stats counter
Web Counter Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel, Salvador Dali

SALVADOR DALI

 

"ALIYAH, THE REBIRTH OF ISRAEL"

(Updated 8/1/2013)

 

Preface, Elliott King

Introduction, David R. Blumenthal

Dali, The Jews, Judaism, And Zionism

Acknowledgments

Commentary, David R. Blumenthal

I. Introductory Image: Aliyah (Plate 1)

II. Exile and Hope

"A Voice is heard in Ramah" (Plate 2)                

The Wailing Wall (Plate 3)

"For it is thy life and the length of thy days" (Plate 12)

"Return, O virgin of Israel" (Plate 18)

III. The Yishuv (the pre-State of Israel settlement)

            "We shall go up at once and possess it" (Plate 4)

            "Let them have dominion" (Plate 10)

            The Pioneers of Israel (Plate 21)

            On the Shores of Freedom (Plate 5)

            "Arise, Barak, and lead thy captives" (Plate 17)

            The Land at the Start of Jewish Settlement (Plate 22)

            The Land Come to Life (Plate 23)

            The Land of Milk and Honey (Plate 24)

IV. Shoah

            Out of the Depths (Plate 6)

            "Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit" (Plate 13)

            "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (Plate 14)

            "I have set before thee life and death" (Plate 15)

V. Independence

            A Moment in History (Plate 7)

            Hatikvah (Plate 16)

            Orah, Horah (Plate 11)

            Angels of Rebirth (Plate 8)

            The Battle of the Jerusalem Hills (Plate 19)

            Victory (Plate 20)

            The Price — Bereavement (Plate 9)

VI. The Final Image: Covenant (Plate 25)

 

PREFACE

 

Dr. Elliott H. King

Guest Curator, "Dalí: The Late Work," High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2010

 

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) is one of the most famous and popular artists of the twentieth century.  Until recently, however, most critics and art historians considered only a small portion of his prolific output — that executed between 1929 and 1939, when he was in direct contact with the Paris Surrealists — to be worthy of serious study.  Over the past decade, there has been a revitalization of interest in Dalí's art and writing of the 1940s through the 1980s, though that "renaissance" has concerned chiefly his paintings — his 1950s "Nuclear Mysticism," his 1960s proto-Pop Art paintings, and his 1970s experiments with optical illusions — and, to a lesser extent, his films.  His enormous body of limited-edition graphic suites, in contrast, continues to await proper reassessment.  The Exhibit, Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel (1968), organized as part of the dedicatory year for the Marcus Hillel Center of Emory University, leads that effort, buttressing the growing critical awareness and appreciation of Dalí's later work through its reconsideration of what is surely one of the artist's most visually appealing — and historically significant — graphic commissions.

 

Despite Dalí's perceived distance from the avant-garde in the later twentieth century, the 1960s were his most prolific years in terms of sheer volume, thanks largely to the graphic suites that became a steady income stream through the efforts of his business manager, Captain John Peter Moore.[1]  Though ever popular with collectors and the public at-large, critics and scholars have widely judged these graphics as predominantly commercial ventures with little artistic interest or merit.  Dalí did not aid his case: "Each morning after breakfast, I like to start the day by earning $20,000," he boasted, referring to the ease with which he could sign stacks of printed lithographs for a ludicrously quick profit.  Yet neglecting the graphics has meant a lacuna for Dalí scholarship: after all, their creation comprised the vast majority of the artist's 1960s and 1970s activity, with literally hundreds of post-war commissions that ranged from Boccaccio's Decameron and Shakespeare's Macbeth to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, writings by the Marquis de Sade, and The Holy Bible. Further, just as fresh investigations into the inspirations underlying his much-ridiculed religious paintings have brought to light a much more profound intention than previously assumed, so explorations into Dalí's graphics reveal a surprising knowledge of his subjects, a seriousness that he adopted as a professional artist, and a refreshing willingness to experiment with new styles and media. 

 

The Exhibit's most important contribution may be the welcome attention it gives to the artist's direct references to Jewish history, which have been heretofore dismissed as inconsequential or ignored altogether.  Through the curators' choice to rearrange the lithographs in a thematic-historical sequence that underscores Dalí's quotations from Jewish history, Aliyah is seen here afresh and with newfound gravitas. 

 

Some viewers may be surprised that the Aliyah illustrations are so loose and expressionistic in contrast with the refined, photographic quality characteristic of Dalí's paintings.  One of the appealing elements of Dalí's graphics is the unusual means by which he would often create the original gouaches or, in this case, watercolors.  This began in 1957 with his first lithograph series, Pages choisies de Don Quichotte de la Mancha, for which he pioneered the use of what he dubbed "bulletism": shooting the plates with paint-filled bullets using an antique arquebus.  The same "splatter" effect can be seen in several of the Aliyah paintings, aligning them not only with earlier Abstract Expressionism (albeit with a Dalinian flair) but suggesting an element of performance as well. 

 

Also noteworthy, four of the Aliyah paintings relate directly to the major 1966-1967 oil painting Tuna Fishing, a mammoth canvas (approximately 9 x 13 ft) intended as a hallucinogenic compendium of Dalí's artistic influences, from 19th academic painting through Pop Art.  Two of the Aliyah paintings relate to the spearing of fish — "We shall go up at once and possess it" (plate 4), in which the spear in Tuna Fishingis replaced by the flag of Israel, and "Let them have dominion" (plate 10) — while another two — Angels of Rebirth (plate 8) and "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (plate 14) — quote Tuna Fishing's abstruse Op Art sections.  These quotations may be "paranoiac" in nature, by which I mean that they incorporate Dalí's "paranoiac critical method": a self-induced "psychosis" the artist theorized in the early 1930s that encouraged him to misread his environment and thereby tap his subconscious.  This most directly guided the double-image paintings that typified his 1930s output, though the same mechanism directed his illustrative projects as well: rather than directly illustrating a text, he instead illustrated the images that the text invoked for him. As the artist wrote in 1934, "It is too evident that the 'illustrative fact' cannot in any way restrain the course of my delirious ideas, but that, on the contrary, it makes them bloom.  Therefore for me, of course, it can only be a question of paranoiac illustrations."[2]  This may explain the seemingly unrelated images included in Aliyah — specifically plates 8 and 10.  As for the links Dalí makes between Aliyah and Tuna Fishing, one can speculate that in 1968 Tuna Fishingwas still clearly on Dalí's mind, having consumed him for the past two years, and so when his imagination was unleashed upon Aliyah, it was to this reservoir that his thoughts turned — not out of lethargy but for reasons that were possibly as mysterious and intriguing to himself as they are to viewers today. 

 

While the Exhibit substantiates a fascinating historical context for Aliyah, it does not shy away from important questions and controversies.  Did Dalí have any sincere connections to Jews, Judaism, or Zionism?  David Blumenthal addresses this query in his essay, inviting investigation and speculation.  The Surrealists famously attacked Dalí from the 1940s onwards as an anti-Semite, though the basis for this is unclear.  In retort, Dalí identified his heroes as Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, and it should be noted that he also maintained a friendship and productive thirty-year collaboration with the Jewish Latvian-American photographer Philippe Halsman.[3]  Adding to the mystery, nearly a decade before painting Aliyah, Dalí planned to include a scene in his unfinished film The Prodigious Story of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros (1954-62) in which Paul Goldman's 1957 photograph of David Ben-Gurion doing a headstand at Sharon Hotel beach would transform into a skull.[4]  

 

What might be surmised from this about the artist's personal — or "paranoiac" — views of Judaism?  Whatever his intention, it could not have been straightforward.  "I hate simplicity in all its forms," Dalí wrote in 1935, and with this in mind, I hope that the Exhibit, Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel, leads to further discussion and (re)discovery, not only of Dalí's "Jewish" works but of his graphic production as a whole... and all the inherent complexities.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

David R. Blumenthal

Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies

Emory University, Atlanta, GA

 

In April 1968, for the 20th anniversary of the State of Israel, a special issue of Hadassah Magazine was published. It caught the excitement of Dali's new work entitled "Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel" as follows:

 

An epic history of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland — expressed in 25 bold, dramatic, yet sensitive drawings, sketches and water-color paintings by the surrealist master, Salvador Dali — will shortly be added of the art treasure of Israel and museums and collectors throughout the world.

