A little over two-thousand years ago, while traveling from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus were stopped by a giant cement wall.
It’s not exactly how the New Testament story is told, but in a recently printed version of the iconic “Visit Palestine” poster, that’s how the scene is portrayed.
The posters, widely available in tourist shops in Jerusalem’s Old City market, constitute unsubtle criticism of Israel’s security barrier, which Palestinians say is an unjust impediment to their freedom of movement.
The poster also taps into the recent trend in Palestinian nationalism, in which Jesus of Nazareth is regarded as a Palestinian. The poster suggests that even Jesus couldn’t have made it into modern day Jerusalem from Bethlehem.
Israel began building the barrier, which is partly wall but mostly fences, along the border with and inside the West Bank in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, to stop the swarm of suicide bombers and other terrorists who claimed hundreds of Israeli lives. The Palestinians claim the barrier, which takes in about 7% of the West Bank, is a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.
The poster with Mary, Joseph and Jesus is one of a series of Palestinian remakes of the iconic “Visit Palestine” poster first designed in 1936 to promote Jewish tourism to the Holy Land prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
According to a 2015 article in the Journal of Palestine Studies, the original “Visit Palestine” poster was made for the Tourist Development Association of Palestine by Franz Krausz, an Austrian Jewish immigrant to (pre-Israel) Palestine in the 1930s who fled Germany before the Holocaust.
The poster was revived in 1995 by Israeli David Tartakover, who hoped it would be a “gesture of hope” in the post-Oslo peace talks environment, the article said.
Quickly the remake spread across the Palestinian territories, where it could be seen in PA offices, book shops, and tourist shops, the article added.
In 2009, Palestinian artist Amer Shomali redesigned the poster to hinder the scenic view of the Old City of Jerusalem with Israel’s security barrier.
On his website where he sells the poster, Shomali writes, “After the failure of the peace process it was the time for a third print declaring the failure of the previous two prints.”
The Visit Palestine poster has now become a well-known canvas for Palestinian artists looking to criticize Israeli policy.
In one version, Jerusalem is replaced by Gaza being blown to smithereens by aircraft, in a reference to Israeli air strikes in the Strip during conflicts with the terror group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave and has fired thousands of rockets from there into Israel and dug tunnels under the border.
In another version, Jerusalem can be seen through a large hole in the security barrier, which appears to have been made by cartoon children that appear in the artwork of the British artist Bansky.
In 2005, it was Bansky who first depicted the security barrier as an impediment for Joseph and Mary in his “Christmas Card” painting.