By Sara Noah
The red paint was used by chance, but it has taken on a grim significance. It was what was on hand when Ziva Jelin painted “Curving Road” in 2010, a moody landscape of empty asphalt leading to Kibbutz Be’eri, in the southern Israeli countryside, her home. Just out of the frame is the neighboring Gaza Strip.
Two white spots caused by shrapnel disturb the otherwise entirely red background of the work. It was damaged when Hamas gunmen stormed the very road the painting depicts and rampaged through Be’eri on Oct. 7, killing or kidnapping scores of residents and sparking the war in Gaza1.
“The red I painted with comes from a place of strong emotion, something that lights up the sky, that gives a strong impact,” said Jelin on Sunday after her artwork, rescued from the ravaged community, was put on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. “Of course today, when someone comes and sees these paintings from Be’eri, that for years I painted, sees it in red and can make the connection to ‘Red Alerts’ (rocket sirens), to fires, to massacre, to blood, to war. I respect anyone viewing it who understands it in that way. But that’s not where I came from.”
It was a dream, she said, to have her work, which employed acrylic and wall paint on canvas, displayed at one of Israel’s leading museums – though she is aware that recent events are what made it happen.
Hardest hit on October 7, Be’eri was one of the towns hardest hit by the Hamas attack. Surviving residents were eventually evacuated and Israel has since launched a devastating bombardment and ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza2.
Jelin managed an art gallery in Be’eri, drawing local enthusiasts. “Curving Road” and other damaged works were later rescued. Since the attack, Jelin paints non-stop, she said.
Jelin said that she has not returned to the kibbutz since the attack, and that she is staying with friends in Tel Aviv, where she is trying to cope with the loss and trauma. She said that she has not stopped painting, and that she views her works as survivors that testify to the events. “I paint the landscapes and the figures that I know and love, the cypresses, the fields, the sidewalks and paths, the houses and the trees. I paint them in red, because red is pure feeling, and because red is also the color of the ‘Red Alerts’ that we used to hear when rockets were fired from Gaza. Red is the color of fire, of blood, of life and death. Red is the color of my home,” she said.
Jelin said that she hopes that her painting will inspire and touch the visitors of the museum, and that it will raise awareness of the situation of the communities near the Gaza border, which have suffered from years of rocket attacks and terror. She said that she also hopes that her painting will convey a message of hope and peace, and that one day, the curving road will lead to a better future. “I believe that art can heal, and that art can bridge the gaps between people. I believe that art can make a difference in the world,” she said.