Naftali Bezem was born in Germany. He is best known for his symbolic renderings of the Holocaust and the return of Diaspora Jews to the Land of Israel that appear in memorial reliefs at Yad Vashem and in the Israeli President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Bezem immigrated to Israel in 1939, at the age of fourteen, before the outbreak of World War II. A member of the vibrant generation that built the state of Israel, his early adolescence was spent under Nazi oppression, in refugee camps and in constant fear for the safety of his parents, who later died in Auschwitz. This personal history largely shaped his artistic style and work.
Bezem views art as an expression of the soul of a people, it’s heritage, and it’s truth. He has won several prestigious prizes, has been shown internationally in a group and solo exhibitions including the Venice Biennale and the Sao Paulo Biennale, and has taught at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem.
The work of Naftali Bezem is imbued with visions, parables, and symbols drawn from the Jewish spiritual heritage. He achieves a transcendental expression of these elements by combining his figures with the dramatic landscape of Israel, and through depicting the rites, mysteries, and legends of his childhood. He has created a personal language of signs and symbols of intimate and ritual significance.
Bezem is a painter for whom the image is nothing less than a poetic transposition of reality. He feels the presence of immigrants where we see only the desert; he confronts these newcomers with their ancestral history, giving them once more the sense of continuity in that country which for so long was only a dream for them.