four arms posing a symbolic alternative: the lotus flower’s beauty is contrasted with a fiery bomb in the other.  One other hand is tightly bandaged while the remaining hand gestures peacefully to the sea.  The three-headed goddess protects herself from the noxious environment with a gas mask almost certainly derived from the now standard issue Israeli home supplies.

 

 


Finding Home #87 “Lilith (Fereshteh) 2008;

gouache on museum board by Siona Benjamin

Courtesy the artist

 

 

So too is the Lilith disguised as a genie in Finding Home #87 a smiling target of bullets, this time anchored along opposite edges that suspend her image above a web of potential violence.  One angel sits helpless watching while an archer takes aim at a rescuing heavenly figure above.  The only hope is the figure on the upper left pointing alongside the “Exit” sign.  The deep-seated unease of these images is only slightly masked by Benjamin’s flurry of symbols and witticisms.

 

 

 


Finding Home #74 “Lilith (Fereshteh) 2005

 Detail; Frame & banner, ink on fabric by Siona Benjamin

Courtesy the artist

 

Finally at the end of the exhibition is what is arguably Benjamin’s masterpiece, Finding Home #74.  Grand in size (75″ X 58″) and in scale this painting is also surrounded by an ornate frame teeming with hundreds of toy combat figures only visible upon close inspection.  They set the militant tone that the image proclaims; “A THOUSAND OF YEARS HAVE I WAITED KEEPING THE EMBERS OF REVENGE GLOWING IN MY HEART!”  She is also a wounded victim; a bullet is just visible inside her ribcage next to the still bleeding gash. She utters her angry cry with tears flowing down her cheeks, again in Pop Art mock drama, just as a ball of flame erupts behind her.


This painting is a tour de force because it brings to a head all of the questions and issues this contemporary Lilith poses for us.  Is Lilith a Jewish women’s liberator as Benjamin’s text balloons would suggest? And yet so much mitigates against that very modern Jewish feminist ideology.  Her constant depiction as a victim – injured, pierced and bleeding – does not conjure a forceful heroine.  Additionally the emphasis on war and violence, either aimed at Lilith or as swirling around her, seems to compromise the character. Most pointedly Benjamin’s use of Pop Art irony, a kind of tongue-in-cheek seriousness, begins to question the all too fashionable use of this ancient Jewish female figure.


This selection of Benjamin’s Lilith paintings, representing about three-quarters she has done with this character, throws the female demon into complex relief.  She is adrift in a dangerous world, yearning to be a powerful actress in solving our problems and yet not able.  She casts a suspicious glance at her modern fame, doubting that she or any Jewish woman (or man) can be effective at the salvation the world seems to need so badly. Siona Benjamin has created a Lilith very wisely modern, not yet ready to change the course of history by mere force of will but still unwilling to accept the world in its unredeemed state. 


 


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/lilith-by-siona-benjamin-2/2011/07/13/

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