Life on the other side: farewell to a beloved icon

Israel is in mourning. On Nov. 26 Arik Einstein died at the age of 74. And I honestly think Israel has died a little too.

Arik Einstein was part of my reason for coming here and making Aliyah. He was a nuanced symbol of the Israel I so loved in the early ’70s. I didn’t follow him as a groupie, or even attend his concerts, but I loved his songs. Everyone did. You sort of couldn’t help but love them.

Israel was a very different place back then – when Arik and his pals populated the scene – innocent, sweet, naive and full of hope. People didn’t worry about terrorism, nuclear arms, global warming and such.

Einstein was more than a singer, he was an actor and a comedian and he made people happy. He sang of simple and basic things – like love and living life. The writer Chemi Shalev in his tribute to Einstein in Ha’aretz’s newspaper said it best: “He resuscitated, almost singlehandedly, the songs of the first Zionists, the hymns of ‘Good Old Israel,’ the days of early innocence and boundless optimism, when hopes were high and possibilities seemed endless.”

How one man and his songs can touch generation after generation is truly remarkable. Those who were older than he and those born decades after his star burst through the atmosphere loved him the same – they recognized and appreciated this man of talent. On Nov. 27 the whole country was in mourning. Einstein’s death was announced from the Tel Aviv hospital the evening of Nov. 26. Immediately candles were lit, young people sat together in groups outside, guitars were strummed and by that afternoon, Rabin Square (formerly Kikar Malchei Yisrael, where I first heard and fell in love with his songs during Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations) started filling up. Streets were closed off, parking lots were jammed and thousands of mourners filled the square and waited. The prime minister, the mayor and stars from all parts of the media world paid tribute – with songs, with speeches and with tears. Everyone was choked up, everyone felt the pain.

We’ve lost a great man. A simple, modest guy whose music touched many souls. I pray that his loss does not foretell the loss of more of Israel’s innocence. We have no more to give.

Anne Kleinberg, author of Menopause in Manhattan and several cookbooks, left a cushy life in Manhattan to begin a new one in Israel. Now she’s opened a boutique bed and breakfast in her home on the golf course in Caesarea. For details, visit annekleinberg.com and casacaesarea.com.

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