Jerusalem shuns the naked David

Michelangelo's classic image is simply too nude for city fathers
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The Independent Online
Jerusalem, which is celebrating the 3,000th anniversary of King David's conquest of the holy city next year, has rejected Florence's gift of a replica of Michelangelo's David because it is too sexually explicit.

The city council, controlled by a coalition of right-wing and religious parties for the past two years, feared that the naked shepherd boy would offend Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities. The deputy mayor in charge of culture, David Cassuto, explained yesterday: "They said Jerusalem could not support such a thing."

Instead, the city is accepting a replica of a bronze David by Michelangelo's Florentine contemporary, Andrea del Verrocchio - less famous, but with the distinct advantage of being clothed. The white marble Michelangelo depicts the young David, slingshot over his shoulder, after slaying Goliath. The replica is unofficially valued at nearly pounds 500,000.

The ultra-Orthodox account for about 27 per cent of the city's 400,000 Jewish majority. Jerusalem also has about 150,000 Arabs, who have refused to run for the council since Israel captured the eastern half of the city in the 1967 war. The Arabs object less to King David's genitals than to the jamboree as a whole.

Ms Anat Hoffman, a left-wing opposition councillor, complained yesterday: "We are the losers. Michelangelo's David is handsome and gorgeous and a winner. This is the image that people all over the world have of David.

"I'm very sorry that we shan't be seeing this classic David in Jerusalem. This is self- censorship. More and more, we are imposing restrictions on ourselves. People are afraid of their own shadows. It's not just the naked penis. It would be the same if it was a naked woman."

Most of the public sculptures on display in Jerusalem are abstract. Even under the previous, more liberal mayor, Teddy Kollek, the council avoided pious retribution by shunning "graven images", though it got away with stylised human figures. The Israel Museum shows marble Roman torsos from Israeli archaeological sites, but most of those were neutered in antiquity.