The Peace Cylinder is a project that brings together two important stories from antiquity that have great relevance today – the Declaration of King Cyrus of Persia and the Book of Esther from the Bible. The Cyrus Cylinder is a clay cylinder that was discovered in the ancient city of Babylon in Mesopotamia, and it dates to the sixth century B.C. On it is a text in Akkadian cuneiform script issued by the King of Persia, which is regarded as the first declaration of human rights for the way in which it promotes religious tolerance and freedom. The Book of Esther is a section of The Hebrew Bible that relates the story of a Jewish girl named Esther, who became the queen of Persia and used her position to intercede with the king in order to prevent a genocidal plan against her people. The Biblical text teaches that individuals should act with the knowledge of God’s love according to the situations in which they find themselves and with respect for God’s sovereignty in all circumstances.
In this project, a ceramic replica of the cylinder with the original declaration engraved on the surface and a wooden roller covered by a polymer plate that holds the last chapter of the Book of Esther in Hebrew are used in performance to create prints on clay and paper. The ritual rolling of each device underscores the importance of the message that each text bears, and the similarity of each act of printing reflects the common themes and the universal significance that each text tells in its own way. At the end of the performance the clay and paper prints are given as gifts to members of the audience.
At all times peace is a fragile idea, but especially now as the potential for conflict between Israel and Iran intensifies. The artists, Linda Behar, a Jewish immigrant, and Raheleh T. Filsoofi, an Iranian immigrant, intend to bring diverse communities together for conversation and to send a message of tolerance and acceptance throughout the world.