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1m x 1m
Oil on Canvas
Short synopsis of the painting:
Beverley-Jane Stewart’s painting tells a unique history when in 1917, Britain through Arthur Balfour, Foreign Secretary, formally acknowledged in a letter, given to Lord Rothschild, that Jewish people should have their own homeland in Palestine.
In the painting brush strokes float through the grey past and the bright present, with the story of the Balfour Declaration connecting to modern Israel and the Jewish destiny. On either side of the work two forces are at play. The left marks the history of the British in the Middle East and their gaining access to Palestine. While the right illustrates the historical global persecution of Jews, the urgency for a homeland to survive, explaining the need for wanting to return to their religious origins.
Displaying at the base of the left margin is a copy of the Balfour Letter, which is handed in person by Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild. But the story of the Balfour Declaration begins at the top left with the Victorian British troops defending the Suez Canal. During WW1 the Turks joined the Germans and attacked the British, bloody scenes from the Great War with explosions from heavy iron cannons are also entwined with a portrait of Weizmann and him working in his Edwardian laboratory. Weizmann discovered the use of acetone, a vital chemical used in the manufacturing of gunpowder, which became an important asset in the battlefield. The scientist believed the Jews should have a national home in their biblical roots and was able to persuade Balfour the importance of his vision. The British Government indebted to Weizmann helped to instigate The Balfour Declaration.
The British won the war and the defeated Turkish Ottoman Empire who were in control of Palestine now became part of the British Mandate.
The bricks of Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower transforms into the walls of Jerusalem showing General Allenby’s arrival at the old city, first by horseback and then through the Jerusalem Jaffa Gate by foot. Acting as a beacon of light at a time of immense doom, Big Ben, as part of the British Parliament, becomes the supporting pole for the Israeli flag. Telling the story of modern Israel different areas are embellished on the six points of the ‘Star of David’; Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Safed, Caesarea, kibbutz farming, the Weizmann Institute and the Hall of Independence. Combined into a collage of modern buildings are Banks, shopping malls, high tech parks, scientific institutions, gas wells, universities, museums, and agricultural farming, demonstrating some of the contributions Israel has made within the world. Contrasting with Israel’s achievements the pinnacle point of the star is ’ Yad Vashem’ ‘, Museum of Remembrance, a historical reminder of Jewish oppression.
The central focus of the ‘Star of David’ is the celebration of the joyous Jewish festival of Sukkot (The Tabernacle), which takes place on a roof terrace overlooking the Kotel Wall, which is component of The Temple Mount (the holiest place for Jewish prayer, as this lime stone wall was part of the second Jewish temple constructed in 516BCE - 70 CE). Men in prayer shawls hold an Etrog (citrus fruit) and wave a Luluv (three branches of symbolic meaning), which is an ancient practice from the time of the temple. The theme of the old stone walls are repeated throughout the picture and join with the original temple which was destroyed by the Romans, provoking the Jews to be a scattered nation.
At the base the Israeli flag combines with the Houses of parliament and the Union Jack weaving Jewish history with the momentous event of the Balfour Declaration.