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Fire, Fire, Burning Art!

If the last months were full of holidays, not only Jewish festivities, but also Christian and Muslim holidays, May and June are relatively calm: Lag Ba'Omer and Shavuot.
Lag Ba'Omer, usually characterized by bonfires all over the country, is an unusual holiday. When I was a child, we used to collect dry branches, pieces of wood and junk, and set a bonfire, placing potatoes strung together with a metal wire at the bottom of the construction; at present, many local councils and municipalities forbid lighting bonfires in their jurisdiction due to the smoke, air pollution and fire hazards. When I was a child, it was great fun coming home with my clothes and face covered with soot, smelling of smoke and being yelled at by my parents for staying out so late (there were no cell phones, yet), and because of the dirt and stench I brought with me.
When I became a parent, I took my two girls to the neighborhood bonfire and returned home as filthy as them, but at that point in my life I already found it hard to enjoy the whole thing. you probably lose the tase for it as you get older…
But this year, the upcoming Lag Ba'Omer served as trigger for thoughts about burning and destroying art.
Yes, history is full of vandalism and intended destruction of cultural treasures by conquering nations, but there is no need to go back to ancient times, since the destruction industry continues to thrive at the present. Since, 2014, ISIS has destroyed cultural treasures in the areas it controlled in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
And there are also individuals, enlightened people, at least allegedly, who try to harm famous works of art, with the intent of drawing attention to their goals. Yes, as an act of protest. Dark times, with criminal minds and radical ideas.
This began long before books were burnt at Berlin's Opera Square in May, 1933. And it caused more significant destruction of culture and art than the burning of Beatles' albums and posters in the summer of 1966, by fans who were angered at John Lennon's quote that "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus."
Last year a new worrying trend was born, hoping to draw attention to the Climate crisis threatening the globe. And how does one warn against Climate Change? By vandalizing works of art.
Last May, a young man disguised as an old woman in a wheelchair, tried to break the bulletproof glass protecting the 'Mona Lisa' in the Louvre Museum in Paris. He didn't succeed and had to suffice smearing cake on the glass. As he was arrested by the guards, he shouted slogans about protecting earth from Climate Change.
In November 2022, two female Climate activists glued themselves to two Goya paintings. The artworks were not damaged.
Among the most famous works that were subject to attempted assaults one can find Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers,' in London, Claud Monet's 'Haystacks,' in Potsdam and Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring" in The Hague.
Still, we're approaching Lag Ba'Omer, a Hebrew holiday, and I recall that in November 2018, several Israeli artists, part of a movement of 'Artists against the Loyalty Law,' (promoted by Miri Regev, Culture Minister at the time) burned their own works in Tel Aviv in protest against the law.
Has art always been, and still is, the victim?
Happy holidays!

Yoram Mark-Reich, Culture Editor
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