 

Appropriately titled "Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel," the series of paintings captures the spirit of the Jews from the first days of the exile and for nearly 2,000 years in the diaspora until their final return to their cherished soil of Israel. Embracing a wide spectrum of moods, from gaiety to deep drama to stark tragedy, it culminates in the ultimate triumph of justice and the joyous restoration of the nation.

 

The world premiere exhibit of the series is scheduled for April 1 at the Gallery of Modern Art (Huntington Hartford Museum) in New York, for the benefit of Bonds for Israel. Following 20 days of public showing, lithographs of the set will go on view in Israel and in leading cities of the Unites States and Europe.

 

Commissioned by Shorewood Publishers, a New York firm noted for publications of art, Dali devoted two years to the completion of this monumental task. His chronicles of the people are clearly stamped with his own unique poetic expression. Some are extremely lyrical, others sweeping and epic É

 

According to Shorewood, following sale of the original paintings, 250 sets of lithographs will be made available to leading museums and individual collectors. Portfolio No. 1 will be presented as a gift to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem where an exhibit of all the originals is slated to coincide with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Israel's independence.

 

Europe's two leading studios specializing in fine-art lithography — Fernard Mourlot's of Paris and Wolfensgerger of Zurich — extended their facilities for the conversion of the paintings into lithographs, each of which is signed by Dali. After the stones necessary for each subject were prepared, the required number of impressions were printed, following which the stones were destroyed, thereby assuring that these lithographs will never be reprinted.

 

In the early 1980s, my wife, Ursula, and I were visiting Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rutenberg, the parents of a former student, Laurie Rutenberg. “Charlie,” as he was known to all, offered to sell us his set of “Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel” which he had bought when it was first issued. Ursula, recalling that, on our first date in 1965, I had taken her to see an exhibit of Dali in the Huntington Hartford Museum in New York, decided to buy the suite for me as a present. I have always cherished this gift and we have maintained it assiduously in its original box, with the original introductory booklet containing an essay by Prof. Gerson D. Cohen, an introductory letter by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and a Preface by A. Reynolds Morse. The box even contains the original flyer offering the suite for sale. Art experts, as well as its provenance, confirm, then, the authenticity of this set.

For a long time, this set, number 150 out of 250, was the only such set in Atlanta. As long-time friends of Hillel at Emory we, together with the sponsors and patrons of this Exhibit, are very pleased to present Dali’s “Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel” to the public. The Exhibit, which travels with printouts of this website and a podcast, began its life as part of the dedicatory year for the Marcus Hillel Center of Emory University and is now traveling to other venues, including Brown University – Rhode Island School of Design Hillel, University of Washington Hillel in Seattle, Denver University Hillel, Boston University Hillel, and Columbus State University (Columbus, GA). It is our hope that this will contribute to Jewish culture atin each of the communities that it visits. I am pleased to record that, thanks to the generosity of Ms. Francine Gani, there is a suite on permanent display at the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.

The sequence of the lithographs follows the sequence in the small brochure that came with the set. Arranged by the publisher, that sequence probably follows the order used by the two firms that prepared the lithographs. This order, however, does not follow any chronological or thematic pattern. Further, it is not certain that this order is the sequence in which Dali intended the lithographs to be displayed, if there was an original order at all. It seemed reasonable, therefore, to rearrange the prints in this Exhibit in a thematic-historical sequence. The lithographs, then, are displayed in six thematic groups though the numbering of the prints follows the publisher’s brochure for reference purposes, as follows (original plate numbers in parentheses):

 

The Introductory Image

Aliyah (Plate 1)

Exile and Hope

            "A Voice is heard in Ramah" (Plate 2)

            The Wailing Wall (Plate 3)

            "For it is thy life and the length of thy days" (Plate 12)

            "Return, O virgin of Israel" (Plate 18)

The Yishuv (the pre-State of Israel settlement)

            "We shall go up at once and possess it" (Plate 4)

            "Let them have dominion" (Plate 10)

            The Pioneers of Israel (Plate 21)

            On the Shores of Freedom (Plate 5)

            "Arise, Barak, and lead thy captives" (Plate 17)

            The Land at the Start of Jewish Settlement (Plate 22)

            The Land Come to Life (Plate 23)

            The Land of Milk and Honey (Plate 24)

Shoah

            Out of the Depths (Plate 6)

            "Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit" (Plate 13)

            "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (Plate 14)

            "I have set before thee life and death" (Plate 15)

Independence

            A Moment in History (Plate 7)

            Hatikvah (Plate 16)

            Orah, Horah (Plate 11)

            Angels of Rebirth (Plate 8)

            The Battle of the Jerusalem Hills (Plate 19)

            Victory (Plate 20)

            The Price — Bereavement (Plate 9)

The Final Image

Covenant (Plate 25)

 

The prints themselves measure 22" by 28". A large number of the prints, 14 out of 25 (plates 2,4,6,10,12-14,15,17-18,20,22-24), are captioned directly or indirectly by a quotation from the Bible. Four prints deal with the shoah (plates 6,13,14). Two seem to have no relation to the theme of the suite (plates 8,10). Ten (plates 13,15-21,23) of the original artworks are signed and dated 1967. All the lithographs are signed by Dali.

As to the original gouaches, I have found out the following: “Victory: A Song of Thanksgiving” was sold at Sotheby’s on May 3, 2012. The estimated price was $40-60,000; the final sale price was $314,500! I do not know who purchased this, nor where it is. Also, I have found “I have set before the life and death” in a private home in Palo Alto, CA.

The captions to the plates preserve the biblical quotations as given in the brochure. However, in the commentary, I have given my own translation of these texts. Many of the comments are followed by references for further reading; these are, perforce, very limited. Each image and comment is followed by a "zoomed image" for closer examination.

 

There seems to be some confusion concerning the very earliest history of "Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel" on three issues. First, a brochure issued by Shorewood entitled, "The Miracle of the Aliyah," indicates that there were only 24 originals and lithographs. The number 24 is confirmed in the New York Sunday News, 4/30/1967, and in the Daily News, 3/10/1967. The press release of the Gallery of Modern Art Including the Huntington Hartford Collection that announces the exhibit for April 2-22, 1967, however, indicates 25, and that is the correct number. Furthermore, the Shorewood brochure indicates that there were 25 non-commerical suites issued. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has "HC" (that is, "hors commerce") edition "J/J," that is the tenth out of ten, thus indicating that only 10 non-commercial suites issued. However, edition "K" is to be found in the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, thus indicating more than ten non-commerical suites. Finally, the article from Hadassah Magazine cited above indicates that the first portfolio was to be given to the Israel Museum. The Museum Card Catalogue, however, lists "Copy 1/125" (In any case this is a mistake as it should be "1/250.") In any case, the Museum does not have the first portfolio; it actually has portfolio "J/J," the tenth and final (?) copy of the non-commercial suites. The Israel Museum does have another suite, given to it later, but I do not know the number.

 

There also is some confusion on who commissioned Dali to do "Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel." On the one hand, the Daily News article cited above indicates that Samuel Shore, the head of Shorewood Publishers, wanted to find someone who was not "caught up in his own subjectivity" to commemorate the rebirth of Israel in art. It was, then, Samuel Shore who chose Salvador Dali and, according to the Daily News, paid him a fee of $150,000 to do the originals. Dali is said to have begun work on them in 1966, though the dated paintings are all dated to 1967. On the other hand, according to Hadassah Magazine, the world premiere of the exhibit at the Huntington Hartford was "for the benefit of Israel Bonds." This seems confirmed by a picture of Dali and Bess Myerson contained in Not Just a Bond: A Bond with Israel (ed. D. Strober, Talpiyot Press, New York and Jerusalem: 2010; page 49), a copy of which was kindly provided to me by the Israel Bonds office in New York. It does not seem to be the case that the originals, or the lithographs, were sold for the benefit of Israel Bonds. Rather, these were sold for profit by Shorewood while the Opening was a benefit (fund-raiser?) for Israel Bonds in honor of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

 

DALI, THE JEWS, JUDAISM, AND ZIONISM

 

Beginning in the mid 1960s, Dali created a series of suites and individual works that some consider his "Jewish" art. These include: "Aliyah" (1968), "The Song of Songs" (1971), "The Twelve Tribes of Israel" (1971), "Paradise Lost" (1974), "Our Prophets" (1975), "Moses and Monotheism" (1975), and others, some of which, like the "Menorah" and "Western Wall" sculptures (1982) appeared very late in his lifetime. Most of these works were brought together by Jean Paul Delcourt in an exhibit entitled "Shalom Dali" that was displayed in the Performing Arts Center in in the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel (June 2002) and then in Rishon Le-Zion, Israel (Sept-Oct. 2002).

