Hundreds Protest in Israel Over 'McJesus' Art Exhibit

Three police officers wounded as protesters throw stones, while culture minister demands that it be removed and suggests official support for museum could suffer

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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'McJesus,' on display at the Haifa Museum of Art.
'McJesus,' on display at the Haifa Museum of Art.Credit: Vilhelm Sjöström
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Hundreds of Christians protested in front of the Haifa Museum of Art on Friday over an artwork showing a crucified Ronald McDonald entitled "McJesus."

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According to law enforcement, three police officers were wounded in the head, requiring medical treatment, as protesters threw stones after being blocked from breaking into the museum to remove the piece. A 32-year old resident of the city has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

Finnish artist Jani Leinon created the work, which has been on display in Haifa for months as part of an exhibition called "Sacred Goods."

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Friday's protest came after a firebomb was thrown at the museum overnight.

On Thursday, Culture Minister Miri Regev wrote to the director general of Haifa Museums, demanding that the artwork be removed from display. In her letter, Regev said she had received "many complaints of serious offense caused to the Christian community's feelings" because of the work.

Regev said that "contempt for symbols sacred to religions and many believers around the world as an act of artistic protest is illegitimate and cannot be displayed in a cultural institution supported by state funds," adding that official support for the museum could suffer as a result of the exhibit.

The museum said after the protest that following a meeting between the heads of Haifa churches and the museum's director general, it was decided to place signage warning of potentially offensive content at the entrance to the exhibit.

The museum condemned the firebomb incident, saying that debate over art should not slide into violence. It said the work was part of an exhibit on consumerism that "references mega-corporations' cynical use of religious symbols."

In response to the protest, Leinon explained that his work critiques the way Ronald McDonald has become a pop culture symbol reminiscent of religious worship.

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