In an act of progressive “art,” an Israeli artist filmed himself burning the ineffable name of God, earning him the ire of the nation and a summons by the Israel Police.
Gregory Israel Abou’s video art performance was part of an exhibit at the Ein Harod Museum of Art in northern Israel. It was on display for months before a visitor complained, thus getting the media’s attention and sparking a nationwide outcry.
Toward the end of the 13-minute video, Abou is seen holding a large piece of paper upon which is written the tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters making up the name of the God of Israel, often transliterated into English as Yahweh or Jehovah. He then proceeds to set fire to the Holy Name.
Elad Zadikov, a member of the Herzliya City Council, lamented on Twitter: “They are educating the children of Israel with ‘enlightened art’ by burning the Name of God. In a kibbutz whose founders are Holocaust survivors whose parents were burned for being Jews, it is somehow found appropriate according to today’s ‘refined cultural taste’ to burn the name of the God of Israel.”
המשכן “לאמנויות” עין חרוד, מחנך את ילדי ישראל במיצג ‘אמנותי נאור’:
שריפת שם השם המפורש.
בקיבוץ שרבים ממקימיו הם ניצולי שואה שהוריהם נשרפו רק משום שהם יהודים –
מוצאים לנכון, ב’אנינות טעם תרבותית’, לשרוף את שם אלוקי ישראל.
הא.., ואנחנו גם מממנים את זה. pic.twitter.com/XJmhiAmVSW
— אלעד צדיקוב (@EladZadikov) June 21, 2021
Condemnations from religious and political leaders compelled the museum and Abou to take the piece down. The artist later apologized, insisting he had meant no offense.
But that didn’t stop Police investigators from summoning Abou under a law that prohibits causing “grievous offense to the beliefs or religious sensibilities” of fellow citizens.
Of course, this law is a very touchy subject, because Israel also protects full freedom of expression, even that which might offend others.
As such, the Police need special authorization from the State Prosecutor in order to question anyone in relation to this law. They did not receive such approval before summoning Abou, who was anyway abroad at the time.
Police officials told Ha’aretz that the investigators in question had erred and Abou would not be required to appear for questioning at this time. However, the evidence related to the case has been passed to the State Prosecutor for review.