Kapparot, Herut, 1955
This is a political caricature created by a cartoonist that gave himself the pen name of Ben Rick. The caricature, that is criticising the government, was published in the newspaper of the oppositionist political party, Herut, on September 23, 1955, three days before Yom Kippur 5707.
In the caricature, there are two hawking chickens in the shape of Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. In the background, the door of the chicken coop, which has the word "Government" written on it, has been smashed. Behind the roaring chickens are four other chickens with the parties' letters on the track: the Religious Torah Front, The Progressive Party, Labour Union and Mapam. Each of the roosters is dressed in the style of the party whose values they represent: a hat and wigs for the religious party and a kibbutz hat for the socialist parties. The title of the caricature says "which chicken will go?" indicating the question which chicken will be used for the Kapparot ceremony and ultimately be butchered. While the cartoonist is referring to the Yom Kippur tradition, he is referring to the struggle over power in the ruling Labour party and is hinting that the political system resembles a chicken coop. The smashed door of the coop is referring to the fact the struggle is destroying the coop or government, while the other chickens are simply looking on.
This cartoon was published after the elections to the Third Knesset, which took place in July 1955. The elections were held following the return of David Ben-Gurion to the government after he had previously resignated and had lived for two years in Kibbutz Sde Boker. The return of Ben-Gurion, led to many arguments and increased tensions between him and the previous Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. These tensions led to Sharett's resignation from the government and the appointment of Golda Meir in his place as Foreign Minister.
It is possible that the nickname “Ben Rik” (in Hebrew – an empty son), signed by the illustrator, is a hint towards Bialik's poem "My son is empty and void". This poem expresses criticism of the political Zionists who enjoy talking, but accomplish fairly little.
Connection to Parashat Acharei Mot
Kaparot refers to a traditional Jewish atonement ceremony that takes place on the eve of Yom Kippur. People traditionally take a chicken and wave it around the head of a person. The chicken is then slaughtered, and is usually given as charity to the poor or redeemed for money which is given to the poor. Today, many feel that this a cruel custom and they replace the live chicken with money.
The first half of this parasha deals with the intricate laws concerning the service in the Temple during the day of Yom Kippur. While the Kohen Gadol leads the service on Yom Kippur, which is designed to provide atonement for the sins of the entire Jewish People.
While the Temple service is no longer practised, many Jews spend the entire day in synagogue, replacing the sacrifices of the Temple with heartfelt prayers.
A Jewish History teacher can use this image to discuss the early political arguments in Israel, and the larger than life personality of Ben Gurion who dominated the early years of the state. Besides demonstrating the conflicts with Ben Gurion's party, this cartoon that was published in the Herut newspaper can show the conflict between the Herut and Mapai parties.
This image can be used in a Jewish Studies lesson to discuss the numerous customs and laws related to the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur.
An Art teacher could use this image to discuss the maxim that a picture tells a thousand words.
Media classes can use this as an example of political caricatures.
What animals are featured in this image?
What are the two chickens on the foreground doing?
The chickens in the front have faces of David Ben Gurion and Moshe Sharett – who is who?
Describe the chickens in the back of the picture.
What does the door of the chicken coop look like?
Translate the text above and below the image.
Reading Between the Lines
When was this image published?
What had just taken place earlier that year?
The fighting chickens represent two of the Israeli political leaders at the time – Ben Gurion and Sharett.
Research about these two figures.
Why were they shown fighting?
What was the outcome of their conflict in 1955?
What do the letters on the chickens in the background represent?
Why are they watching the fight without getting involved?
What has happened to the chicken coop due to the fight?
What does this mean?
How did the caricaturist use motifs from Yom Kippur in his image?
What is the general message of this caricature?
What is the connection between the political affiliation of the newspaper where it was printed and the messaged conveyed by the caricature?
This caricature is a criticism of the Herut party of the Mapai party.
Do these political parties still exist in Israel today?
Which parties have evolved from them?
How is Ben Gurion remembered today?
Write a letter to the newspaper, either supporting or objecting to the caricature.
Explain your opinion.
Create a poster featuring Ben Gurion or Moshe Sharett.