 

The question arises: How serious was Dali in these "Jewish" works? Did he have some latent sympathy for Jews and Jewish culture or, was this entirely a commercial venture of some sort? Scholars more familiar with the details will have to solve this question. Here, I summarize what I have learned and present my own surmise.

 

Some have speculated that Dali had Jewish ancestry — perhaps, a marrano (a Jew forced to convert to Catholicism) in the family (Jean Paul Delcourt cited in Iris Mendel, below). This thesis, however, is firmly dismissed by Ian Gibson, who maintains in Chapter One of his The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali (Norton, 1997) that Dali in fact claimed Moorish descent — a moresco (a Muslim forced to convert to Catholicism) in the family. Gibson points out that "Dali" is a common name in the Arabic countries along the northern littoral of the Mediterranean and has the meaning of 'leader' (http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/g/gibson-dali.html?_r=2).

 

Some have speculated that Gala had Jewish ancestry, either her grandfather or her father (Frank Hunter of the Dali Archives in an email to Emory University, 11/28/2010, referring us to "Gala," a film produced by IMDb in 2003 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373854/)). This thesis, however, is firmly dismissed by Tim McGirk in his Wicked Lady: Salvador Dali's Muse (Headline, 1990), who relates that Gala's real name was Helena Deluvina Diakonoff and that she had claimed that her mother married twice, she being the daughter of the first husband who ran off. Her mother, not being able to obtain a divorce, then lived with a converted Jew named Diakonoff whose name was a common Jewish name in Russian circles. McGirk cites Robert Descharnes who cites Gala's sister, Lida, who claimed that the first husband died childless and that Gala was, thus, the child of the second 'Jewish' 'husband.' Lida further claimed that Gala so disliked the Jewishness of the name that she changed it. McGirk goes so far as to speculate that Gala simply made up the story of the first husband's paternity. Nicolas Descharnes, the son of Robert, both experts on Dali (http://www.fineartregistry.com/mediacenter/2010/robert-descharnes-worlds-foremost-expert-on-dali-works.php) confirmed the following to us (email, 10/19/10): "We believe that Gala was from a Jewish family. But I remember having a visit with her sister, Lida, in Vienna, who passed away a few years ago. My father, during this visit, asked her if the family was Jewish and she denied it."

 

Some have speculated that Dali had a cultural or religious sympathy with the Jews, especially after the Six Day War of 1967. This would seem to be confirmed by Dali's dedicatory words when sculptures of the "Menorah" were put on the market in 1982. (The translation is my own from the abbreviated Hebrew version of Mendel (below, 23); I cannot locate the original. For a longer English version, see http://alviks.com/ved1 eng.html):


You — the Jewish people, the chosen people, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As a sign of appreciation for the firmness of your way in observing the tradition of the fathers É I created this "Menorah" and this "Western Wall." As you pray to your ancestors, accompanied by your unshakeable faith, I want to express in the clear light of these aged symbols, my great admiration for your people.

 

This thesis, however, is firmly dismissed by Iris Mendel ("The Dali Industries: On the Exhibit 'Shalom Dali' at the President's Residence, Jerusalem, and the Performing Arts Center, Rishon Le-Zion" (Hebrew), Studio, Art Magazine, 138 (Nov.-Dec. 2002) 19-23) who, first, went to great lengths to show that the entire "Shalom Dali" exhibit was the work of Jean Paul Delcourt:

 

In November 1980, they signed two contracts between them, according to which Delcourt received, in return for half a million dollars, the rights to works of two images of Dali which had appeared in print and gouache sketch form: the "Wall" and the "Menorah" (citing an Israeli newspaper and www.daliuniversal.com). Delcourt did not delay. He opened the company, Dali Universal, and began to create various objects based on the two images: small sculptures, mezuzot, jewelry, medallions, and key chains of the "Wall" and the "Menorah" in which are set the signature of Dali. In 1988, after many efforts, meetings, marketing trips, and public relations, Delcourt concretized his project entitled "The Menorah of Peace" — the gift of a giant sculpture of the "Menorah," five meters tall which bears Dali's signature, and its placement at the entrance to the Ben Gurion airport. Delcourt, who claims that Dali felt a closeness to Israel because of his Jewish grandfather, continues with his double mission: that of making the Jewish work of Dali available to the whole world and, more hidden, advancing the sale of Dali's work É [Delcourt] writes in his catalogue, "The goal of my life is to bring to the world, by means of this traveling exhibit which serves as an 'artistic ambassador' for Israel, the culture and history of the Jewish people with the purpose of breaking down barriers and to bridge between religions and nations."

 

With respect to the Dali "dedication" of the "Menorah" sculptures, Mendel adds:

 

It is not at all clear when and in what forum these words were said though they became the oracles upon which the exhibit rests and the raison d'être for the project of Delcourt: "I am only in the end fulfilling the last will and testament of the artist." In great measure, he [Delcourt] is correct: Dali was the first to turn his art into business that had financial value and Delcourt is following in his footsteps.

 

It does not seem likely, then, that Dali's "Jewishness" had any cultural or religious base.

 

Some have speculated that Dali had a political sympathy with the Jews. However, Dali's political connections ranged from the early socialism/communism of the Surrealist movement to a flirtation with Hitler and then with Franco (Hayim Finkelstein, "Dali and Fascism, Dali and the Jews" (Hebrew), Studio, Art Magazine, 138 (Nov.-Dec. 2002) 24-29; and elsewhere.) This led to repeated charges that Dali (and Gala) were antisemites (Finkelstein, 27, citing Gibson, Shameful Life, 550). It is hard to know how much of this "antisemitism" was genuine and how much of it came from financial conflict with Jewish art dealers. The following, however, is clear: "Dali said to me personally in February 1939 — and I was alert enough to conclude clearly that he was very serious — that the key problem that stood before the world today is the topic of race; that it is obligatory for all the white races to unite and to bring to complete subjugation all the colored races" (Finkelstein, 26, citing Breton, Surrealism and Painting (Harper and Row, 1972), 146). Given, then, Dali's monarchist and racist tendencies, it is not likely that he had any hidden political sympathy for Jews, Judaism, or Zionism.

 

Some have speculated that Dali's "Jewish" interest was crass, cynical exploitation. Thus, Mendel (23): "In light of everything said above, it is reasonable to assume that the great commercial activity of Dali and his helpers in an area in which many Jews were active contributed to the sudden sympathy of Dali for the Jewish people — a sympathy not expressed in his earlier and ordered work — and to the creation of works that dealt with Jewish themes of the type presented in the exhibit "Shalom Dali" in Rishon LeZion and in the President's Residence. It is reasonable to assume that these were commissioned suites whose content was dictated in advance. It is clear that they were done from photographs that, apparently, were given to Dali by dealers on the assumption that there would be a 'Jewish market' for the printsÉ. Dali's love for money is perhaps the only topic about Dali that is not subject to differences of opinion." Thus, too, Finkelstein (29): "There is no doubt that, in New York in the 1970s, Dali could not let rumors about his antisemitism detract from his image in the eyes of the consumers and art dealers, many of whom were Jews. To rehabilitate his stature, his helpers and the administrators of his affairs worked hard to establish relations between him and Jewish and Israeli personalities (Dali was very proud of a picture of Moshe Dayan which the latter gave and inscribed to him). The suites of prints on Jewish and Zionist themes that begin in 1967 and continue to the middle of the 1970s are an integral part of these efforts, especially after the Six Day War when the image of Israel became valuable merchandise. In my opinion, there is no authentic voice at all in these suites on the themes of Zionism and JudaismÉ. In these suites there reigns a 'material exhaustion' and one can see that the arbitrariness was only for its own sake. When he began these suites of prints, the big paintings (in both sense of the word [important and large]) were already behind him, even as the last of them had their worth and stature in questionÉ. the trivialization of these prints — both as art and with everything that has to do with matters Jewish or Israeli."

