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Jonathan Kis-Lev

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Jonathan Kis-Lev
Jonathan Kis-Lev Portrait Photo.png Jonathan Kis-Lev Portrait Photo.png
Jonathan Kis-Lev, 2013
BornYehonatan (Yoni) Kislov (Hebrew: יהונתן כיס-לב)
(1985-09-12) 12 September 1985 (age 35)
Mishmar Ayalon, Israel
🏳️ Nationality
🎓 Alma materOpen University of Israel
💼 Occupation
* Actor
  • Television talk-show host
  • Artist
📆 Years active  1995–present

Jonathan Kis-Lev (born 1985) is an Israeli peace activist, artist and television personality. His paintings, both in the naïve art style as well as street art, have been displayed in galleries in the United States, Canada and Europe. He often uses his television platforms and his art for peace activities involving joint Jewish and Arab causes.

Peace activism[edit]

Kis-Lev was born to Zionist parents who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. According to him, he had grown to fear and hate Arabs. It was only when he attended an art workshop for peace with Arab children at the age of 11, that he had begun to question his upbringing. He then joined the Jewish-Arab youth movement Sadaka Reut, as well as began learning Arabic. At the age of 16 he was selected by the Israeli committee of the United World Colleges as the Israeli Young Ambassador to the Pearson College UWC in Canada, in order to live and study alongside young students from around the world, including Palestinian and Arab students, as part of the movement's mission to serve as a "force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace".[1]

Upon completing his studies in Canada, Kis-Lev returned to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and fought to be stationed at a unit that he considered as promoting peace rather than war and occupation. Following his struggle he was then stationed at the headquarters of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, where he was in charge of coordination of medicines into the Gaza strip, enabling Palestinian patients to visit Israeli hospitals, and assisting joint Arab-Israel activities, working alongside organizations such as UNRWA and Doctors Without Borders.

Kis-Lev believes in the power of education and the arts in promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He states that encouraging encounters designed at eliminating mutual fear between the two sides need have no relation to political stances.[2] Kis-Lev thinks of himself as a zionist and sees no contradiction between that and his peace activism. Beginning in 2008 Kis-Lev began writing and lecturing about the possibilities for peace in the Middle East, stressing the importance of education for peace as a solution to the conflict.[2][3][dead link]

Artists For Peace[edit]

In efforts to use the arts as a bridge between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Kis-Lev joined fellow Palestinian and Israeli artists in 2011. Led by the Bereaved Families for Peace. As part of the project the group visited together the Palestinian depopulated village Lifta and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. The initiative won extensive media coverage for being a unique cooperation of artists from both sides of the conflict, meeting for mutual understanding and peace.

In 2014, due to the rising violence in the Silent Intifada, Kis-Lev joined hands with Palestinian activist Riman Barakat, to set up meetings in Jerusalem encouraging dialogue. The project was called the Hallelujah Dialogue Project, and took place even in face of terrorism in Jerusalem, in days when similar activities ceased to operate.[4]


In 2007 he had his first solo exhibition in Tel Aviv entitled Beginnings: Neve Zedek and Jaffa. Visited by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, the exhibition marked his debut in the Israeli art world.[5] In the years following the artist developed several techniques that were meant to enable him to "forget" all that he was taught about proper painting from an early age, and paint "like a child again". He began drawing some paintings with his weak left hand rather than his strong right, and drew some paintings when the canvas was placed upside down, so that elements such as the sky were placed on the bottom. According to the artist, these techniques helped him gain self-confidence in his intuition and paint more freely.[6][7] The style Kis-Lev developed was referred to as naïve, even though some art critics have referred to the works as pseudo-naïve due to the self-conscious approach taken by the artist.

Street Art[edit]

Kis-Lev's political work depicting Israeli Srulik and Palestinian Handala embracing one another. Florentin, Tel Aviv

Simultaneously, beginning in his early twenties, Kis-Lev began spraying political catchphrases and slogans advocating for peace, bridging the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as granting proper human rights to Israel's foreign workers from Africa. His works developed slowly into ones with more visual nature, such as depicting Israeli Srulik and Palestinian Handala embracing one another.[8] The work was considered "an optimistic piece" according to The Forward.[9]

One of Kis-Lev's street art works is the "27 Club". It was called one of Israel's must-see street artworks by The Forward.[10] The work depicts, from left to right, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and an unknown figure. Some speculate it is "believed to be the artist, Jonathan Kis-Lev."[10] That part of the painting was covered by pink paint, and "there is some argument as to whether or not the pink paint over Kis-Lev’s face was done by Kis-Lev himself or another artist. One rumor is that Kis-Lev was so disappointed in all that he hadn’t accomplished by the age of 27, that he included paint to cover his face."[10][9] The painting was reportedly made with the help of a crane and took two days to complete.[8]

One of his paintings became part of a five-day art exhibition sponsored by Bank Leumi.[11]



Kis-Lev first appeared on TV at the age of nine, in Israel's channel 1 (Israel) in a talent show, and appeared as a child actor in such programs as Michal Yannai's Whipped Cream (1996), Yael Bar Zohar's Tushtush (1997). In 1998 he was chosen to co-host the show Heart-Talk (Balbalev) (1998–2000). He later acted in the soap opera Love is Around the Corner (Ahava Me'ever LaPina) in 2003–2004, as the boyfriend of Agam Rodberg.


