Last night, we went out for dinner with my machatenesta (daughter-in-law's mother) who happened to have been in Paris while we were there.
I asked her about a painting I had seen in the Louvre (more on that in a future blog) that depicted the French Revolution. It showed a zaftig (fleshy) woman carrying a ripped French flag up a hill. The woman was the spirit of the Revolution, and everyone was following her. She had a look of determination and strength, and her blouse exposed her breast. Now, I understand that in the heat of battle, who knows what can happen, G-d forbid. But so many of the paintings of every day life showed the women's upper bodies exposed, just as easily as women today have sleeves that droop on their arms and expose their shoulders. I asked my machatenesta if women then walked around half nude. She said that they did not, but the art of the time portrayed women as such. Poor women, probably no rights at the time, and objects of abuse and derogatory art. (And please don't tell me, oh, the artists saw the woman's body as beautiful. I've seen the glorification of women's bodies all over Paris in lean ooh-la-la silk dresses that accentuate their curves and loveliness.) These paintings were nothing like that. Nudes are all over the Renaissance paintings and throughout the centuries. They can say whatever they like about it, but it seems that fine arts are just like the rest of the arts and media - ooh la la sells.
Don't Give the Kids Money
My machatenesta said, "That's nothing. Thank G-d for the Euro. Before that, money here was covered with these half-nude paintings. We were totally embarrassed to give children money to buy bread."
When we visited the British Museum, an exhibition on money throughout the ages noted that money can give a powerful message. American money, as the world knows, says, "In G-d we trust." Money has mottoes and slogans. It depicts scenes from history or important personalities in the nation.
British money has The Queen on it. The Queen in her regal finery with a simple diamond tiara on her hair. The British money, like Great Britain, says we have dignity and self-respect. We are the people of The Queen. It imbues its people with pride.
According to what I was told, French money had half naked women on it. What does that tell you?
Many years ago, I wrote an article against Yossi Beilin's stance to let the Palestinian Authority have their own money, their own stamps, etc. He said, "So what. Let them have these things. Let them dream. They won't get their state, but they can dream."
Well, I said then that the money and the stamps, etc. were simply another block in building the State of their Dreams. And they had no intention to let it remain only a dream.
Money depicts national identity, national purpose, national beliefs. The Money is the Message.
When Rome destroyed Jerusalem, its money said "Jerusalem is Destroyed."
When the Chashmonaim minted their own coins for the period of Jewish independence, they said, "For the liberation of Jerusalem." The Money is the Message!
Israeli money has many portraits on it. Perhaps it's time to put some Jewish pride and heritage on its money - a shepherd for King David, a king for Solomon, the Holy Temple, the Golden Menorah. It's time to put a Jewish message on Jewish money. It's time to give Am Yisrael the message every day. Every time they use a 5 or 10 or 20 or any shekel, they will look at the money and think, "You are the people of the King. You are the people who had the most glorious Temple in the world and will have it again one day."
It's time to take a cue from the moneys of the world and understand that Israel needs meaningful money, because the Money is the Message.