Culture Minister Miri Regev panned the erection of a falling Israeli flag in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, calling the artistic exhibit a “cheap and outrageous political provocation from leftist circles on the margins.”
“The flag is falling only in certain parts of society that are not willing to accept the decision of the voter,” Regev wrote in a Monday Facebook post, in an apparent reference to those who have called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down amid multiple corruption allegations.
However, the artist behind the exhibit, Itay Zalait, told Hebrew media that the display “expresses what everyone feels, as well as the current state of the country.”
The 37-year-old explained that the positioning of the flag represented the country’s intermediate phase. “Some people have never been better, there are no traffic jams, and there is a good economy, while some people think that everything is falling apart.”
Zalait appeared to be referencing comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Passover holiday toast last April, in which he criticized the media’s portrayal of Israel’s current status.
“I’ll tell you what I see in the media,” Netanyahu said. “It does not reflect what the public feels. It is an industry of despair. Where they see unemployment, I see full employment. Where they see an economy in ruin, I see a flourishing economy. Where they see traffic jams, I see junctions, trains and bridges. Where they see a crumbling state nearing collapse, I see Israel as a rising global power.”
But the Tel Aviv artist asserted that some in Israel see “democracy and the pillars that hold our home together are being undermined.”
Regev herself is responsible for several stunts involving the Israeli flag, including a monologue during a pre-election panel in December 2012, in which she lambasted candidates from rival parties as anti-Zionists and waved an Israeli flag, while cuing the audience to applaud her.
Nor was this Zalait’s first artistic antic at Kikar Rabin. In December 2016, he erected a life-size golden statue of Netanyahu overnight in the central Tel Aviv plaza.
Then, the sculptor explained that “the aim is to test the boundaries of free speech in Israel in 2016.”
“What happens when I display a sculpture like this? Will it bring sanctions, such as arrest, for example? Or will it just be removed?”
By mid-morning, city inspectors had stuck a notice on the sculpture, warning that they would remove the statue and charge the artist unless it were removed within four hours.
After lunchtime though, in the midst of crowds and an argument over democracy in Israel, an unidentified man pushed the statue over, sending it toppling onto the ground.