Noya Barel, a graduate of her high school’s art department in northern Israel, raised a few eyebrows and moved many to compassion when she presented her final project at a national exhibition.
Her work, entitled “Choose Life,” features 10 fetuses sculpted in fragile clay bowls, hovering in the space between heaven and earth. The fetuses look vulnerable and exposed. Their lives hang by a thin string that looks unlikely to withstand the weight of the chipped clay bowls. The clay symbolizes the earth from which God created man in his image. Neither the art teachers, the members of the examining committee, nor visitors to the exhibition could help feeling compassion and concern for the wellbeing of the tiny creatures.
The title of the work is taken from Deut. 30:19 and raises piercing questions in every observer: Do these fetuses to have the right to choose life? Is there a living being who would not want to choose life? How have we become the type of people who, instead of protecting the weak and helpless, kill them?
The exhibition was held in September at the Academic College of Emek Yezreel and sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Education. Barel’s work was chosen from among thousands that were presented to the examining committee and earned her compliments, encouragement and more than a few questions.
Abortion is a controversial topic in Israel as it is in many other countries, although it is legal and widely accepted here. So for an 18-year-old woman who simply wants to graduate with good grades before enlisting in the IDF, it takes a lot of courage to take a stand and raise questions about the humanity of abortion.
Maybe it’s more than courage.
Many times in a believer’s life an opportunity arises to do something meaningful when the Holy Spirit’s prompting cannot be ignored. A profound understanding of what God expects is ignited. Barel experienced this while choosing a subject for her final project. What was clear was that her faith would be expressed in her work.
The subject of abortion and the sanctity of life had always preoccupied her, but it was a speech by Gianna Jessen that led Barel to understand what God wanted her to do. Jessen, now 40, was born after a botched aborted and survived against all odds. Today as an adult she tells her story around the world and advocates as a pro-life and disabilities activist. Barel, too, decided to tell the story of those who cannot speak for themselves.
“From a young age, I knew that life has meaning. I was always taught about the importance of life, and the necessity to preserve mine, yours, and theirs,” Barel wrote regarding her exhibit. “No one has the right to take another’s life, because everyone has significance and a role in this world. Humans consider themselves to be the only form of intelligence on planet Earth. We are characterized by an advanced mind and consciousness, and, therefore, from childhood we strive for independence and freedom — freedom of choice. As an intelligent creature, like you, I see life as having supreme value.”
The excitement and prayers of Barel’s family and brothers and sisters in Messiah accompanied her through the whole process, from the creative to her selection by the arts department to the national exhibition presentation. After all, this wasn’t simply about the success of a talented young woman, but an opportunity to convey an important and uncompromising message to a world that is losing the most basic value of existence: the value of life.
KNI: Noya, what were the reactions you received following the exhibition?
At school, both teachers and students know about my faith in Yeshua and my position on abortion, so it was not a big surprise. My teachers were very supportive. My sculpting teacher said that visitors to the exhibition are attracted to my work and that it aroused much interest. The reactions were mostly positive, but there were a few negative ones such as, “She is only a child, she has no right to express an opinion.” But I’m glad it sparked discussion.
KNI: How would you explain the success of your piece?
It’s been a miracle from the beginning. This is my first sculpture. I have experience in painting and photography, but not sculpting. When God put the issue of abortion on my heart, I realized that I had to make a sculpture; He gave me the talent and inspiration to create the piece. I never thought of myself as an artist, and joined the department without any prior experience. But God works in many ways, and it is impossible to know what He plans to do. We must take advantage of every opportunity to bring Him honor, and He will make it fruitful.
KNI: What are your aspirations for the future?
At the moment, I’m waiting to enlist in the IDF and relying on the guidance of God for the future. I’d be very happy if my work was presented in other places. The message behind the work is very important and I would welcome opportunities to continue to exhibit the work.
KNI: What did you learn from this experience and what is your message to other believers your age?
I want to encourage everyone to use the gifts God has given them and to not be ashamed of anything. Even if we’re afraid of social rejection, we must still take a clear stand. God will work everything together for the best.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Barel is enlisting in the Navy in the coming months and will continue to use her creative abilities as she handles ship engines. But as she has already learned, any activity can be an opportunity to glorify God.