 

The thesis of crass moneymaking as the main motif of the later Dali is possible. It is certainly true that Delcourt exploited Dali, though legally since he had a license to do so, the Dali signature on the medallion commemorating the 3000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem in 1995, after Dali's death, being one of a series of gross examples. The thesis as applied to Dali himself, however, has been questioned seriously by Elliott King ("Dali After 1940: From Surreal Classicism to Sublime Surrealism," Salvador Dali: The Late Work (High Museum of Art, Atlanta, [2010]), 12-55) and Hank Hine, "The Salvador Dali Museum," Ibid., 160-67). King argues persuasively that, in his cosmological/scientific motifs and in his religious motifs, Dali's art was not simply about self-promotion but about expressing these motifs in art as he knew it (21, 26). In this sense, the late Dali is a continuation of the 'serious' artist of the early Dali. Hine, too, maintains: "In this new century, Dali's work can at last be seen outside the shadow of his flamboyant personality and in the context of other artists of his era" (165).

 

What, then, does account for the large number of “Jewish” works in the late Dali? The case of “Aliyah” is central. On the one hand, we have a remarkable attention to detail: The Hebrew of “For it is thy life and the length of thy days” is so clear that it can be read. The figures in A Moment in History can be identified, as can the name of the ship in On the Shores of Freedom and the song in Hatikvah. Fourteen out of the twenty five prints are captioned directly or indirectly by a quotation from the Bible, and three prints deal with the shoah. On the other hand, there is nothing atomic, no pop-art, no science, no hyperrealist painting, no cosmology, and no experimentation. So, what was Dali’s commitment to “Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel”?

Some have speculated that Dali’s “Jewish” interest was not so much crass, cynical exploitation as it was a desire on his part, and/or on the part of his managers, to develop the “Jewish market.” There were Jewish dealers and buyers, and Dali and his entourage wanted to expand into this area. Strangely, I know of a parallel case: Jovan Obican, a Yugoslav artist, made a good living painting Yugoslav peasants. At one point, the same peasants began appearing in “Jewish” settings: under a chuppah (a traditional Jewish wedding canopy), as a klezmer (traditional East European Jewish) band, etc. I happened to meet his son, Lazar Obican, at a Jewish arts exhibition and, after exploring our non-artistic connections, I asked how his father had come to do “Jewish” art. He replied to me, as he did to others: “Jovan Obican was encouraged by friends to add more Jewish influence to his work and in the mid-1960s he began reading books about the tradition and history of the Jewish people. Lazar Obican, who grew up helping and learning from his father, obtained the books and sometimes read them aloud while his father painted” (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1987-05-01/news/8701280320_1_jewish-influence-jewish-people-work).

It seems to me, however, that it was not an obsession with moneymaking or a need to rectify his reputation as an antisemite that brought Dali to use Jewish themes. Nor was it a quirk of his or Gala’s ancestry, or sympathy with Jews or Jewish culture, or a desire to develop the “Jewish market.” Rather, as I see it, this was a commission and Dali executed it seriously. Shoreham had commissioned this. Dali had Jewish friends in New York who helped him with the material, though we do not know who these friends were (Nicolas Descharnes in an email to Emory, 10/19/10). And Dali did his work -- as, indeed, artists from time immemorial have accepted commissions and then created serious art. Bach and Mozart certainly did this. Portrait paintings or sculptures are frequently the result of commissions. Lecturers frequently give serious performances for pay. A commission may not always provoke the most experimental art forms; indeed, Dali’s portraits are not his most experimental work. But commissions do yield authentic art. This, it seems to me, is the most reasonable explanation for Dali’s work on “Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel” – that this was a serious execution of a serious commission, authentic even if not experimental -- though the argument of the “Jewish market” is not to be excluded.

Furthermore, in light of Elliott King's reevaluation of the late Dali, it seems to me that "Aliyah, the Rebirth of Israel" was one of a series of suites Dali did in the 1960s and 1970s such as: "Twelve Signs of the Zodiac" (1967), "Much Ado About Shakespeare" (1968), "Marquis de Sade" (1969), "Anamorphoses" and "Aurelia" (1972), "La Bestiaire de La Fontaine" and "Paradise Lost" (1974), and more -- plus his "Divine Comedy" (various versions in the 1960s). All these suites do not constitute Dali's most serious, experimental work but they are an integral part of his total effort as a serious artist.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

There are two websites that have the entire "Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel" suite on display: Lockport Street Gallery and Doubletake Gallery. The Lockport site has a convenient list of the prints by title and the Doubletake site has a zoomed image for enlarging each print. Both sites are commercial and have prints for purchase. I am grateful to Bob Varner of Doubletake Gallery and to John Bates of the Lockport Street Gallery who allowed us to copy their web-based images of each of the prints for this presentation. I am also grateful to Daniel Weiss for the high resolution photographs of several of the lithographs.

 

I wish to express very special thanks, first, to my wife for the gift of this wonderful work of art, and for the idea of creating and traveling this Exhibit. Special thanks go to Michael Rabkin and the staff of Emory Hillel in Atlanta, GA, and to its sponsors, who were brave enough to undertake the first exposition of this Exhibit, as well as to Marshall Einhorm and his staff and sponsors at Brown RISD Hillel in Providence, RI, for being willing to be the second hosts of this Exhibit, and to Josh Furman and the staff at the University of Washington (Seattle) Hillel for their hard work as third hosts. Thanks also go to Dr. Elliott King, curator of the exhibit at the High Museum entitled, “Dali: The Late Work,” who was very helpful in guiding us on displaying this work. My gratitude also goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Andre Bernard, good friends, who sponsored part of the costs of traveling this Exhibit.

 

 

COMMENTARY

 

David R. Blumenthal

 

I. Introductory Image 

 

Aliyah (Plate #1)

 

Zoomed image

The Hebrew word aliyah means 'ascent'; it is used to describe going up steps, or climbing a mountain. In biblical Hebrew, the term came to mean 'to ascend to Jerusalem' in pilgrimage. In later Hebrew, it was broadened to mean 'to ascend to the Land of Israel.' All travel to the Land of Israel, and more particularly to Jerusalem, is an ascent, a going-up to a place that is holy, special. In religious tradition, one also 'ascends' to the reading of Torah when it is read ritually in the synagogue.

 

In secular Jewish thought, aliyah means 'to go to live in the Land of Israel' and, after the establishment of the State, 'to go to live in the State of Israel.' In this modern sense, aliyah means a commitment to live the life of the Jewish people in its ancestral land, no matter what the hardships. After centuries of oppression in the exile, aliyah is a commitment to the rebirth of the Jewish people, to the Renaissance of the Jewish spirit, in its own space. Aliyah embodies the philosophy of Jewish national renewal that is Zionism.

 

Some 'ascended' of their own free will; these were the halutzim, the pioneers who settled the land, defended it, and built the institutions of the evolving Jewish state. Others 'ascended' because they had no alternative or because they felt no reason to remain where they were. Rejected by the world, they sought refuge in the Land of Israel.

 

Dali's first image, which became the icon for this whole suite, captures this modern, Zionist spirit of 'ascent to the Land of our People' for the purpose of creating a vital Jewish life as individuals and as a people. It expresses the defiance of the Zionist vision that seeks to reconstitute Jewish life in spite of the Jew hatred that surrounded Jews in the diaspora. Note the flag of the State of Israel across the breast of the pioneer and the head raised in defiance and pride. The body, like the one in "We shall go up at once," is based on two images in the Altar of Zeus in the Temple of Pergamum. These images also appear in "Tuna Fishing" (M. GŽrard, Dali [De Draeger, France: 1968] 174, and especially in an unfinished version of that great painting.

 

For further reading on the Zionist movement, see Talmud, Kiddushin 69a and A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism.

 

On the Jewish star (Star of David), see "Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit."

 

 

II. Exile and Hope

 

 

"A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not" (Jeremiah 31:15) (Plate #2)

 

Zoomed image

In 586 B.C.E., the Babylonians under their king, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Jerusalem, burned the Temple, killed many Jews, and exiled others to Babylonia. Psalm 137 captures this moment very well:

 

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat,

sat and wept, as we remembered Zion.

There, on the weeping willows, we hung our harps.

For, there, our captors had asked us for songs

and our tormentors required us to be happy, saying:

"Sing us some of the songs of Zion!"

How could we sing the song of the Lord on foreign soil?!

 

"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten.

May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth

if I do not remember you,

if I do not do not make you the most important of my joys."

 

"Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem,

[when] they said, 'Strip her. Strip her to her very foundations.'"

