From David Ben-Gurion to Binyamin Netanyahu, the modern day leaders of Israel have not been without faults or sins, but their human frailties do not necessarily diminish their merit. It is in this light that when our leaders do act with conviction, courage and with clarity of thought, their actions emerge even more significant and notable. Such is the forgiving and uniquely magnanimous attitude with which I was met by Shaul Ryan Lifshitz, a promising young Israeli artist from Tel Aviv that I found impressive, open-minded and refreshing, in a country where no flaw among our leaders is overlooked.
According to Shaul, a graduate of the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Judaism is mostly taught in a “matter-of-fact-no-room-for-other-possibilities manner.” With strokes of his artist’s brush that boldly illuminates his canvas with daring and resolve, Shaul Ryan Lifshitz indeed makes room for other possibilities. In his artistic portrayal of the human, “grittier” and unattractive side of our biblical ancestors, this budding artist, raised in a religious home, takes biblical events not counted among the proudest moments of the Jewish people, and rather than convey these scenes in a negative light, Shaul extols human weakness. Using King David and Moses as examples, he maintains that “being imperfect does not mean one cannot be great.”
In a country with an unforgiving media, and where harsh critique abounds, from taxi drivers who view themselves as political strategists to every second person on the street – a self appointed military expert, it’s inspiring to come across an artist who sees the inherent virtue in people, flaws and all. We all know that no one among us is perfect, but when it comes to our official leaders, we expect more. And the predominant view would be that we have a right to expect more. Yet, what Shaul Ryan Lifshitz’s art conveys is that even our greatest biblical leaders were just as human as you and me and there is certainly no shame in that, and no need to whitewash their errors. He is disappointed that much of the “uglier” side to our biblical heroes were covered up in the course of his religious education. Shaul prefers the entire picture, and since he didn’t get that as a young student in Jewish day school, he chooses to convey in a provocatively stimulating manner, a more honest rendition through his art.
Originally from the United States, with his “in your face view” of who we are and where we come from, in 2005, Shaul moved to Israel to join the IDF and in 2006 he was wounded in combat in Lebanon. A number of his paintings depict his experiences during the war. But as he says in a dry wit and with a boyish smile, “I just throw them into the pot of a peaceful flawless Judaism.”
Shaul Ryan Lifshitz – the grittier side of life…it’s a good thing.