Lera Barshtein

Monumental Painting

Town Lion Wedding Town Lion Town Lion Town Lion Town Lion Wall Painting for the chess club Wall Painting for the chess club Design for the play on H.C. Andersen fairy tale “The Nightingale” Design for the play on H.C. Andersen fairy tale “The Nightingale” Design for the play on H.C. Andersen fairy tale “The Nightingale”

Lions for the Children of Jerusalem

A Word From the Curator

Since the dawn of human history, the lion has symbolized power, courage and leadership. The image of the lion has accompanied myths and legends in many cultures around the world, and it is without a doubt the most prominent animal to serve as a symbol throughout time. The three major monotheistic religions have chosen it as a formative symbol: in Judaism it symbolizes the tribe of Judah, taken from Jacob's blessing to his sons (Judah is a lion's whelp); in Christianity it is associated with Jesus, since the Christians regard him as the lion of the tribe of Judah; whereas Islam itself is compared to a lion that devours its enemies.

In cultures near and far, the lion accompanies gods and kings, sometimes to the point of completely identifying with them. In ancient Asian cultures, certain gods are depicted in the form of lions. This is also true of many tribes in Africa, which attribute magical powers to the lion. In Far Eastern cultures, the gods ride upon lions or have them harnessed to their chariots. The lion's power has impressed humans so much, that overcoming a lion was considered an act that only those endowed with divine strength could achieve. Indeed, such heroic acts are described in many religions and cultures. In the Bible, Samson overcomes the lion due to his supernatural power, and Daniel escapes from harm in the lion's den because of his faith. In Greek mythology, the demigod Heracles becomes invincible after killing the Nemean lion and wearing its head and skin. In the Masai tribe of Africa, overpowering a lion is considered the greatest proof of manhood to this day, although the act itself is now prohibited by law.

Among the figurines known to us, the most ancient figurine depicting a half-man, half-lion character dates from 30,000 years ago, and was unearthed at Neanderthal in southern Germany. We are, of course, familiar with the Egyptian Sphinx, a lion with the head and breast of a woman, who represented the Sun god and the might of the Pharaohs. This image was later adopted by the Hittites, Assyrians and Phoenicians, but with the addition of wings. In the Bible too, in Ezekiel's vision, figures are described with: the face of a man... the face of a lion... the face of an ox... the face of an eagle... and their wings were divided upwards... The lion as a symbol of the sun also appears in the religious cult of Mithra that originated in Persia, but also had a great effect on the Romans, before the latter finally adopted Christianity in the 4th century C.E. Lion sculptures and reliefs guard temples, important tombs and government institutions in both Eastern and Western cultures. This is true in Buddhist China, in the Greek cultures of Crete and Mycenae, and even in Judaism where a pair of lions guard the Tablets of the Law in many synagogues. Similar to Venice, the city with the most images of lions, that has adopted the winged lion as its symbol, Jerusalem has also been graced with a large number of images of lions. Alone, in pairs or in prides, they can be found adorning Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious institutions, as well as public buildings, organizations, commercial firms, business establishments and private homes. Due to the presence of lion imagery in Jerusalem's history, and since the lion represents the tribe of Judah, the lion has naturally become the official emblem of Jerusalem.

It was equally natural that when the city's leaders decided to institute a tradition of using art to connect an image with the community, the lion was chosen to spearhead this event. This is the second time that packs of lions have taken over the city and won the hearts of its citizens. They are visible in nearly every corner of the city, resting leisurely or observing their surroundings like sentries. These lions were conceived by dozens of artists and designers from around the country, as a gesture towards Jerusalem and its residents. The artists were guided by various design and artistic approaches: some addressed the different cultural images and symbols of the lions, such as Liat Klingman's Mycenaean lion and Alina Speshilov's Sphinx; others took a humorous approach to the point of turning the tables, such as the lion that resembles a fox by Alona Ohana or the lion designed as a clown by Nitzan Zabari; still others addressed the landscape of the city and its residents, such as the lions by Motta Brin, Liora Barshtein, Tova Berman and Edna Ohana. Gestures evoking bodies, phenomena or other necessities of Jerusalem's reality can also be found: Danny Back's design is a lion inspired by the Betar Jerusalem soccer club, Ya'ara Tal salutes the security guards who protect us with their very bodies at every public institution or restaurant, and Michael Yehielevitch welcomes the approaching municipal light rail system Undoubtedly these lions, whether placed in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv or other cities in Israel, will remain engraved in the collective memory of the city's residents and take a place of honor among the lions who have populated Jerusalem for many generations.

Han Wizgan, Curator