O, predatory daughter of Babylon,

happy is He Who will pay you back what you deserve for the way you treated us!

Happy is he who will seize your babies and smash them against the rocks!

 

The very beautiful quotation that is the title of this print is from the Book of Jeremiah. It describes the mourning of the matriarch, Rachel, for her children who have been killed or who have gone into exile in Babylonia. She refuses any comfort concerning them because they are not present; they "are not"; they are in exile.

 

The same motif is taken up by Rashi, the most famous medieval commentator to the Bible. In discussing Jacob's deathbed command to his son Joseph (Genesis 48:7), Rashi, drawing on earlier sources, puts the following words into the mouth of Jacob: "Know that I buried her [your mother, Rachel] on the way to Efrat which is Bethlehem so that she would be a help to her children when [the Babylonian general] Nebuzaradan would exile them. They would pass that way, and Rachel would come out of her grave, and cry and seek mercy for them."

 

This quotation represents the opposite pole of the Zionist vision: the mood of mourning, of sadness. It is the realization that we were once whole and are now fragmented, persecuted, hated by the world. We are absent from the Land, devoid of the Presence of our God, cut off from the roots of our literature and our language. Exile, galut, is the opposite of aliyah.

 

Dali's print, in somber colors, captures the desolation, the weeping which our mother, Rachel, feels when she realizes that our place is empty. Note the beautiful woman / child to the left.

 

 

 

The Wailing Wall (Plate #3)

 

Zoomed Image

The "Temple of Solomon" was built on a rounded hilltop in approximately 950 B.C.E. It lasted almost 400 years, after which, it destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, in 586 B.C.E. The Temple, however, was rebuilt as the "Second Temple" 70 years later, after the return of the Jews from Babylon. When Herod became king in the first century C.E., he decided to engage in several major building projects, one of which was a new temple mount and a new temple. So, he built a very large platform that covered the top of the hill, forming what is now known as the "Temple Mount." The platform is very large, as aerial photographs show. It was one of the major building projects of the Roman Empire, itself known for its spectacular building program.

 

On this platform, Herod built his own (Second) Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Nothing remains of that Temple, not even the walls. What does remain are the retaining walls of the platform that Herod built. They are the only remnant of the time when the Temple still stood. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are later Islamic buildings.

 

The Holy of Holies in the Temple was the place where God was said to reside; it was closest to the western retaining wall. This retaining wall, then, as the physical remnant of Herod's (Second) Temple that was closest to the Holy of Holies and, hence, to God's real Presence among the people, became the place of pilgrimage to which all Jews went to lament the destruction of the Temple and the earlier Jewish state, and to mourn the exile of the Jewish people. Known as "The Western Wall," "The Wailing Wall," or simply as "The Wall" or "The Kotel," it is the place where, even today, one feels closest to God's physical Presence among us. One prays, and one brings one's deepest prayers on slips of paper and inserts them into the Wall, at this holy site.  

 

The Wall is actually quite long and only a small part of it is visible today, even after the Israelis created a large plaza in front of it following the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967. Today, one can take a tour of the tunnels under the city and follow the Wall along a good part of its course.

 

Interestingly, Dali's representation of the Wailing Wall shows it in its form before the liberation of Jerusalem and the construction of the current plaza. Note the very narrow area in front of the Wall itself. This would seem to be good evidence that Dali had not visited the site itself and did the work from a photograph, as he did for other works of art. Note, too, that men and women are praying together, as was the custom before 1967.

 

"For it is thy life and the length of thy days" (Deuteronomy 30:20) (Plate #12)

 

Zoomed Image

At the end of his life, Moses spoke to the children of Israel and said, "Behold, I set before you this day, life and goodness, and death and evil. In commanding you this day to love the Lord, your God, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, decrees, and statutes, you will live and be fruitful, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the Land which you are coming to inheritÉ. I call heaven and earth this day as witness for you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; choose life, so that you may live, you and your seed; to love the Lord, your God, to listen to His voice, and to cling to Him; for He is your life and the length of your days, so that you dwell in the Land that He swore to give to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). (On this verse, see also "I have set before thee life and death".)

 

These verses are the essence of God's promise to the Jewish people: that they should remain faithful to God and that God will bless them, particularly in the Land of their ancestors. These verses are, therefore, the root of religious Zionism, as opposed to other forms of secular Zionism.

 

The rabbis of later generations realized that it is hard to "love" God directly, to "cling" to God directly. They also realized that God's commandments, decrees, and statutes were not so simple to understand. So, the rabbis developed the idea that the Jews should love, cling to, and observe God's revelation; that is, the Torah. When a Jew adheres to the Torah by study and observance, a Jew "loves" God.

 

Dali has captured this shift in meaning nicely in this lithograph in which the quotation about God is displayed as a Torah scroll being written by a rabbi figure. Note, too, the English translation in the title that substitutes "it" for "He"; I have restored the original in my translation in the commentary.

 

A Torah scroll is written with a quill, in black ink, on white parchment. The portion this scribe is writing is the vision of Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28:10-22). The text is remarkably accurate (see also Dali's "Poems of Mao Tse-Toung" (1967) where the Chinese is accurate), except that it is written upside-down; i.e., so that the reader can read it, not as it should be written -- so the writer could read and check it.

 

Elliott King adds: "Dali was very interested in the story of Jacob's Ladder, so the ladders may be an allusion to that.  I thought it was interesting that the scribe is specifically writing about Jacob's ladder.  At various points, Dali writes about angels ascending and descending RNA and that the DNA double-helix is like Jacob's Ladder.  In one of my favourite suites, 10 Recipes for Immortality (in the High exhibit), Dali amalgamates Trajan's Column, Jacob's Ladder and DNA." This may also account for the ladders in On the Shores of Freedom and The Battle for the Jerusalem Hills.

 

 

"Return, O virgin of Israel. Return to these, thy cities" (Jeremiah 31:20) (Plate #18)

 

Zoomed Image  

The prophet, Jeremiah, lived during the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the population by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. On the one hand, he rages against his own people for the sin of relying on the neighboring state of Egypt, and for the sin of idolatry. On the other hand, he preaches a profound vision of return and comfort. This verse is one of the "return" prophecies and it fits nicely as a text for the Zionist dream.

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali portrays a Daliesque female body against a background of war and a common wall (this is not the Wailing Wall; the stones are not finished in the Herodian manner). On the horizon are the hills of Judea and Samaria, together with a Jewish flag in the shape of a globe.

 

 

 

III. The Yishuv (pre-State settlement)

 

 

"We shall go up at once and possess it" (Numbers 13:30) (Plate #4)

 

Zoomed Image

In the 13th chapter of the Book of Numbers, Moses sends twelve men to spy out the Holy Land so that he can lead an army to capture it, according to the command of God. The twelve spies return from their mission after 40 days divided on whether the people should, or should not, attempt to conquer the Land. Ten spies speak against it. Then, "Caleb called for silence on Moses' behalf and said, ' We shall surely go up and possess it, for we can certainly do so.'" The quotation is the very embodiment of the Zionist determination to establish a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland.

 

Dali has chosen Caleb's words as the title for this print. Note the powerful bodies (though the Bible surely did not envision nude bodies as a representational possibility). The body, like the one in "Aliyah," is based on two images in the Altar of Zeus in the Temple of Pergamum. These images also appear in "Tuna Fishing" (M. Gérard, Dali [De Draeger, France: 1968] 174, and especially in an unfinished version of that great painting. Note, too, the sense of determination, and the Israeli flag about to be planted. This is another of Dali's renderings of the Zionist vision. 

 

 

"Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle and over every creeping thing" (Genesis 1:26) (Plate #10)

 

Zoomed Image

This quotation from the story of the creation of the world is the moment when God gives humans dominion over all creation. Creation is there to serve humanity; not to be abused, but to serve us. We have the right to use creation, even as we are its stewards. This quotation is also God's command to go out and master creation, to learn all there is to know, and to apply this knowledge to make the world a better place. The combination of learning and applying, and of using and preserving, are the essence of humanity's purpose in the universe. Linking this verse from creation to the Zionist dream is an important motif.

 

In this print, Dali takes up the theme of fishermen that is common in his work. One cannot really tell that this is a part of the "Aliyah" suite (see also "Angels of Rebirth"). Note the strong fishermen, the nets in the background, the octopus, and the bleeding fish, drawn from "Tuna Fishing" (see M. GŽrard, Dali [De Draeger, France: 1968] 174).

