When Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle first presented the grotesque sculpture originally known as “The Golem” to the Jerusalem Parks Commission, it was flatly rejected. The commission believed that the warped, vaguely bovine installation would be too scary for children.
Teddy Kollek, the popular mayor of Jerusalem who had commissioned the piece, asked the commission to vote again, and for de Saint Phalle to make a case for fear. In a 1988 interview with The Los Angeles Times, she explained that she argued for the foundational value of something frightening in a place that is safe. When presented appropriately, the avant-garde artist insisted, “[s]cary things are good because they help children conquer their fears.”
The commission greenlit the sculpture and soon realized their trepidation was misplaced. Since its 1972 installation in the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood’s Rabinovich Park, the distorted colossus has been wholeheartedly embraced by local children, who climb a twisting staircase along the sculpture’s back in order to slide down one of its three red tongues.
Although the metal and concrete creature may be monstrous-looking (its adopted name HaMifletzet literally means “The Monster”), it’s certainly friendly.