By Elisha Ben-Yitzhak
I was born in Kibbutz Kfar Blum in 1943, one of the worst years the world has ever known. The Holocaust was raging throughout Europe and Jews were transported to death camps. This was also the year when Kibbutz Kfar Blum was established in the Hula Valley in northern Israel. A group of pioneers that only recently immigrated to Israel decided to establish their own home in an area surrounded by swamps and Arab villages.
My parents immigrated to Israel, (then Palestine), in 1936 after a year of preparations in Jewish youth movements in Russia. I still remember the pictures that they showed my sister, brother and myself of their families with tears, standing and waiving goodbye to them. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, all standing there crying. Three years later they had all vanished from the surface of the earth, none of them were left to tell the story of their tragic destiny.
I grew up in Kibbutz Kfar Blum during a time when food and clothing were in very short supply. The Kibbutz was surrounded by three mountains; the Golan, Harmon and Naphtali. My class in the kibbutz had only 22 children and we became like brothers and sisters throughout the years. We lived together in the children’s house and went to school together. We saw our parents only for a few hours every day, but the majority of our lives were spent interacting with each other.
Only five years after I was born the Israeli War of Independence began and the Syrians began shooting at us from the Golan. They were supported by the Arab villages that surrounded the Kibbutz. I still remember how our parents gathered all the children of the kibbutz in the dining room one day at dawn in 1948 and put us on buses whose windows were darkened with mud. A few hours later we found ourselves in Benyamina, a city located not far from the Mediterranean Sea. Our parents were left behind to defend the Kibbutz and work in the fields.
Imagine a five year old child being transported in the dark from his home to a new unknown place without his parents. Years have since passed and the kibbutz grew; we were getting ready to join the IDF when we graduated from high school. I chose to volunteer to the Paratroopers in spite of my late mother’s objection.
While serving in the Paratroopers I met some of the best people I have ever met in my life, most of them were also kibbutz born. But on March 3, 1963 during training exercises, the very best friend I ever had got killed by a hand-grenade. I felt as if my life was over when I was told that he had died. The trauma of loosing my very close friend drove me to start painting. Since 1965 until today I have never stopped painting and art became my whole life.
My paintings are exhibited around the world and published in numerous art publications. My paintings are about the essence and rhythm of life, all depicting symbols of life the way I see it. I have always strived to reach the ultimate balance in composition and colors.
The struggle of making a society more receptive of art in general has followed me throughout my life. I strongly believe that art plays an important roll in every society by transforming thinking and understanding of the immediate surroundings. I faced numerous challenges in my artistic life but the desire to paint prevailed. Private art collectors, galleries and museums around the world have acquired many of my paintings.
a poem by Elisha
Far away, dusty roads
Colors mix in hazy shades
Brown and blue, Green and Gold
Years have gone; time went by
Mountain shades, hugging me
River flows and flowers bloom
It seemed like it will never end
but it ended so long ago
Colors changed to fading shades,
Mountains seem so low and small
Pictures seem so far away
forever changed, no longer dawn
I am longing to dusty roads
Brown and blue, green and gold
So long my childhood ever joy
Years have passed, no longer boy…
Copyright © 2009 Elisha Ben Yitzhak. All Rights Reserved.
Visit Elisha at: www.elishasart.com
from the June 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine