Everyone Who Mourns Jerusalem Reaps Its Joy (At the Wailing Wall) by Hermann Struck

Hermann Struck

Everyone Who Mourns Jerusalem Reaps Its Joy (At the Wailing Wall), 1905, Lithograph on paper, 438 x 349 mm, The Jewish Museum, New York; Gift of Dr and Mrs George Wechsler, 1996-80, Photo: The Jewish Museum, New York / Art Resource, NY

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The Last Vestiges

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The profound sense of promise that accompanied the rebuilding of the Temple as prophesied in Zechariah 1 has here been reduced to this image of a solitary man praying at the Western Wall—the last standing remnant of the Second Temple; the most sacred place in the entirety of Judaism.

With eyes covered in prayer, the man—perhaps the artist himself—touches the Wall in a dual act of physical and spiritual validation. The inherent emotional dichotomy is apparent: the grief over the destruction of the Second Temple—and the First—necessarily co-exists with the joy and gratitude over the continued presence of the Wall.

Hermann Struck, who was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Berlin in 1876, would have had a keen awareness of all that has been lost. A member of the Berlin Secession, Struck emigrated from Germany to the Holy Land in 1922 (Gorelick 1994: 69).

The title of the print calls to mind Isaiah 66:10: ‘Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her’. Unlike the passage in Isaiah, Struck’s title emphasizes the sadness first, yet it implies that the concomitant joy is inevitable. He embeds the inscription of the work’s Hebrew title in the bottom left of the print itself. This again emphasises how intrinsic these emotions are to the physical and spiritual experience of being present at the Wall, or even to the mere evocation of that experience, as mediated by the work. The title also recalls Ezra 3:13, which states of the rebuilding of the Temple: ‘the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping’. Then and now, these contrasting emotions cannot entirely be distilled from one another.

Struck’s image is the embodiment of Zechariah 1:17:

Cry again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.

 

References

Gorelick, Ted (trans.). 1994. Hermann Struck, From Berlin to Haifa: Etchings (Haifa: Mané-Katz Museum)


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