Battle lines

Artists illustrate reactions to Oct. 7 at Jerusalem’s Outline Festival

Aiming to bring light at a particularly dark time, illustrators depict Gaza border communities before they were ravaged by Hamas, among various exhibits

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Michel Kichka's illustration, 'Be'eri Then and Today,' for Bezalel exhibit 'Wrapping Memory' for Jerusalem's Outline Festival which began in December 2023. (Courtesy)
Michel Kichka's illustration, 'Be'eri Then and Today,' for Bezalel exhibit 'Wrapping Memory' for Jerusalem's Outline Festival which began in December 2023. (Courtesy)

When the events of October 7 became clear, with more than 1,200 killed by Hamas terrorists and hundreds abducted to Gaza, Jerusalem’s annual illustration festival decided not to cancel this year’s installation, but to change direction.

“Illustration can, in dark moments, bring light to hearts,” said Noa Kelner, an illustrator and co-founder and artistic director of the “Outline – Illustration And Words In Jerusalem” festival, which showcases dozens of exhibitions and hundreds of illustrators every year.

“It can make a seven-year-old boy happy, and move someone who is 70,” said Kelner. “It connects, touches and succeeds in introducing topics differently, and in wartime as well.”

Kelner pivoted the subjects and direction of the event following the Hamas massacres and the ensuing war, asking participating artists to react with works and projects that reflected what happened and how the nation has reacted to that horrific day.

The festival opened on December 20, with some events carrying on through December 31, and other exhibits and activities continuing into January.

Some standouts include the solo exhibit of works by illustrator Or Yogev, also known by his Instagram handle Shabloolim, who reacted immediately on October 7 with nearly daily prints featuring images of the people and places ruined and destroyed by the Hamas terrorists.

A work by illustrator Or Yogev, for Jerusalem Illustration Festival through January 4, 2023 (Courtesy)

Yogev’s exhibit will be open through January 4, at the Shaare Zedek hospital’s former building on Jaffa Street.

The Outdoor Gallery at 17 Jaffa Street features works by six Jerusalem-based illustrators who interpret conversations with evacuees from Sderot — temporarily living in Jerusalem — about what it means to be temporarily displaced. The exhibit opens January 4 through March 7.

Kelner is guiding a tour of exhibitions on Friday, December 29 at 10 a.m., from the old Shaare Zedek building to Safra Square. Participants can find registration information on the Outline Jerusalem website or Facebook page, which is regularly updated.

A well-known illustration by Noa Kelner, the co-founder and artistic director of Jerusalem’s Outline Festival, December-January 2024 (Courtesy)

Wrapping Memory is the exhibit created by members of the Department of Visual Communication at Jerusalem’s downtown Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

It’s a play on words in Hebrew, referring to the Hebrew name for the Gaza border communities, “otef aza.” In Hebrew, otef means to wrap, as these communities “wrap” the Gaza Strip, separating it from the rest of Israel.

Survivors of the October 7 massacres often describe their kibbutz homes before that devastating onslaught as heavenly, pastoral landscapes, even with the constant threat of rocket fire from Gaza.

That sense of bucolic living is evident in the collection of illustrations that make up Wrapping Memory, created by faculty, graduates and fourth-year students from Bezalel’s Visual Communication department who captured the landscapes of the Gaza border communities.

Saar Mano’s illustration ‘Kibbutz Nirim’ for Bezalel exhibit ‘Wrapping Memory’ for the Jerusalem Illustration Festival, December 2023 (Courtesy)

The artworks capture the carpet of red anemones of Be’eri, the colorful crops of Nir Yitzhak, and the green, tree-lined walkways of each kibbutz.

Online visitors can also view the illustrations and select the illustration of their choice, each of which includes a NIS 100 ($27) donation, and an email will be sent with a digital, A4-sized file to download the artwork.

The donation will be transferred to the Shoresh Fund, which is offering immediate support to the displaced Gaza border community residents.

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