A Belgian model has drawn criticism for a recent photo shoot in Jerusalem as part of a recent tour of Israel.
In May, 26-year-old Belgian model Marisa Papen arrived in Israel for her latest exhibition, dubbed the “Road to Liberation”.
Beginning in Tel Aviv and ending in Jerusalem, the project, involving a series of nude photo shoots at iconic sites across Israel, was intended to “push the boundaries of religion and politics”, Papen wrote in her blog.
Papen says she was inspired to pursue the project after she was arrested in Egypt and held by local authorities for 24 hours last September after posing nude in front of a historic site in Luxor.
During her visit to Jerusalem in May, which coincided with Israel’s Independence Day and the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Papen posed nude on a rooftop overlooking the Western Wall.
While the photo shoot was completed without incident, after photos from the shoot were released over the weekend critics took aim at the Belgian model over her decision to use the Jewish holy site for the nude exhibition.
“This is an embarrassing incident, grave and lamentable, which offends the sanctity of the site and the feelings of those who visit the holy places,” Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the chief religious official at the Western Wall Plaza, told Yediot Ahronot.
In a blog post entitled “The Wall of Shame”, Papen claimed that nudism was her “personal religion”, which she felt compelled to display “in a world where freedom is becoming a very luxurious thing.”
On Thursday, Papen took to Facebook to respond to her critics, writing: “I am perplexed with the fact that people who believe a God created our bodies… could think skin is offensive.”
Papen told Yediot Ahronot that she had hoped to challenge religious tradition in general, but did not intend to offend Jews with her use of a Jewish holy site.
"I think it is very important for people to make up their own minds, rather than just to follow books and religion and things that we learn when we are young."
"I think it is very strange that we say that the human body can be offensive in anyway."
Papen added that photos had also been taken which included the Dome of the Rock, saying that the decision to only release the photographs showing the Western Wall was based on aesthetic considerations, rather than religious ones.
“We also had a picture with the Dome [of the Rock] included, and I might share it later on."