Mark Podwal: A Unique Artist Preoccupied with Jewish History

Sept. 9 2016

In an encomium to the American Jewish artist Mark Podwal, Cynthia Ozick describes his uncanny ability to create striking images that capture the themes of Jewish history. (With slideshow; originally published in 1990.)

Podwal’s genius for . . . historical contradictions—or intensifiers—[is on display] in a drawing that accompanies Elie Wiesel’s The Jews of Silence, a meditation on the travail of Soviet Jews. Moscow rises up before us with its recognizable onion-domed old churches—only the “domes,” when you look again, turn out to be the joyfully beflagged tops of decorative spice boxes—the spice boxes used in Jewish tradition for the havdalah ceremony that separates the close of the Sabbath from the ordinary weekday round. Yet these Jews are not permitted ordinary lives.

In the foreground, one spice box, attempting to escape, has been struck down and lies prostrate on Russian earth; nearby, another strives to stand erect; the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are seen coursing like musical notes—or else like a swarm of fertilizing bees—through the city. A multitude of implications bombard the eye in glorious simultaneity: the Jews of the Soviet Union remember who they are, and like the tall heads of the spice boxes aspire to freedom and hope through the continuity of the Covenant. They may be downtrodden for the moment, but the buzz of liberation animates them. Besides, there are windows in the spice boxes—some are thrown open, others are still shut, but one of them is emblazoned with a Star of David. And a free Star of David hurtles across the Moscow sky.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Cynthia Ozick, Elie Wiesel, Jewish art, Soviet Jewry

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela