Strong As Death

Translation/Interpretation/Caption Text: 

Hebrew translation: Strong as death. May 18, 1994 the IDF clears out of the Gaza Strip. 

This is a very sophisticated poster that is quoting the Song of Solomon (8:6) where it says something like "love is strong like death." The whole verse is on the edge like this. From King James: Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

The poster draws on three words—strong as death— and leaves out "love." We know this is a quotation definitely and immediately (despite the incompleteness of even the full phrase from the verse) because of both the font (very biblical) and the diacritical markings, i.e., the vowelization, which can only be biblical within the Hebrew context. Now, why these three words, you ask? Well, the word for "strong" is a homophone for Gaza: "'aza" in Hebrew is both strong (the adjective in the feminine singular form because love is a feminine noun and this modifies love in the original verse) and the Hebrew version of the geographic name Gaza.

By leaving out the word for love, we get a possible meaning for the phrase: Gaza is like death ... a far cry from the original Biblical text. Now, the new meaning is certainly reinforced (and perhaps even made possible) by the colors of the posters, green, red, black and white, the colors of Palestinian nationalism and the Palestinian flag.