The Jerusalem Press Club marked the first anniversary of the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by holding a high school cartoon competition.
The contest, organized by Holon’s Israeli Cartoon Museum and the press club, had students across Israel explore topics from homophobia to Israeli-Arab relations through art.
The competition gave young artists a chance to honor the Charlie Hebdo victims and the freedom of expression for which the artists died, said Linda Rivkin, deputy director at Jerusalem Press Club, where the awards ceremony was held last week.
Twelve people were murdered in a jihadist terror attack on the French satirical magazine’s office in Paris last January. The weekly publication was targeted on account of its ridicule of the Muslim prophet Muhammad and Islam in general.
The French Institute in central Tel Aviv also held a cartoon exhibit to commemorate last year’s terrorist attack, in which two Israeli caricaturists reportedly had their drawings censored after the French Embassy expressed concern over their portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad, Hebrew-language media reported on Sunday.
For most of the young Israeli participants, however, the Charlie Hebdo attack was distant from their own reality.
“I knew about what happened, but I really didn’t know why they were attacked,” first place winner Amit Katz said, “I think [the jihadists] took the religion too far; it was more for them about protecting their pride than defending their religion.”
The contest winners and runners-up displayed their commentaries in 30 identical wooden picture frames. Side by side, they lined the white walls at the Jerusalem Press Club, each cartoon capturing a snapshot of societal discontent viewed through teenage eyes.
Katz’s first-place win showed a hand manipulating the marionette strings of two faceless mannequins, one wearing a black tie, the other a white veil. The 17-year-old from Hadera said she was “really disturbed” by the Israeli rabbinate’s regulation of marriage ceremonies, which inspired her entry.
“I love this country and I want to get married here, but I don’t want the rabbinate,” Katz said.
She said she doesn’t consider herself religious, and to her, the notion that she cannot marry without a rabbi and without “a piece of paper to prove [she] loves someone” is simply “awful.”
Yosepha Yaacobowitz, 16, was the second prize winner for her cartoon, which focused on the impact of water pollution for future generations. She said she was impacted greatly by the science fiction novels she reads regularly.
Hava Herman, 15, the third prize winner, won for her stark, black and white caricature revealing a man secretly reading Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper behind the left-wing Haaretz, portraying how people conceal their true opinions behind layers of normative expectations.
The Education Ministry advertised the contest in schools across the country and organizers received around 70 entries, according to Vanessa Gabbay, the program’s coordinator.
The winning caricatures didn’t have to address Charlie Hebdo specifically, said Galit Gaon, the museum director and a contest judge.
“The discussion was about freedom of speech and the right to express criticism without insulting someone else — this is what we saw with Charlie Hebdo,” Gaon said. “We did not ask the artists to be polite but to be humane, which is looking straight into the other eyes of the person, and criticizing them.”
“The conversation is about us as creators trying to understand that we have to live together and have different beliefs without offending one side or killing the other side,” added Gaon.
Cartoonist Michel Kichka, one of the five judges for the competition, said that what happened in France “has to be understood as an attack of democracy, not on cartoonists.”
Kichka had a special connection to the attacks in France; he grew up reading Charlie Hebdo and personally knew four of the five artists who were killed in the attack last year.