 

The Pioneers of Israel: "With one of his hands, he wrought the work and, with the other, held his weapon" (Nehemiah 4:11) (Plate #21)

 

Zoomed Image

In 586 B.C.E., the Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was laid waste, and the cream of the crop of the nation was led into exile in Babylon. Their mourning is captured well in Psalm 137, "How can we sing the song of the Lord on foreign soil." Approximately 70 years later, Babylon had been defeated by the Persians and the new regime decided to allow the Jewish leadership to return to Judea in order to rebuild the Temple and reestablish a state there, provided that it would be pro-Persian. The Book of Nehemiah (4:9-12) describes this return of the Jews to Jerusalem as follows:

 

When our enemies heard that we had been [formally] recognized, that God had brought to naught their conspiring, that we had returned — all of us — to the wall and every one of us to the work, then, from that day on, half of the young men did the work [of rebuilding] and half of them held spears, shields, bows, and coats of armor, while the officers were over all the house of Judah. The builders of the wall and the bearers of the materials accepted their tasks; with one hand, they did the work and, with the other, they held a weapon. The builders had their weapons on them when they built, and he that sounded the alarm accompanied me [Nehemiah].

 

No verse in the Bible captures the sense of rebuilding better than this one. And so it was: the defenders of the Yishuv and, then, the newly established State of Israel were farmers, road builders, truck drivers, doctors, professors, mothers, teachers, and so on — and all had their arms with them. All were alert for an attack from any direction.

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali shows a hand that is holding a gun being attacked by a wild Daliesque horse in a field of barbed wire. The settler dimension is missing but the quotation from Nehemiah supplies it.

 

 

 

On the Shores of Freedom: The Eliahu Golomb brings "illegal" immigrants (Plate #5)

 

Zoomed Image

Eliyahu Golomb was an early member of the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in the Land before the establishment of the State of Israel). He is best known for his very active role in building an armed Jewish self-defense force called the "Hagana." He trained units, bought arms abroad, organized the Jewish Legion, and served under the British during World War II. He did not live to see the establishment of the State of Israel but his work for, and with, the Hagana formed the basis for what later became the Israel Defense Forces. His home is now the Hagana Museum.

 

After the First World War, Britain accepted responsibility for the newly-formed entity called "Palestine" and agreed to facilitate the development of a Jewish national home under a mandate from the League of Nations. At first, Britain was sympathetic to Jewish immigration and land acquisition, but pressure from the Arab world plus the concerns of World War II created an atmosphere in which Britain hindered the development of the Jewish national home, including setting severe limits on Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Yishuv, however, was not deterred and its leadership decided that immigration was one of the most important Zionist goals; one could not build a home for the Jews without Jewish people. So, the Yishuv embarked on a plan of "illegal immigration" in which Jews were smuggled into British-controlled Palestine. Eliyahu Golomb was one of many who were entrusted with this task. Jews were spirited out of Europe, put on boats, and landed clandestinely on the shores of Palestine. Some made it; some were caught and imprisoned by the British.

 

One of the boats that brought Jews "illegally" to Palestine was, the Fenice. It was renamed the Eliahu Golomb for the head of this undertaking who had died earlier. It, together with another ship, was to leave Italy with 1014 survivors of the shoah. However, the British objected to its setting forth and the Italian government prevented it from leaving. The Jewish authorities organized a well-publicized hunger strike that was accompanied by threats from the survivor passengers to blow up the ship and kill themselves. Eventually, the ship did set sail on May 8, 1946.

 

Dali's representation shows the boat, clearly labeled the Eliahu Golomb. However, he shows it as if it had been sunk. This did not happen to the Eliahu Golomb but did happen to other boats in the illegal immigration enterprise such as the Patria and the Struma. Note the people who have jumped into the water. On Dali's interest in ladders, see "For it is thy life."

 

For more on Eliyahu Golomb, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliyahu_Golomb.

For more on illegal immigration, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah_Bet.

For more on Britain and the mandate, see Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship.

For an analysis that the British purposely sunk these ships, see

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09/mi6-attacked-jewish-refugee-ships-after-wwii/p/.

 

 

"Arise, Barak, and lead thy captives into captivity; thou, son of Abinoam"

(Judges 5:12) (Plate #17)

 

Zoomed Image

In chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Judges, the Israelites, who have just entered the Holy Land are threatened by their enemies. They call on Barak, a well-known military figure, to lead them. He refuses to engage battle without a blessing from the Lord through the prophetess, Deborah. She agrees to go to war with the army and, at the beginning of the song of victory cited here, she calls on Barak to rise up and make war.

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali has portrayed Deborah calling the people to arms. Note that one cannot tell whether the arms are the spears of antiquity or the simple rifles of the modern defense forces that won the War of Independence. Note the splotch of red paint with a face in it. Dali would load a gun with paint and literally shoot at the canvas, creating splotches of paint. He would, then, sometimes paint faces onto the splotches.

 

 

The Land at the Start of Jewish Settlement: "I will make the wilderness a pool of water" (Isaiah 41:18) (Plate #22)

 

Zoomed Image

When the Jews started to resettle the Holy Land at the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the land was dry and desertified. During World War I many of the trees in the Land were destroyed by the retreating Turkish army, leaving the hills and lowlands without trees. Much of the land of the Mediterranean coastal plain was fertile but without irrigation, or had fallen into disuse for prolonged periods of time. Areas in the northern part of the country, particularly in the Jezreel Valley and northward, were covered with intermittent swamps. Lack of proper management, insufficient water for agriculture, and times of insecurity had retarded agricultural development.

 

The Zionists, however, were not deterred. When they arrived in the Holy Land, they often pooled their resources and worked collectively to develop sustainable farming and then products for export. They invested their hard work and their own money, sometimes not succeeding, but never giving up on the new enterprise of building a national home again. Land was purchased from local Arabs by private Zionist investors and eventually also by the Jewish National Fund. The Jewish Agency, the unofficial Jewish organization that governed Zionist activities during the British Mandate, took responsibility to help Jews immigrate and to prepare them to be new settlers.  None of it would have been possible had it not been for the "Halutzim," the Pioneers, most of whom were unprepared for such hardships, who did the actual work.

 

The key to the rebuilding of the coastal plain, during the Yishuv and later during the early years of the State of Israel, was the National Water Carrier, a huge and long pipeline that brought fresh water from the Sea of Galilee across the Galilee, through the passes and down into the coastal plain. This National Water Carrier still exists today and, at various points, it can even be seen on the surface.

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali has portrayed the desertified landscape of the country with its brown soil and sand and deserted isolated buildings. The tower may be the tower of Jaffa. In the middle of the picture, he has drawn the National Water Carrier.

 

For more on the Jewish National Fund, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_National_Fund.

For more on the National Water Carrier, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Water_Carrier_of_Israel.

 

 

 

The Land Come to Life: "The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12) (Plate #23)

 

Zoomed Image

The full quotation from Isaiah's prophecy of comfort reads as follows: "Indeed, you will go forth in joy and you will be accompanied in peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth in your presence in singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali shows the same landscape as in "The Land at the Start of Jewish Settlement" but, this time, it has come to life by the presence of water. Note the river that snakes through the center of the print. One can see the coastal city, perhaps Tel Aviv — a city built on sand, at the top. One can see people doing various kinds of work, grapes, and, of course, the colors that are the colors of life.

 

 

 

The Land of Milk and Honey (Plate #24)

 

Zoomed Image

This title is actually a phrase that appears 20 times in the Bible, "the Land flowing with milk and honey." It is used to describe the Holy Land promised by God to the Jewish people. The phrase embodies the aspiration of the Zionist dream.

 

Dali portrays a lush landscape at the bottom of the print which is very similar to what one can see as one travels the highway from the airport to Jerusalem. The landscape is surmounted by three figures: one stands straight and, judging from the imagery, suggests fecundity; one, in a graceful dance position, pours out blessing; and one, in medieval costume, is about to play a flute. Between the figures is a deep blue image that stretches up to the heavens which, themselves, contain a dark rain cloud. Indeed, aside from irrigation, the Land depends on rain for its fertility.

