Trips to Israel began for me in the 1970s, when I traveled with family for my brother’s and later my own Bar Mitzvah, at the ancient site of Masada. I’ve returned numerous times to marvel at the prolific development of the country as well as witness the unfolding history and varied, natural beauty of her land and cityscapes.
On my most recent trip in March 2022, on my first day’s visit to the Kotel, surrounded by Jewish worshippers of every persuasion and engulfed in the combined nusach (tunes) chanted around me, my instinct to pull out a sketchbook to draw was felt—not for the first time, but perhaps most acutely—as a kind of davening*. And as with any true meditative praying, the action was a form of communion with the Eternal: immersive, aware, enthralled—and fleeting. It confirmed that for me, what’s meaningful in drawing is the act of seeing, more than any material record preserved in a finished artifact.
Benjamin Marcus is an architect, graphic designer, and illustrator practicing in New York City. He uses drawing as a way of seeing and takes greater pleasure in the process of bringing the view to paper than in beholding the completed work.
* Davening: Of uncertain etymological origin (including the Latin “divinus” – “divine”; the Aramaic “d’avhatana” – “from our fathers”; the Lithuanian “davana” – “gift”; and the Middle High German “doenen” – “to sing”; among numerous others), the word’s sense of prayer simultaneously includes audible, yet private connection between the self and God; praising yet striving; presenting, but not without continually preparing.