Israeli Artist Chains Himself to Holocaust Memorial in Tel Aviv Square to Protest Treatment of Holocaust Survivors

Controversial artist Ariel Bronz chained himself with a lock and chains to a steel beam that is part of a memorial sculpture by Igael Tumarkin. He was injured in the process and taken to nearby Ichilov Hospital

Ariel Bronz's protest in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, January 27, 2019.
Gili Izikovich

The controversial Israeli performance artist and playwright Ariel Bronz chained himself by the neck to the Holocaust memorial sculpture in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the "substandard treatment" received in Israel by Holocaust survivors.

The demonstration took place on Sunday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Bronz chained himself with a lock and chains to a steel beam that is part of a Holocaust memorial sculpture by Igael Tumarkin. He was injured in the process and taken to nearby Ichilov Hospital. Police said they would question him over the incident after he recovers.

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The Tel Aviv Municipality said that while it stands for freedom of artistic expression, “At the same time, the municipality upholds the law. The artistic project was carried out in a public space without permission and was removed from the site by the police.”

International Holocaust Day is observed on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked in Israel in the spring, a week before Independence Day.

Bronz is known for his provocative acts. He made headlines at an appearance at a Haaretz cultural conference three years ago, when he thrust a white flag into his behind. 

Ariel Bronz's protest in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, January 27, 2019.
Gili Izikovich

Explaining his action on Facebook, Bronz noted that he was staging what he called an “anti-event” on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in support of “all of the Holocaust survivors and other victims whose necks are chained by the Israeli government and Israeli society.”

This month, results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Israeli Holocaust survivors live significantly longer than their Israeli-born peers – 84.8 years compared to 77.7 years for Israeli-born peers. Last year, the government appointed a team to coordinate the services provided to Holocaust survivors in Israel. The decision followed a state comptroller’s report in 2017 that was highly critical of the government for not having a central body to deal with survivors.

Two year ago, Bronz said, he chained himself by the neck to a table in the office of the chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel over what he called “foot-dragging” in providing custodial nursing services to his father through the foundation. Last year, he staged a similar protest at a menorah sculpture designed by a Holocaust survivor opposite the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Israel Police evacuating Ariel Bronz after his protest in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, January 27, 2019.

“From the descendants of the victims, we have become the first deniers of the victims, whether they’re our … relatives, the Holocaust survivors or our own victims, the Palestinians living under our occupation since 1967,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

After Bronz was awarded the Rosenblum Prize for performing arts in the young artist category last fall, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev lambasted the choice. Noting that the prize was awarded by a fund established by the Tel Aviv Municipality, Regev said Bronz “is not a symbol of promise but a symbol of slander. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, which stands behind this bizarre decision, demonstrates the extent to which it is cut off from public sentiment. “

Rabin Square, where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, has been the scene of a number of artistic protests. Two years ago, the artist Itay Zalait placed a gold-colored statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the square that was toppled by a demonstrator.

Bar Peleg contributed to this report.