Belgian self-described “wildhearted expressionist” known for her provocative photoshoots has stirred up controversy after posing nude on a Jerusalem rooftop – with the Western Wall, one of the city’s most sacred sites, in the background.
The photograph of 26-year-old Marisa Papen is part of an exhibition in the Belgian coastal town of Knokke. Titled “Road to Liberation,” the photo shows Papen reclining in a plastic beach chair, with the Western Wall – a Jewish holy site – serving as the backdrop.
Posing naked next to famous landmarks is pretty much Marisa Papen’s bread and butter. The Belgian model has become famous for her outlandish displays.
While her native Belgium appears unfazed by Papen’s nudity, the photograph has outraged the Western Wall’s rabbi and administrators, and has sparked heated debate on social media.
Condemning the photoshoot, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich described Papen’s provocative posing as an “embarrassing incident” that was “lamentable [and] offends the sanctity of the site and the feelings of those who visit the holy places.”
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the Western Wall prayer area and plaza, said the shoot was a “grave incident,” while emphasizing that the photograph was taken on private property, and not in the Western Wall plaza.
In a blog post about her photoshoot in Israel, Papen said that her intention was to “break down the walls that have been [built] to keep all our wandering souls on this planet somehow under control.”
However, critics noted that the photograph’s backdrop did not include Islamic holy sites like the Dome of the Rock, fueling speculation that Papen feared a backlash from offended Muslims.
“Belgian model/activist took a nude photo of herself with the Western Wall in the background to ‘push the bounderies of regilion and politics.’(sic),” Judah Ari Gross, a military correspondent for the Times of Israel, wrote. “But the Dome of Rock is shockingly out of frame. I guess she didn’t want to push ’em that far.”