BORDERS #3: ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Image size: 14" x 22" (35.5 x 56 cm)
5 shina plywood blocks
20 hand-rubbed layers
Paper: Echizen Kozo
Based on a satellite view of the West Bank at Qalqiliya.
To learn more about other elements in the print:
The Star-Bellied Sneetches
The Christ Figure
David and Goliath
Abraham Expels Ishmael and His Mother
The American Indian
Jacob Wrestling the Angel after Gustave Doré
The last element I've added to this print is a woodcut reproduction of Gustav Doré's engraving of Jacob wrestling the angel. The story is told in Genesis 32:22-30. Jacob is alone in the desert at night when a stranger begins to wrestle him. They struggle all night and then the story continues:
The man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Jacob is Abraham's grandson, son of Isaac, and in this passage Jacob becomes Israel. "Israel" literally means one who has wrestled with God.
The carving on shina plywood.
I love this image for so many reasons. First, I love the idea of wrestling with God. My own personal relationship with God has involved a whole lot of wrestling, so I'm happy to know that I'm following a tradition. And I love what Jacob says to the angel. "I will not let you go until you bless me." Amazing chutzpah, to demand a blessing from God. I like that. And I love the sense that the angel is hardly struggling, that the angel is letting Jacob win like a parent allows a child to win sometimes. All of the struggling is really being done by the man, not the angel.
In any peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, one of Israel's main conditions is the demand that Israel's right to exist be recognized. Which is kind of a demand to be blessed, so I like this image for that. But there's another side to any demand for a blessing. When we struggle with our hardships, with our challenges, if we stay in the struggle long enough and refuse to let go, it is possible to discover the blessing that lies within the hardship. So I see this image as calling for a struggle with our higher natures. Which I guess is what I want to hope for. I want to believe that at some point one of the parties will have enough sense or incentive to step out of the stranglehold they have each other in and see that nobody can win.
Salman Rushdie wrote, "There comes a point in the unfurling of communal violence in which it becomes irrelevant to ask, 'Who started it?' The lethal conjugations of death part company with any possibility of justification, let alone justice... Both their houses are damned by their deeds; both sides sacrifice the right to any shred of virtue; they are each other's plagues."
They are each other's plagues. Their fates are completely intertwined. Whether Israel and Palestine become two states or one state, they can't escape each other. They are one people with one problem. Maybe they can become each other's angels. Maybe they can squeeze a blessing out of their struggle. That's what I hope for Israel and Palestine.