The naïve style and expressionistic spirit of Rise! Awaken! and the symbols it contains embody a conflict between life and death that appears repeatedly in Moshe Gershuni’s work. This conflict may also be defined as one between death and rebirth, and it is perhaps this formulation that the painting alludes to.
Within the black frame of an obituary notice, which is flanked by a nesting black crow, life flourishes with striking intensity: "The Internationale," from which the sentence "Rise! Awaken!" was taken, is being played; a blue-and-white flag flutters in the wind over a blooming tower; and an erect, blazing phallus ejaculates semen. An additional frame painted a powerful shade of red also appears here, and its vitality struggles to overcome the somber effect of the black frame. The blood on the flag and the fire rose beside it may also be seen as signs of life, despite their affinity with destruction. These elements all seem to imply that out of a depression as dark as an eternal night, intense life has been suddenly born. Within the framework of mourning, there is a sense of wakefulness and frantic movement. Even the blue in the flag seems to flow like a living river, while a strong wind appears to blow around it. It seems as if the childlike freshness of the painting is also a death-opposing force. The presence of a child-painter rescues life from a somber state of deadlock.
The themes of vitality and resurrection in the painting are related to a call for national awakening; nevertheless, its meaning may be largely personal – if only because the painter himself seems to have suddenly awakened, becoming an admonishing prophet or a national poet of sorts. Nevertheless, the intentional spelling mistake in the Hebrew word “Awaken” lends a humorous or ironic aspect to the prophetic admonishment and to the pathos which infuses the painting as a whole.