Art in focus: October 2019
The Peace Kids
Jonathan Kis-Lev and crew, spray and wall paint
In September 2014, this image appeared on a wall in Tel Aviv, Israel. Simultaneously, it appeared in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and on the Israeli West Bank’s separation wall. It triggered enormous controversy. Created by Jonathan Kis-Lev – an Israeli cartoonist, artist and peace activist – it shows two boys walking with their arms around each other’s necks. Srulik, on the left, is an Israeli; Handala, on the right, a Palestinian. The genius of Kis-Lev and his crew was to bring together these two iconic figures, who already had a life and significance of their own.
Israeli cartoonist Kariel Gardosh, known as Dosh, created the character of Srulik in 1956. He epitomises a pioneering Zionist – a proud, strong and sympathetic character who, in times of need, puts on a uniform to defend the state of Israel. Handala is the creation of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, and has become a symbol of his people’s identity and defiance. He is a spiky-haired, barefoot young boy whose back is always turned to the viewer. Al-Ali explains that Handala is the ten-year-old that he himself was in 1973, when he was forced to leave Palestine.
Kis-Lev’s graffito joins them in friendship. Critics on both sides of the divide have said the image is naive, but to many others, it is an image of hope and aspiration.
Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney
Photograph: ©Jonathan Kis-Lev/Wikimedia Commons
This article was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform