In honor of Lag B'Omer, let us look at a few Israeli Arts & Culture manifestations of the dichotomy and relationship between the elements of fire and water.
Lag B'Omer is a joyous Jewish holiday that falls between Pesach and Shavu’ot. The period between these two holidays is called the “omer." "Lag" is a combination of two Hebrew letters, lamed (ל) and gimmel (ג), which together also stand for the number 33. The holiday gets it name because it is celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer. The holiday marks the day of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's death, and the end of the plague that killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva's students during the great Bar Kokhva revolt against the Romans.
To celebrate Lag B’Omer, Jews all around the world light bonfires. In Israel, weeks before the holiday, children collect wood to build as impressive a bonfire as possible. Great public celebrations are held, and the wood towers are burned on Lag Ba’omer. Israeli towns are filled with torches and bonfires in the streets and on the rooftops. The bonfires celebrate the immense light that was brought into the world by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This was especially true on the day of his passing when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah.
On Lag B’Omer, we also tell the story about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that gives us the counterpart to fire: water. When the Romans outlawed the study of Torah, Rabbi Shimon spoke out against them. The Romans thus pronounced a death sentence against Rabbi Shimon, who was forced to go into hiding. Rabbi Shimon and his son, Elazar, fled to a cave in the northern region of Israel. They had no means of subsistence, but a miracle occurred and a carob tree sprouted in the cave, along with a life-giving stream of water.
Florentine Fire and Water Circus
The Florentine Circus is a modern circus (no animal performances), combining contemporary dance, theater, and street performance. In their productions, you can see a variety of all the different circus genres – amazing acrobats, attractive aerialists, adorable contortionists, funny clowns, talented jugglers, famous magicians, acrobats walking on a wire, unicycle riders and many more...
In 2012, The Florentine Circus presented a new show called "Hinomizu" – a fire and water circus. The performance combined segments dedicated to both elements; fire – warm, sunny, and burning, and water – life bearing and refreshing.
Fire and Water Drawings by Meir Salomon
Meir Salomon, Fire and Water Drawing, 2006
Using paper, fire, and water, Meir Salomon creates moving works that penetrate the soul. Total purity is produced from the two polarized elements; water extinguishes fire and fire vaporizes water. These opposing forces of nature are summoned to create personal art.
The language of Salomon's work is unique. He, as an artist, has undergone a long journey, and the two elements, fire and water, serve as means of purification in various cultures. The fire serves as a direct link to forces that are considered holy, like lighting Sabbath candles and the eternal fire that burned in the Tabernacle.
Fire and Water Fountain
Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv | Fire and Water Fountain, Yaakov Agam, renovated 2012
The "Fire and Water Fountain” is a Tel Aviv landmark in the center of the Dizengoff Square. Dedicated in 1986, the fountain is a Kinetic sculpture, the work of the Israeli artrist Yaacov Agam.
The fountain was developed by Agam over the course of ten years, and has since become one of his most famous creations. Agam has gained international recognition as one of the founders of the Kinetic art movement. The fountain consists of an illusory dimension and a movement dimension, both typical to works of Kinetic art and Op art, which is achieved by the use of technology and by the observer's movement. A technological mechanism is automatically activated at different times of the day and night, turning the wheels on their hinges, injecting water upwards in various forms, spitting fire and playing music.
Over the years, the fountain has drawn a lot of criticism from the Tel Aviv residents for being poorly maintained and requiring costly upkeep. Last July, the fountain was renovated, and is spitting water and fire once again.