Jonathan Kis-Lev

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Jonathan Kis-Lev
Jonathan Kis-Lev Portrait Photo.png
Jonathan Kis-Lev, 2013
Yehonatan (Yoni) Kislov (Hebrew: יהונתן כיס-לב)

(1985-09-12) 12 September 1985 (age 33)
ResidenceKiryat Tiv'on, Israel; Los Angeles
Alma materOpen University of Israel
  • Actor
  • Television talk-show host
  • Artist
Years active1995–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,[1] Canada[2] and Europe.[3] He often uses his television platforms and his art for peace activities involving joint Jewish and Arab causes.[4]

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.[5] 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".[6][7]

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.[8]

Kis-Lev believes in the power of education and the arts in promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.[5] He states that encouraging encounters designed at eliminating mutual fear between the two sides need have no relation to political stances.[9] Kis-Lev thinks of himself as a zionist and sees no contradiction between that and his peace activism.[10] 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.[5][9][11]

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.[12]

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.[13][14]


Kis-Lev showed interest in the visual arts from an early age. He began studying painting with a private teacher at the age of five,[15] He earned the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a major in visual arts.

In 2007 he had his first solo exhibition in Tel Aviv entitled Beginnings: Neve Zedek and Jaffa. Visited by many, including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, the exhibition marked his debut in the Israeli art world.[16] 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".[17] 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.[18] According to the artist, these techniques helped him gain self-confidence in his intuition and paint more freely.[19][20] 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.[21]

Controversial 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, a work which received much criticism.[22] The work was considered "An optimistic piece" according to Forward Magazine.[23]

Kis-Lev's "27 Club", Florentin, Tel Aviv

One of Kis-Lev's most iconic street art works is the "27 Club", known as one of Israel's must-see street artworks.[24][25] 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."[24] 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."[24][23] The painting was reportedly made with the help of a crane and took two days to complete.[22]

The artist frequently donates to and collaborates with non-profit organizations to raise money for social causes, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters Israel,[26] Giborim Ktanim – Small Heroes,[27] Esra – Volunteering Together For the Community,[28] and others. His art has become part of major art collections, including the collection of Bank Leumi, one of Israel's largest banks.[29]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

Kis-Lev with artwork with Israeli President Shimon Peres in a fundraising event, 2013

2013 A Place to Dream, curator: Dan Chill (with Aviva Sonsino and Yitzhak Buberman), GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

2012 The Abstract With a Touch of Reality, curator: Judith Beiner, Griffin Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

2011 Of Gold, curator: Shiran Shafir Buchwald, Art and Soul Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel

2010 Naharia My Love, curator: Lee Rimon, The Edge Gallery, Naharia, Israel

2010 Portraits of an Eternal Land, curator: Judith Beiner, Griffin Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

2009 Jonathan Kis-Lev, curator: Shiran Shafir Buchwald, Shorashim Art Gallery – International Bank, Tel Aviv, Israel

2007 Beginnings: Neve Zedek and Jaffa, Trade Tower Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel

Group exhibitions[edit]

2015 Greetings! O Lovely Land, curator: Dan Chill, GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

2013 The Equal Exhibition, curator: Lee Rimon, The Edge Gallery, Naharia, Israel

2012 On A Small Scale, curator: Hana Kuman, Zadik Gallery, Jaffa, Israel

2012 Naïve Kunst Aus Israel, curator: Debora Gutman, Gutman-Art Gallery, Berlin, Germany

2012 International Naïve Art, curator: Jacques Dubois, Gallery Szyb Wilson, Katowice, Poland

2012 Israeli Naïve Art, curators: Ifat Reiss and Dan Chill, GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

2012 Secret Exhibition, curators: Esti Drori and Doron Polak, Bank Leumi, Tel Aviv, Israel

2011 Abstract Thoughts, curator: Doron Polak, ZOA Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel

2009 B-Sides, curator: Inbal Drue, Zavta Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel

2009 Home, curator: Rotem Ritov, Apart Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel

2009 Secret Exhibition curators: Esti Drori and Doron Polak, Bank Leumi, Tel Aviv, Israel



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. In later years he contributed his voice for dubbing and narration, mostly for the Israeli Sonicbooks label.[30]


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

Films and Voice Acting[edit]

2000 E.T. (Hebrew version), dubbing Greg and other characters

2000–2001 Nanuk children television series, dubbing various characters, channel 1 (Israel)

2001 Happy New Year (Shana Tova) Short film by Michal Hagay (the film won the first prize in the short film category in the 2001 Haifa International Film Festival)[31]

