I have been blessed to go to Israel twice, once with my husband and son in 2010 and again with the 2013 tour, this time with my daughter, Katie. (Just in case you are wondering about our other daughter Amy, she went in 2008 with a college group and stayed three weeks. Lucky girl!)
In 2010, as we walked in the Old City to the Temple Institute, we stumbled upon an unexpected treasure—a small artist’s shop. Peering through the window, Leslie spied a drawing of a breast-feeding mother. Of course, she had to have it and led us all into temptation. Inside the shop sat the artist, Eliaju Schwarz. Lining the walls of his shop were examples of his work, including his drawing of Golda Meier as well as his book, Women at Prayer. Leslie immediately got over her shyness and struck up a conversation with Eliaju and, of course, bought the picture of the breast-feeding mother.
A few of the rest of us managed to squeeze in between Eliaju and Leslie, who by now had become best friends. I found a picture titled “Woman at Prayer,” which I purchased. As he signed my picture, I told Eliaju that this picture made me cry. He asked me, “Do you believe in the Jew on the cross?” I told him that I did.
As Yehuda urged us onward, our time with Eliahu drew to a close. Although our husbands were delighted that shopping time was over, we left the shop with Eliahu in our hearts, praying that he would one day know “the Jew on the cross.”
Last week as we walked the streets of the Old City, Leslie and I were hoping to see Eliaju again. On our way to the Temple Institute’s new location, we just happened to pass by his shop. Sadly, the door was closed and bars covered the windows. We peered into the window and saw the inside of the shop, looking much the same as it did three years ago. We wondered about Eliaju. It just so happened that his neighbor was outside who told us that he was in a nursing home and doesn’t work any longer. “Once and a while,” she said, “his sons come to the shop.”
It turns out that our friend Eliaju was a well-known artist. Born in 1921 near Frankfurt, Germany, Eliaju was the son of a fish merchant. At an early age, he was drawing caricatures of his schoolteachers. He was aware of the anti-Semitism devouring Germany long before Kristallnacht* when his father’s business was shattered by the Brownshirts (Nazis). Although his father wanted to remain in Europe, his mother wanted to leave so the family moved to Haifa in 1933. At 16, Eliaju joined the Haganah, under the cover of the Haifa Fire Brigade. When the War of Independence broke out, he was drafted and went into naval intelligence. During the Yom Kipper War, he toured the frontlines, giving lectures on the art of caricature. Eliaju studied at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem, the Beaux Arts School and the Paris Art Institute. He gave one man shows in Israel, the US and Europe. “His eye measures and reveals the perverse, the sublime and the absurd. Not only [his] portraits but his humorous drawings, like the Jerusalem street scenes published in The Jewish Chronicle, reveal [Eliaju’s ability to capture] man’s inspiration and exasperations.” (www.thehope.tripod.com)
Now in his nineties, Eliaju may not be drawing caricatures anymore. On the other hand, he just might be giving art lessons at the old folks’ home. Either way, there is still time for Eliaju to meet “the Jew on the Cross.” When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, remember Eliaju.
With gratitude to my husband, Larry Chinnock, for his love and support during this trip.
* Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogram (a series of coordinated attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary and civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The attacks left the streets covered with broken glass from the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues. (Wikipedia)