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.

Read more at Tablet

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

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria