‘Are you still working with sheep or have you moved on to hi-tech?” This is the opening to almost all my conversations with Munir or Fuad from the Druse village of Yarka when I arrange a time to go and sell sheep to them.
Selling sheep from the herd is a painful transaction that people tend not to talk about and even try not to think about. Here’s a ewe that served you faithfully for years, gave birth and gave milk and now, when she is no longer fertile, you have to sell her. The sheep has played her role, and now it is time for her to go. I try not to look into her eyes.
I look downwards. Maybe writing about it will ease my conscience, but I doubt that it will really help.
Four of us went to Kibbutz Baram to see the exhibition of American Israeli painter Ivan Schwebel, who died in July last year. The four of us were artist Uri Lifshitz, radio personality Eitan Lifshitz (no relation), PR guru Reuven Adler and myself. It was Eitan, an art aficionado and passionate admirer of Schwebel’s, who recommended that we go.
May I be forgiven by the late artist for saying this, but I never liked symbolic art.
“Look how Schwebel connects King David to Zion Square,” Eitan said, admiring one of the paintings. “Look at the trains of the Holocaust in today’s Jerusalem!” “I add color only when the painting isn’t a success,” retorted Lifshitz the artist. “My best works are those I sketched only with charcoal.”
“There is no need to cover up good meat with spices,” I added. “A small amount of salt and pepper is more than enough.”
What could I say? I’m no artist and no radio broadcaster! A man contributes to a conversation based on his knowledge and interests.
The rest of the trip was quite down to earth.
We drove along the winding roads of the Galilee, not the main arteries but the side roads, and we entered Yarka from above, from the east.
There, a traditional meal waited for us at Munir and Fuad’s. Adler went wild for the stuffed vine leaves.
“You should keep close ties with Adler,” I told our hosts. “Who knows, you might want to advertise the business one day [the business of buying sheep in the South and selling them to butchers in the Yarka area].”
“I hope not to meet any of my acquaintances during the meal,” I quipped to my hosts, referring to the sheep they had purchased from me. “I’d recognize them immediately.”
There were no such worries. We were served fresh lamb – no old sheep made it to the table. And here again, I find myself writing about food rather than intellectual matters.
Hot coffee and knafeh (a sweet Arab dessert) were served on Fuad’s balcony, which looks out westward toward the sea.
“I want to build zimmers [B&Bs] here,” Fuad said.
“No way. I don’t want to see anyone when I come here,” I responded egotistically. I just wanted more of this calm scenery and wonderful treats without having to share them with strangers.
I drove my three companions to Tel Aviv before I continued south to my farm. I dropped the last passenger off in Neveh Tzedek – my friend the artist.
Uri Lifshitz passed away on May 28, 2011, at the age of 75. May his memory be blessed.