 

 

 

 

IV. The Shoah

 

 

Out of the Depths (Plate #6)

 

Zoomed Image

The title of this print is taken from Psalm 130, though Dali did not indicate this expressly, as follows: "Out of the depths have I called unto you, O Lord." It is a phrase also used by Martin Buber for a small book of Psalms translated into German and published in nazi Germany in 1936. (It is also the title of one of Bach's best-known cantatas.) This phrase, then, has served as a verbal logo for the call of the suffering person to God.

 

I remember being in a meeting at which the New York Board of Rabbis hosted the chief rabbi of Soviet Russia. Closely monitored by the Russian KGB, he answered questions with outright lies: "Are there enough prayer books in Soviet Russia?" "Certainly." "Are there enough rabbinical students in Soviet Russia?" "Certainly." And so on. However, when asked to conclude the meeting with a prayer, he recited Psalm 130, "Out of the depths have I called unto you, O Lord." All of us present understood that it was only then that he spoke the truth about the state of Jews and Judaism in Russia.

 

Dali chose this phrase for the first of his explicit renderings of the shoah. Note the barbed wire, the gaunt figures, and the red (blood) in the center.

 

 

"Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit, in dark places, in the deeps" (Psalms 88:7) (Plate #13)

 

Zoomed Image

This quotation from Psalms is fittingly used by Dali in this signed and dated print for his second distinctly shoah lithograph. Note the mourning figure, the swastikas, the dead body, the blood, the seated figure in mourning that echoes many such Jeremiah-like images, and the Jewish star.

 

The "Jewish" star, known in Hebrew as the "Star of David," was not originally a Jewish symbol. It is, rather, a geometric pattern common to many cultures. One can generate a six-pointed star by placing the point of the compass that describes a circle on its circumference, marking off the six points, and then connecting them alternately. There are some "Jewish" stars in second century synagogues (e.g., the frieze in the synagogue in Capernaum in which Jesus is said to have preached) and on Roman and Byzantine Jewish seals and coffins. However, it was not until the 16th century in Prague that the six-pointed star was adopted as a symbol of the Jewish community as a whole. From there, it became known and was used as a badge of Jewish identity. The nazis used it notoriously by making Jews wear yellow stars to mark them off from Aryans. It was also chosen by the Zionists, in blue against a white background, as the center of the flag of the Jewish state and the symbol of the Jewish National Fund.

 

For more on the Jewish star, see G. Scholem, The Messianic Idea, 257-81.

 

 

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalms 23:4) (Plate #14)

 

Zoomed Image

This quotation from the well-known Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd") is used by Dali for his third shoah print. Dali has omitted the conclusion of the verse: "for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff will comfort me." 

 

In this image, the people are portrayed as stick figures. They are fleeing a red monster that has the vague form of one of Dali's famous "atmospheric skulls." One might also think of the red-brown figure as outside a cave, in which the people are trapped and fleeing.

 

 

 

"I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, choose life that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed"

(Deuteronomy 30:19) (Plate #15)

 

Zoomed Image

This signed and dated print highlights a central theme in Zionist thinking: that the moment of choice has come; that one can no longer wait for the messiah or any other supernatural intervention in history; that one must act, now. 

 

The thrust of the original text, however, is clearly that the moment of decision for God has come: one must choose the way of God as revealed in God's Torah. (On this verse, see also "For it is thy life and the length of thy days.") The original has no political meaning. What happened?

 

In the period of the Romans, many of the Jews chose to rebel against the Roman Empire. For the Romans, however, this is the period of the "Pax Romana," the period of peace throughout the whole empire — except in "Palestina," as the Romans called the Holy Land. To deal with this revolt, the Empire sent an army that repressed the rebellion brutally, destroying Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E. and the remnants of the resistors in Masada in 73 C.E. and again in 135 C.E. Already in 70 C.E., as the city of Jerusalem was surrounded, one group of rabbis made peace with Rome. They negotiated their withdrawal from the city and the right to establish a Torah academy elsewhere. There was one condition: the rabbis had to refrain from teaching rebellion against Rome. This set the precedent for the next almost 1900 years: Judaism would be a-political, and exist everywhere.

 

The rise of modernity meant assuming self-determination by the Jews, as it meant for all peoples. Modern Jewish self-determination developed quickly into the Zionist solution: a Jewish state on the Land of their Jewish ancestors. This became the political goal of Zionism. There could be no compromising on this goal.

 

Slowly, the Zionist movement grew. New people joined. Some came to settle in the Land and develop it; others became active in the lands of their residence, providing important political and financial support. Eventually, the State of Israel was established with the idea that only in the Jewish state could one live a complete and natural Jewish life, as a person and as a people. I remember hearing Ben Gurion himself say that all Jews must leave their lands of residence and come to live in Israel. From my high school class (1956), approximately 7 out of 32 settled in Israel.

 

Dali understood the imperative of the Zionist claim and uses this verse from Deuteronomy to make that point. However, he uses symbols that are vaguely Christian: the praying figure in the foreground in cruciform, the cruciform central figure (perhaps modeled by his wife), and the crosses above the central figure. Note, too, the spotlight effect; it has a revelational quality to it. Note, also, the typical Dali motif of various insects and a miniaturized figure.

 

 

 

 

V. Independence

 

 

 

A Moment in History:

David Ben Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence

May 5, 1948 (Plate #7)

 

Zoomed Image

After World War II, Britain slowly retreated from its colonial possessions, including India and Palestine. In doing so, it turned responsibility for Palestine's future over to the newly created United Nations. After much debate, the United Nations voted on November 29th, 1947, to partition the Palestine area into an Arab and a Jewish state. The Zionists rejoiced at the legitimate recognition given them while the Arab states and the Palestinians vehemently opposed the creation of a Jewish state. A vigorous debate broke out among the leadership of the Yishuv: Should the Jews declare the existence of their state or not?

 

On the one hand, the surrounding Arab countries of Egypt (the largest), Jordan (the best armed), Syria, Lebanon, and even Iraq had declared their intention to invade Palestine upon the departure of the British. The Jews were very few in number and were very poorly armed; they could hardly be expected to defeat such a massive invasion. On the other hand, this was an historic opportunity; there had not been a Jewish state in the Holy Land since 70 C.E. when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Further, it was right after World War II and there simply was no other refuge for all the survivors; other countries, including the United States, had severe limitations on immigration. Finally, the members of the Yishuv believed that the enthusiasm and morale of their people would prevail against forces that were numerically superior.

 

The group in favor of declaring independence won. David Ben Gurion, who was then the head of the Jewish Agency (the pre-state entity that governed the Yishuv) and the head of the Hagana (the Jewish self-defense army), read out the Declaration of Independence on May 14th, 1948. Its contents contained a brief summary of Jewish history, Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel, and the rejuvenation of Jewish presence there through immigration and settlement in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Declaration also called for peace between the new Jewish state and its neighbors as well as proclaiming civil liberties for all of Israel's population, regardless of religious or ethnic identity. Within minutes of the Declaration's proclamation, the United States government gave de facto recognition to the new State of Israel. However, the local Palestinian attacks on the Yishuv were turned into a major war when the surrounding Arab countries invaded. It took the new State of Israel almost a year to stop its War of Independence, signing armistice agreements with its Arab neighbors. One of the first acts of the new Israeli government was to rescind the immigration rules that had been applied by the British ten years earlier. Immigration remained a key to Zionist growth and Israel's well being.

 

Declaring the independence of the new Jewish state was a very, very moving moment. However, while people danced and sang all night after the vote for partition on November 29, 1947, there was only somber reflection after the reading of the Declaration of Independence, for full scale war had begun.

 

In this print, Dali has depicted Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence. Note that he has on a tie; this is reputed to be the only time Ben Gurion ever wore one.  Note, too, that Ben Gurion sports a Dali moustache. The man on Ben Gurion's right is Moshe Haim Shapira, the first Minister of Health, of Immigration, and of Internal Affairs. The man on his left is Rabbi Yehuda Maimon, the head of the Religious Zionist party. (Note, incidentally, that the date in the Dali text is wrong: It should be May 14th, not May 5th. The Hebrew date is the 5th of Iyyar. Dali, or his editors, may have been confused. Note, also, that the two men are in the wrong order; Shapira should be on the left and Maimon on the right.)

