Israel Inspires Creation

Tags: Arts and Culture, Inspiration and Hope, Zionism, Memory, Jewish Identity

By Ondria Camile Rees

I am a studio artist, graphic designer, art historian, and an art museum curator. Art has taught me how to express my deepest emotions that I cannot articulate into words and became a mirror into my mind and soul; it has become a platform to show the world my interests and opinions, and in turn others share with me their thoughts and I build a network of like-minded people. I believe there are spiritual connections between places and the creation of art, and how places affect one’s view on the world. Art is interconnected with society, as art oftentimes reflect politics, societal norms, frustrations, hopes, coping with our problems and finding peace. Naturally, as a Jewish artist, one of the greatest places in the world to tune into my creative and spiritual side is Israel.

I came to Israel for the first time at the age of 18 on Taglit-Birthright and fell in love with stories of ancient Jewish history, the people, and the land. One part of the trip I found particularly meaningful was a visit to a northern Israel town of Tzfat. Tzfat is a very traditional, yet artistic, city with an amazing art colony that take their inspiration almost entirely from religious Jewish mysticism and traditions that date back thousands of years.

A prevalent story that one hears about Tzfat revolves around the coming of the messiah and his descendance from Mount Meron and passing through the town of Tzfat. There was an elderly woman, Savta Yoheved, who would sit by her house on the stairs of the tightest alleyway in Tzfat and wait every morning with biscuits and tea for the messiah’s arrival. I took this beautiful story about pure faith into my imagination and drew my depiction of the story.

My Birthright trip saved Jerusalem for the last leg of the trip, which I was so grateful for, because I felt that going around the country for more than a week simply learning about my heritage and culture was all leading up to the spiritual ascension of going to Jerusalem. I had an immediate attachment to the Kotel as I picked up the emotions of those around me and sentiments of gratitude to just be in the presence of such a holy site.

I felt thousands of years of fighting, destruction and building up of Jerusalem. I felt thousands of years the Jewish people were unable to return to Eretz Yisrael and the millions of prayers to return to Jerusalem, yet I was able to go to Israel on a free trip. It was a humbling and reflective experience that brought me to tears.

I took this unique moment of my life and commemorated my love for the Kotel in a painting when I returned to Los Angeles.

Birthright might be over and I am still a diaspora Jew, but my love for Israel grows and I use art to foster my relationship with the land and the people. It is a place that I am always craving to return to and become inspired by once again.

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About the Author

Ondria Camile Rees
Ondria Camile Rees is a proud Jew by Choice, having converted in 2013. On Birthright Israel in June of 2016 she fell in love with the country, and made aliyah in 2020. Over the summer of 2018 she interned for the Israel Forever Foundation, and has been a VCI Ambassador ever since. After completing her degree in design and her aliyah, she drafted into the IDF in 2021.

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Tags: Arts and Culture, Inspiration and Hope, Zionism, Memory, Jewish Identity