There’s this misconception that artists and creatives can always use their craft as an outlet for difficult feelings. In reality, tragedy can often inhibit the act of creating, make it hard to pick up a pencil or a brush. When a personal or global tragedy, like the massacre of October 7, happens, it can be challenging to find a way to create art about it.
Yet, in Israel and abroad, Jewish artists, illustrators and cartoonists have been finding ways to make meaning and communicate their heartbreak about the lives lost, the hostages and the trauma of war. Through paintings, drawings, animations and more, these artists are grieving for Israelis and Palestinians and attempting to make meaning out of a situation that seems to escape all logic and sense.
On October 11, the Israeli female designer collective Hasalon launched an Instagram account and project called Kalaniyot. Kalanit is the word for anemone, a flower that grows wild and plentiful in the fields surrounding many of the kibbutzim that were attacked on October 7. The account is filled with dozens of posts, by both veteran artists and amateur ones, with embroidered illustrations, digital paintings and simple geometric designs. Some call for peace, some for the return of the hostages, others are just images of that blood red flower, which keeps growing around abandoned towns and ashened homes.
Israeli artist Koketit has more than half a million followers on Instagram. Her drawings are usually fluid representations of women and faces, drawn in one elegantly twisting line. She’s turned these drawings into designs of chairs and jewelry and all sorts of items, including as collaborations with Vogue, Lenovo and Elizabeth Arden. These days, every one of her posts is a somber reflection, an expression of her heartbreak as an Israeli in the aftermath of October 7.
Artist Or Yogev, who grew up in a kibbutz, has been creating illustrations with limited color schemes, exploring the tragic images from the massacre.
He’s also created animation tributes, including one to Rachel, the woman who saved herself by offering the Hamas terrorists who entered her home cookies and food.
Another animation shows the yellow gate of a kibbutz surrounded by vehicles used by Hamas to enter, as well as a rifle. “As someone who grew up in a kibbutz, the yellow gate represents the door to home. In our approach, the kibbutz is home and the gate is the door. Behind it we are safe. In a kibbutz you don’t lock doors, just like you don’t lock the rooms of your home… Children walk around freely knowing that nothing can hurt them,” he wrote.
Artist Zoya Cherkassy-Nnadi, a Ukrainian immigrant to Israel who has been critical of the Israeli government and has recently worked on a series of paintings inspired by the war in Ukraine, has been creating paintings of the attack, some inspired by famous paintings like Picasso’s Guernica and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The march of the kidnapped, the terror at the Supernova Festival, the horrors of the lone survivor hiding in the safe room while her family is killed, the bodies of children killed — she explores them all in harrowing art which you can see on her Instagram.
“Guernica is the first image that my memory brought to me. Because it’s so similar: it’s just a massacre of innocent people. And something that we didn’t believe could happen in Israel, and in such a brutal way,” she told the Forward.
Children book writer and illustrator Einat Tsarfati, who is known for her detailed illustrations, is now focused on one thing: the kidnapped, and most devastatingly, the children. She has recently given birth and wrote on her Instagram, “every moment with my little baby is now filled with sadness for all the babies gone or still out there.”
Across the ocean, here in the U.S., artist Rebecca Katz has been sharing relatable comics on her Instagram page. In one, she muses about how Halloween decorations felt so much more haunting with the war happening in Israel and Gaza, especially those plastic severed body parts. In another, drawn for Lilith Magazine, she sings “Oseh Shalom” to her young baby. “Do I have the right to sing for peace?” she wonders. “What I wouldn’t do to keep you safe?” she tells her young son, Caleb.
Jessica Tamar Deutsch
A line from a print by Jewish artist Lorraine Schneider as a response to the Vietnam War — “War is not healthy for children and other living things” — has been resonating for many of us. Especially for Jewish artist Jessica Tamar Deutsch, who created this beautiful painting based on it.
Artist Rebecca Modes drew a series of watercolor painting of the children of war — one of the kidnapped Israeli children, of which there are 30, and another of Palestinian kids, thousands of whom have been killed by the Israeli offensive on Gaza.