 

For more on this historic moment, see

http://www.historama.com/onlineresourC.E.s/articles/israel/story_israel_first_independenC.E._day_14_may_1948.html

 

 

Hatikvah (Hope), the Israeli National Anthem (Plate #16)

 

Zoomed Image

This signed and dated print deals with another central Zionist symbol: the national anthem. It is entitled Hatikva which means "The Hope." The words to Hatikva were written in 1878 as a poem by a Polish Zionist, Naftali Herz Imber. Its words were then adopted as a national hymn at the first Zionist Congress in 1897. The key phrase in the song, "the hope of two thousand years to be a free nation in our Land, in the Land of Zion and Jerusalem," embodies the Zionist dream. The print contains the first musical measure of the melody. The full text, as sung today, is as follows:

 

As long as in the heart, inwardly,

the Jewish soul murmurs

and toward the East, forward,

an eye looks to Zion,

our hope will not be lost --
the hope of two thousand years,
to be a free nation in our Land,
in the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.

 

Note the central "dancing" figure and the other miniaturized forms.

 

 

Orah, Horah: Light, Joy (Plate #11)

 

Zoomed Image

The text itself contains the following note in parentheses: "The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, is part of the official symbol of the State of Israel. The horah is the traditional Israeli folk dance."

 

The Hebrew word orah means "light" and it forms the background against which is displayed the menorah, one of the symbols of the State of Israel. One such menorah stands on the ground of the Israeli parliament; other uses are found in seals and Israeli stamps. This menorah is seven-branched, as were the great menorahs in the First and Second Temples. The menorah used on Hanuka is, by contrast, eight-branched to commemorate the eight days of that holiday.

 

The horah, as indicated, is the national Israeli folkdance. When the partition of Palestine was voted in the United Nations on November 29, 1947, the settlers danced and sang all the night. Annually, on Israeli Independence Day, as well as on other national festivals, the horah is danced.

 

As a young Zionist, I remember well learning the horah and then being able to dance it in Israel when I first arrived there in 1958.

 

For more information on the menorah, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menorah.

For more information on the horah, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horah#Jewish.2FIsraeli_Horah.

 

 

 

 

Angels of Rebirth (Plate #8)

 

Zoomed Image

This print does not have a deep historical background. One cannot really tell that this is a part of the "Aliyah" suite, (see also "Let them have dominion"). Note that there are at least two angels, one of whom seems female but the other of whom seems African-American. If so, does this reflect Dali's awareness of the civil rights movement in the United States during the years he was working on this collection?

 

 

 

The Battle of the Jerusalem Hills (Plate #19)

 

Zoomed Image

When the Arab armies attacked the newly declared Jewish state in May of 1948, one of the hardest fought battles was the battle for the hills of Jerusalem. The Jews were quickly driven out of the Old City and it remained occupied by the Jordanians until its liberation in 1967. In 1948, the Jews in the western part of the city were surrounded by the well-trained Jordanian Legion and were put under siege without adequate supplies of water, food, and ammunition. David Ben Gurion decided that, from a historical point of view, one simply could not surrender Jerusalem entirely and so he put a great deal of effort and lives into ending the siege of Jerusalem. Three fighters discovered a corridor from the plain into the hills of Jerusalem, known as the "Burma Road." The troops followed it, pressing through to Jerusalem. They reestablished contact with the forces there and, eventually, were able to hold on to western Jerusalem which later became the capital of the State of Israel.

 

In this signed and dated print, Dali has captured both the action and the cost of this war for the hills of Jerusalem. Note here, as elsewhere, the British helmets and thin, single-shot rifles. Note, too, the blood that occupies a good part of the print. It appears as if a Noah's Ark is in the middle of the scene. If so, it would represent the besieged Jerusalem.

 

For more on the battle of Castel, a strategic hilltop on the approaches to Jerusalem, which may have served as the inspiration for this scene, see

http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/general2/data_card.php?Cat=~25~~354934586. On Dali's interest in ladders, see "For it is thy life."

 

 

 

Victory: A Song of Thanksgiving (Plate #20)

 

Zoomed Image

In this signed and dated print, Dali has captured the two sides of the victory that was the armistice declared in 1949. On the one hand, one sees the large flags of the newly founded State of Israel, the joyous throngs celebrating, and the birds of peace above. On the other hand, one sees the figures in the darkness and the red splotches of blood. As noted for other prints, the victory had its price.

 

 

 

The Price -- Bereavement (Plate #9)

 

Zoomed Image

The Israeli War for Independence, 1948-1949, was successful in the sense that the invasion by Israel's Arab neighbors was repulsed and that the State was, indeed, consolidated. That War has actually never been concluded; peace agreements exist only with Egypt and Jordan.

 

The War, however, exacted a terrible price in loss of lives, particularly because the Jewish population of the new State was very small. The later waves of immigration had not yet happened. For some, the loss was terrible. Rivka Guber, a pioneer, came to Israel to build the Land. Her son, Ephraim, was killed two months before the War broke out and her other son, Zvi, was killed at the age of 16 in the battle against the invading Egyptian army. As she put it, "I have taught my sons to be good Jews ... to battle for that which is right until the last breath, for man is duty-bound to fight for what he holds dear in life."  

 

Rivka Guber became known as "The Mother of the Sons," an allusion to Psalm 113:9, "He [God] makes the barren woman to dwell in a home; the mother of the sons rejoices; hallelujah." She was an honored guest at the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt, where Menachem Begin mentioned her in his speech at that momentous event.

 

Dali chose to portray the bereavement of the "Mother of the Sons." Bereavement is the price of independence, of freedom, and of national rebirth.

 

For more on Rivka Guber, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rivka_Guber.

 

 

 

 

 

VI. The Final Image

 

 

 

 

Covenant Eternal: Circumcision (Plate #25)

 

Zoomed Image

Covenant is a fundamental concept in Jewish self-understanding. For those who are religious in any sense of the word, covenant represents the promise made by the Divine to the Jewish people. It is a promise of relationship: God will always be our God, and we will always be God's people.

 

Covenant includes two related ideas: (1) that God has given us a Way, the Torah, and we are committed by the relationship to be loyal to this Teaching; and (2) that God has given us a Place, the Holy Land and, in particular, the city of Jerusalem and the mount of the Temple, as a sign of God's Presence among us.

 

Nothing can cancel or supersede this Covenant. If we are not faithful to it, we will be punished, even by loss of sovereignty over the Land and the City; even by terrible loss of life. However, no matter what, God remains God, we remain God's people, and God's promises of Seed, Land, and being a Blessing to others (Genesis 12 and elsewhere) remain, always. The Covenant is eternal.

 

There are signs of the Covenant: God's goodness to us, God's reproof of us, and certain commandments that are so designated in the Bible itself, particularly the Shabbat and circumcision. These two mistvot are the acts that testify to the Covenant between God and the Jewish people in our daily lives. They are the concretizations, in time and in body, of the Covenant.

 

Circumcision of a Jewish boy on the eighth day of his life is, therefore, a fundamental act. It takes precedence even over Yom Kippur and Shabbat. We have documented cases of women who gave birth to baby boys in the concentration camps and who, knowing the boys would be killed right away, insisted on circumcising the children before their execution.

 

Even secular Jews, even atheist Jews, have their sons circumcised. They may omit the blessings and the other rituals, but the ceremony is almost universal in the Jewish world.

 

Dali chose to include this motif in his suite "Aliyah, The Rebirth of Israel" perhaps because he understood that this was fundamental to the Zionist and the Jewish dream of rebirth. The scene includes the baby, the doctor, the audience which includes women, and perhaps a rabbi on the right. Significantly, the figure in the foreground is not a religious figure; it is soldier with an insignia on his cap and the wings of the Air Force on his breast — a true sign of the old, indeed eternal, in the presence of the new and reborn.

 

 



[1] Moore began working officially for Dalí in 1964, and by the time that he and Dali parted ways in the mid-1970s, the artist was worth approximately $32 million — a sum largely earned through the production of limited-edition lithographs.

[2] Salvador Dalí, "Explanation of an illustration from the Chants de Maldoror'," 1934.  Published in English as an Appendix in Salvador Dalí, The Tragic Myth of Millet's Angelus , tr. Eleanor R. Morse (St. Petersburg, FL: Salvador Dalí Musuem, 1986), p. 149.

[3] Fleur Cowles, The Case of Salvador Dali (London: Heinemann, 1959), p. 147.

[4] On this and Dalí's other films, see Elliott H. King, Dalí, Surrealism and Cinema (Herts: Kamera Books, 2007).