2008–2012 Sonicbooks Hebrew audio books including: World Cup Wishes by Eshkol Nevo, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Kis-Lev lives and works in Israel's Galilee. 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.[32] Kis-Lev is an active member in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Israel,[33] as well as in the Israeli Association of Visual Artists.[8] He earned his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from the Open University of Israel focusing on music and art history.[34]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ See for example:
  2. ^ With galleries in Toronto and Montreal such as:
  3. ^ See for example Gutman Gallery in Berlin:
  4. ^ See Kis-Lev, Jonathan (1 July 2012), Artists for Peace, Bereaved Families For Peace, retrieved 12 July 2012
  5. ^ a b c Teichert, Corina (July 2008), From Attempts to Crossing Borders (Vom Versuch, Grenzen zu überschreiten) (in German), Jüdische Zeitung, retrieved 3 November 2009
  6. ^ Full quote: "force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future". see United World CollegesMission Statement; see also UWC website
  7. ^ Kis-Lev, Jonathan, I learned I really can stretch my boundaries, Pearson College, retrieved 15 January 2012
  8. ^ a b "The Tikvah IDC Program in Political Leadership 2011 Fellows" (PDF). Tikvah Fund. October 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  9. ^ a b "An optimist seeks peace (Ein Optimist sucht den Frieden)", Schwäbische Zeitung (in German), 10 July 2008, retrieved 5 December 2011
  10. ^ Kis-Lev, Jonathan, My Experience at the Tikvah IDC Program – Opening My Mind, Tikvah IDC Program, retrieved 5 December 2011
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ See Kis-Lev, Jonathan (1 July 2012), Artists for Peace, Bereaved Families For Peace, retrieved 12 July 2012; see also Golan, Omer (29 December 2011), Weekend in Beit Jala (סופ"ש בבית ג'אלה) (in Hebrew), Bereaved Families For Peace, retrieved 3 January 2012
  13. ^,7340,L-4588371,00.html
  14. ^!cfounders/c1ger
  15. ^ "Jonathan Kis-lev Bio", Connection Art, retrieved 5 December 2011
  16. ^ Next Year in Jerusalem, by Jonathan Kis-Lev, Griffin Gallery, retrieved 5 December 2011
  17. ^ Bulstein, Ariel (14 March 2011). "Diamonds and Gold in Jerusalem That Looks Like an Artist (Алмазы и золото в Иерусалиме, похожем на художника)". Booknik (in Russian). Avi Chai Foundation.
  18. ^ Friedman, Asi (10 November 2008). "Just Now (בדיוק עכשיו)". LaIsha Magazine (in Hebrew).
  19. ^ Thrope, Samuel (21 March 2011), "The Metamorphosis: Jonathan Kis-Lev's Jerusalems", Zeek, a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, retrieved 5 December 2011
  20. ^ Shafir Buchwald, Shiran, Art That Does Good For the Heart (in Hebrew), The Marker Cafe, retrieved 5 December 2011
  21. ^ Jonathan Kis-Lev, artiste peintre (in French), Search Israel, retrieved 5 April 2012
  22. ^ a b Kampinski, Zipa, Brilliance at Frenkel Street – Together All the Way (in Hebrew), Xnet Yediot Aharonot, retrieved 1 October 2014
  23. ^ a b 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
  24. ^ a b c Peterson, Sydney, 12 Must-See Works Of Israeli Street Art, Forward Magazine, retrieved 1 October 2017
  25. ^ Tel Aviv Street Art, Street Art NYC, 4 February 2017, retrieved 1 October 2017
  26. ^ Shwartz, Eitan (15 November 2011). "Eitan Shwartz About His Mother's Exhibition". Notzetz, Israel's Society Site (in Hebrew). Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  27. ^ "10th Bar Mitzvah of Giborim Ktanim" (PDF) (Press release) (in Hebrew). Giborim Ktanim. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  28. ^ "ESRA Tel Aviv on 'The Young Artist in Israel Today'" (Press release). ESRA. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  29. ^ The National Bank of Israel, Bank Leumi, purchased 15 paintings by the artist for the art collection of the bank. Kis-Lev, Jonathan (2 December 2009). "Not Poor, Nor Starving (סיפורו של אמן (לא) מיוסר)" (in Hebrew). Bank Leumi. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  30. ^ a b "Narrator Jonathan Kis-Lev",, 15 November 2011, retrieved 3 December 2011; see also under Yehonatan Kis-Lev
  31. ^ Yodilevitch, Merav (9 October 2001). "Haifa Film Festival Ended". Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  32. ^ 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. Retrieved 10 December 2011.; 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.
  33. ^ Apart from being a Big Brother in the organization, Kis-Lev donated few artworks to a benefit for the organization, alongside artists Eliora Schwartz-Steimatzky and Aya Chovers. See "Big Brother Big Sister of Israel Benefit Art Exhibit" (Press release). Big Brothers Big Sisters of Israel. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  34. ^ University President's Honors Recipients (in Hebrew) (PDF), Open University of Israel, 2009, retrieved 21 March 2011
  • Rimon, Lee. Israel, Dr. Zvika (ed.). "Jonathan Kis-Lev, Naharia My Love". Can, Israeli Art Magazine (in Hebrew). 17 (December 2010): 68–69.
  • "'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

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]