JERUSALEM, Israel — The path near the kibbutz curves left, through an open field. In the distance, a grove of trees; perhaps even a hint of the skyline of Gaza in the distance. The entire canvas is bathed in red — and torn open, in several places, by shrapnel.
This is “Red Alert,” a 2010 painting by the Israeli artist Ziva Jelin, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the communities hit hardest by the Hamas terror attack of October 7.
At the time she painted it, “Red Alert” was already a familiar term to residents of Israel’s southern communities, who had to build bomb shelters to deal with occasional rocket fire from Gaza, which began around 2001. But the red color also symbolized more: love, warmth, the color of local wildflowers, and the socialist ideals of the kibbutz itself.
“Red Alert” has now been reborn, a work not only newly relevant because of the war, but fundamentally changed by it.
It is a painting that, like Israel, remains damaged by what happened on October 7, marked by scars that even victory in war will not heal.
Shrapnel damage is visible in a closeup of “Red Alert” by Ziva Jelin of Kibbutz Be’eri. Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel, November 20, 2023 (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
But it is also a painting that, like Israel, finds new life even in tragedy, even after death.
It is a canvas that takes hatred and violence, and turns them into beauty and creativity: it turns the nihilistic terrorists of Hamas into artists, against their will.
The docent who guided me to the painting — in a silent museum, now closed during the war, except for a few daily tours — stressed that “Red Alert” did not need the war to become art. “You didn’t need to see the damage to be moved by it,” she said.
Perhaps so. But in asserting that “Red Alert” is art, especially in its wounded state, the artist is also making a statement about survival — that of Israel, and of humanity. It defies its own attempted destruction and demands to be recognized, to live anew.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.