The fifth mural in Israel’s Women, Life, Freedom project was unveiled on Sunday, highlighting the high price Iranian women are willing to pay – many times with their lives – for freedom.
Hooman Khalili, an Iranian American who grew up in California and became a Christian, initiated this project and is on a mission to get 18 murals displayed throughout Israel.
I was privileged to attend this event on Sunday and be a part of honoring the people of Iran, who are fighting the Islamic regime. The murals are a strong show of solidarity by Israelis with the Iranian people.
At the unveiling on Sunday, the deputy mayors of Netanya, Shiri Hazuel and Efraim Bulmash, expressed pride that the city is taking the lead on this initiative. In fact, Iran’s exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi visited one of the city’s murals two weeks ago while in Israel.
Of the five Iranian women’s murals currently displayed in Israel, two are in the coastal city of Netanya. Hazuel said, “This is the least we can do – and we need to do much more for these people who are suffering.”
Bulmash noted that the city has a high number of Jewish Iranian immigrants so it makes sense that this message of “freedom, women and equal rights” comes from here.
As a champion of women’s rights, I was moved by this most recent mural, which pays homage to Ghazal Ranjkesh, a woman whose eye was shot out in an effort to tarnish her beauty and punish her for standing for her rights.
In the mural, a bird rests on the missing eye of Ghazal Ranjkesh to hide the flaw, but I felt that the bird’s beauty, and the intensity of Ghazal’s other eye, spoke volumes of the pain she endured to be free and to celebrate her womanhood. Ghazal has documented this crime and her recovery on social media.
That was the intention of the mural’s artist, Benzi Brofman, an international graffiti artist and an inspirational speaker who addresses young people and the troubles they face. Brofman was also the painter of the mural in Nazareth.
The artist said he was careful to make sure that Ghazal’s remaining eye sends a clear message of her strength.
Since September, more than 600 Iranian men and women have had their eyes shot with pellets as punishment for participating in anti-regime demonstrations which have been taking place since the tragic death of the 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman, Mahsa “Jina” Amini.
That’s what Orly Cohen said at the unveiling this week. Cohen is the curator of an exhibition at the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem that showcases the art coming out of this recent revolution. While immersing herself in research to draw out pieces for the exhibition, Cohen said she was overwhelmed by what the Iranian people were suffering.
Ruth Wasserman Lande, a former Knesset member, has been working alongside Khalili to help him get these murals displayed around the country. Wasserman Lande recently signed the “Sarah and Hajar (Hagar) Accords” to advance women’s issues for countries involved in the Abraham Accords – Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. In the Knesset, Wasserman Lande co-chaired the Abraham Accords Parliamentary Caucus.
Meanwhile, Khalili is already talking about his next few murals – he has 13 more to go to reach his goal of 18 – and the stories and pictures that inspire him coming out of the women-led revolution.
In his murals, Khalili always acknowledges Jerusalem and women. In this latest one, he urges, “Esthers of the world, rise up!”
This is a call for women to stand up for themselves and their people like the biblical Queen Esther did in the Persian Empire.
And certainly, the Iranian women have paid the price with their bodies in their resistance against an oppressive regime. They are following in Queen Esther’s steps.
We, in Israel, demonstrate our solidarity with these women and men with this series of murals. I look forward to seeing the next one!
Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer serves as president and CEO of Covenant Daughters Television Network and Covenant Daughters International Ministries. She also serves as the 1st Lady of Israel for the Church of God in Christ. She is a member of the ALL ISRAEL Advisory Board.