Many times I told the story to amazed friends: When you are born in Israel, the manliest man from your family hangs an army helmet 6 feet above the ground in your room, and you have to grow into it.
Of course it is not true.
But in a symbolic way it is true. You are expected to be brave, to become a soldier, to be tough on the outside and soft inside. You won’t show fear or too much sorrow when you face the war and its results, and somehow you will manage to keep a beautiful sensitivity that is very hard to detect, but your wife and good friends will know that it is there. In the right moments it will show up. Every person who was born in Israel is, in a way that enforces this image, called a “Tzabar,” which means a cactus fruit. There are thorns on the outside and it is very sweet inside.
And on May 22nd this man appeared in my art. This is the portrait of the man I almost became.
This is what I wrote:
Bearded, unshaved, quick to anger. A lot of bitterness born out of tough life. Always suspicious and expecting trouble. Very close to nature, to open sky, to the earth and to the plants. Hard working, used to sweat and to having sour muscles. Will read poetry again after all the fights are settled, which means that he will never read poetry again. He will quote from memory one poem that he will remember before his death.
Come to the funeral.
You can also see a human being who is awake and buried in piles of debris. You can see his sensitivity showing from under the piles. He has a rich variety of responses to all experiences. It is this sensitivity and the many protective responses that created the debris. Now he is planted in a piece of land and protecting every inch of it. The horses go to work every morning, the sweat is pouring. Once a year he cries. In the rest of the days he only changes colors.
I know I have never been this man. But the command to be one was kept somewhere in my subconscious. I escaped the helmet just before I hit it (and remained a little short as a result). Now I am okay with the image’s departure.
Good bye old friend.