If a Holocaust memorial were to be desecrated in any country in the world it would be fodder for the local media, complete with photographs. But what if it happened in the center of Israel’s largest city and the press, radio and TV ignored it? Go to Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin in front of the municipality and you, too, will be aghast.
The huge metallic sculpture named Holocaust and Revival, is the work of creative artist, Yigal Tumarkin, recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize. Its sheer size makes it impossible to miss. And yet many are unaware of its existence, nor of the profane graffiti scrawled within and without the soaring memorial, shaped like an inverted pyramid and resembling a Magen David when seen from above on Google earth.
The photographs accompanying this article, taken near the end of 2016, show the contempt of those who daubed it with obscenities, mathematical equations, and other sacrilegious drivel.
Not even the provocative Tumarkin would have been guilty of such an affront to the memory of six million. Thirty-eight years ago I personally experienced his explosive temperament and scorn for the feelings of others when I went to his Tel Aviv apartment. I asked if he would kindly autograph one of the many works of art he had created to accompany the text I had written for a book titled Peace. It was a large coffee-table book on the long process culminating in the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, with a Foreword written by future President Chaim Herzog.
“Me natan lecha et zeh!” (who gave that to you!) Tumarkin fumed as he grabbed the picture from me.
I told him my publisher had let me have it. He cursed and made it clear that no one had the right to do that. Only he could give permission, and he refused.
Still boiling at the nerve of my publisher and I, he went to a messy bookshelf, looked around, and pulled out a large print of a pig’s skull adorned with tefillin.
“Here,” he said. ”Take that instead!” He didn’t bother to autograph it and, dismayed by his malevolence, I turned and left.
During an extended visit to Israel, at the end of 2016, I went to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to give their library a copy of my 11th book of non-fiction, titled Our Crime Was Being Jewish: Hundreds of Holocaust Survivors Tell Their Stories. I met with a high official who had worked there for decades. After recounting my story of the graffiti on Tumarkin’s massive Holocaust memorial I was astonished to hear that she knew nothing about it.
Many people I spoke to later were similarly ignorant of the memorial or of its whereabouts. Surprisingly, these citizens included a professor, a true-blue Zionist grandmother, a former official in espionage, a social worker, a high-tech expert, people approached randomly on the streets, and even those living beyond Tel Aviv. Tumarkin would have had another tantrum had he listened in.
Perhaps this article will stir someone with authority in the Tel Aviv municipality to walk across the square for a close-up look at the graffiti. It would not take long to scrub off the offensive scribble and restore the single reminder of a heritage of endurance.
Only then would it truly conform to the United Nations resolution establishing an International Holocaust Remembrance Day in honor of the victims, held every 27 January to coincide with the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Anthony S. Pitch, author of Our Crime Was Being Jewish, is a former journalist in America, England, Israel and Africa.