What appears to be a routine photograph of soldiers eating is, in fact, a meticulously staged scene. It was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, depicting one of the most dramatic oments in the story of Jesus: his pronouncement that one of his disciples would betray him, leading to the Crucifixion, the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of humanity. Unlike Leonardo, Nes (born 1966) does not portray a scene filled with tension and emotionally fraught gestures. As his relaxed soldiers talk and joke, only the central figure occupying the seat of Jesus seems preoccupied as he looks away from his comrades and out into the distance.
Facing the risk of dying in battle, the youthful soldiers are at the most dangerous moment in their lives. Nes’s analogy between the iconic Christian scene and Israeli reality conveys a political message about commitment and sacrifice. Like Christ’s apostles, the soldiers act on behalf of a power stronger than themselves. But they are also victims of a geopolitical constellation over which they have no control and may be betrayed. The bullet holes in the wall, cigarette smoke, and bitten apple are symbols of transience, reminding us that this might indeed be their last supper.