JERUSALEM (AP) — Leading tattoo artists are helping wounded Israelis cover up the scars of tragedy and loss.
The Israelis have been maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals — either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones.
At an event organized by a group called Artists 4 Israel, 11 tattoo artists from around the world splashed bold graphics on the wounded Israelis this week, transforming their pain into a source of pride. Some were tattooed over their scars whereas others placed their body art in other places.
"They have the scar that was forced upon them, they were harmed and every day they wake up and look at that scar and see themselves in the mirror, it's an exact reminder, it brings them back like this, to what happened to them," said executive director Craig Dershowitz.
"What we're doing is hoping to erase as much as possible of that painful memory. It's also a sense of reclaiming their bodies, it's a sense of how do they present themselves to the world, how are they seen, and perceived and now they are saying: 'I'm going to be seen the way I choose to be seen'," he said.
The tattoo artists drew inspiration from works at the Israel Museum, Israel's national museum, which hosted the event.
Their muses: towering sarcophagi from the 13th and 14th centuries BC, and a statue of a Mexican Jaguar God from about the year 600 BC, among others.
"If you look through time, body decoration was practiced in this part of the world and was practiced in many parts of the world, and always it was about healing and protection," said museum director James Snyder.
Yogev Meushar is among those getting a tattoo. On an operation in the West Bank city of Nablus in 2006, his patrol was ambushed by Palestinian militants and Meushar was shot through his pelvis, with the bullet exiting from his knee. He spent two years in hospital in recovery and has since been through numerous rounds of physiotherapy.
Meushar was getting tattooed with the image of a bullet morphing into flying doves, which he said symbolized a release. "It's not a tattoo that is located on a very obvious place, for all to see, it's a tattoo you can literally say is between me and myself," he said.
He was being inked by Luke Wessman, a well-known tattoo artist who flew in from Los Angeles for the event. He was drawing inspiration from a 1982 work by the modern artist Jean-Michel Basquiat called "Agony of the Feet." The painting felt apt because Meushar's injury damaged his legs and feet, and he currently walks with a cane.
Wessman said that beyond giving the wounded some art of their own to be proud of, the event was also a chance to bring typically counter-cultural tattoo art in line with the more traditional art seen at the museum.
"The fact that we are able to give him a tattoo that kind of can help with closure can help with post traumatic trauma, it's very important and it does help people," said Wessman.