Kis-Lev and Agam Rodberg on Israeli telenovela "Love is Around the Corner", 2003
  • 1995 Tushtush with Yael Bar-Zohar, Channel 2 (Israel)
  • 1998–1999 Good Evening with Guy Pines (Erev Tov Im Guy Pines), Hot 3
  • 1998–2000 Heart-Talk (Balbalev) with Efrat Rayten (co-host), Channel 6 (Israel)
  • 2003–2004 Love is Around the Corner (Ahava Me'ever LaPina) (as Erez), Channel 2 (Israel)
  • 2008–2015 Multiple appearances on Galit Giat's Yotsim Shavu'a; educational episodes for Hinukhit Yeladim channel 1.


  • 1998–1999 Good Heart (Lev Tov), by Gilad Evron, Habima National Theater of Israel
  • 1999–2001 A View From the Bridge, by Arthur Miller, Habima National Theater of Israel
  • 1999 The Trojan War Will Not Take Place, by Jean Giraudoux, Library Theatre (HaSifriya), Ramat Gan, Israel
  • 2001 Newscast (Mivzak Hadashot), by Goren Agmon, Beit Lessin Theater, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 2000–2002 Moomins (HaMoominim) (as Moomintroll), based on the books by Tove Jansson, Azriel Asharov Theater Production Company, Tel Aviv, Israel

Personal life[edit]

Kis-Lev lives and works both in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles. He is a board member of the Israeli League of Esperanto Speakers, and he was the president of the Israeli League of Young Esperanto Speakers.[12]

References and sources[edit]

  1. [self-published source] Kis-Lev, Jonathan, I learned I really can stretch my boundaries, Pearson College, retrieved 15 January 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 "An optimist seeks peace (Ein Optimist sucht den Frieden)", Schwäbische Zeitung (in German), 10 July 2008, archived from the original on 2016-03-09, retrieved 5 December 2011 Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  3. "The Search for Peace – The Israeli-Palestinian situation (Die Suche nach Frieden – Die israelisch-palästinensische Lage)" (PDF) (Press release) (in German). Berlin: Das Festival für junge Politik, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. 13 June 2008. p. 83. Retrieved 3 November 2009.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  4. [self-published source]http://hallelujahdialogue.wix.com/hallelujahdialogue#!cfounders/c1ger
  5. [self-published source]Next Year in Jerusalem, by Jonathan Kis-Lev, Griffin Gallery, archived from the original on 14 July 2014, retrieved 5 December 2011 Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Thrope, Samuel (21 March 2011), "The Metamorphosis: Jonathan Kis-Lev's Jerusalems", Zeek, a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, retrieved 5 December 2011
  7. Shafir Buchwald, Shiran, Art That Does Good For the Heart (in Hebrew), The Marker Cafe, retrieved 5 December 2011CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kampinski, Zipa, Brilliance at Frenkel Street – Together All the Way (in Hebrew), Xnet Yediot Aharonot, retrieved 1 October 2014CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Zeveloff, Naomi (7 August 2016), Take a Tour with the Graffiti Geek of Tel Aviv — and Learn Hebrew, Too, Forward Magazine, retrieved 1 November 2017
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Peterson, Sydney, 12 Must-See Works Of Israeli Street Art, Forward Magazine, retrieved 1 October 2017
  11. Kis-Lev, Jonathan (2 December 2009). "Not Poor, Nor Starving (סיפורו של אמן (לא) מיוסר)" (in Hebrew). Bank Leumi. Retrieved 10 December 2011.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  12. [self-published source]Kis-Lev, Jonathan. Wandel, Amri, ed. "Personal Angle – Joni Kis-Lev(Persona Angulo: Joni Kis-Lev)" (PDF). Israela Esperantisto (in Esperanto). Organo de Esperanto-Ligo en Israelo. 156–157 (2012 Summer-Winter): 40–44. ISSN 1565-3315. Retrieved 8 January 2013.; see also Kis-Lev, Jonathan. Pavinski, Rogener, ed. "Not Only Language – Way of Life! (Ne nur lingvo – viv-vojo!)". Kontakto (in Esperanto). Universala Esperanto-Asocio. 245 (2011:5): 22. ISSN 0023-3692. Archived from the original on 23 December 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2011. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help); see also Kis-Lev, Jonathan. Wandel, Amri, ed. "My First International Youth Congress of Esperanto (Mia Unua IJK)" (PDF). Israela Esperantisto (in Esperanto). 154–155 (Somero-Vintro 2011): 21–26. ISSN 1565-3315. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  • Rimon, Lee. Israel, Dr. Zvika, ed. "Jonathan Kis-Lev, Naharia My Love". Can, Israeli Art Magazine (in Hebrew). 17 (December 2010): 68–69.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  • "'Ancient' Gallery Exhibits Israel". Boca Raton Forum. Boca Raton, Florida, USA. 17 November 2010.
  • Naharia My Love, catalog, The Edge Gallery Publishing, Naharia, Israel, 2010
  • Secret Exhibition, catalog, Esti Drori and Doron Polak, Bank Leumi, Israel, 2009
  • Jonathan Kis-Lev: Artist Vision, Shiran Shafir Buchwald, Shorashim Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2009
  • Home, catalog, Rotem Ritov, Apart Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2009

External links[edit]

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