What's it like to be blind? Never to see the sea, forests, birds or even one's fellow human beings, each face so distinctly different from the other! How does one paint that which one has never seen? These must have been some of the thoughts going through the minds of members of the ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) knitting club as they waited in the Ra'anana youth center for the arrival of Sarah Goldman.
The blind landscape artist, accomplished knitter and musician from Eilat had called in on her cellphone to say, "We're held up in the traffic coming into Ra'anana."
"Oh vey! She's driving?" someone questioned unbelievingly. No, she was not driving but the thought was not so fanciful. "I can do everything but fly," she tells everyone she meets.
Goldman was invited to address the club "because we had heard that she is such an inspiration to others," explained Wendy Goldstein, the former South African chairlady of the knitting club.
Goldman eventually arrived, and after a short introduction everyone's knitting needles were feverishly at work. Standing in front of the group, she knitted row after row in different colors and gave instructions while holding up the garment-in-making so all could see.
Yes, to see! But what does she see? "I see you all. Isn't Wendy beautiful?"
All forty members of the Ra'anana Knitting Club agreed. The chairlady blushed.
After the knitting lesson, Goldman took out a flute and broke into 'Oh, Susanna.' Everyone joined in as the words "I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee" filtered down the youth center's corridors. People poked their heads in to see what was going on. They joined in the singing and then marveled at some of her paintings. The previous evening there had been an exhibition of her work at the Cultural Center in Herzliya.
She held up a painting entitled 'Genesis.' It's divided into sections depicting the various stages of creation. There is the dark, then the blue sky, the sea and the land. Animals roam and man stands proud. Life's journey has begun.
But it is Goldman's personal journey that everyone in the room that morning was marveling at. She was not born blind, yet has never seen. A premature baby, she was placed in an incubator, unfortunately at too high a temperature. "My little eyes were scorched and when they took me out of the incubator the damage was done and there was nothing the doctors could do," she related. However, instead of bitterness, she provides a romantic twist to the tale. Her husband, also blind, is the same age as she is. "I was born on the 14th of March, he on the 23rd. I waited for him in the incubator."
The knitting ladies were also waiting - to hear more. One woman in the audience, former American Lynn Adler stood up, "I have to say, Sarah, before you arrived this morning we were sitting around kvetching how tired and lazy we had become. How we don't do this anymore and we don't do that anymore, and here you come along and say there aren't enough hours in the day. You truly are an inspiration to us all."
Goldman smiled and related how she visits a seriously ill woman in Eilat three times a week. "She is on oxygen and had lost the will to live. She thought nobody loved her anymore but I told her the world loves her and I started taking her out for walks, sometimes even to the beach."
Her audience listened, spellbound. "Yes," she says, "People say it is I who see, not her."
What she sees are the needs of people and how she can help. Until recently, she worked as a secretary in the Eilat municipality. How did she know what numbers to dial? "Easy," she says, "I memorize them. No problem!"
That seems to be her attitude: "No problem." You accept the cards you are dished in life and you get on with it.
During a week of embarrassing public behavior spearheaded by the highest office in the land being paraded as a refuge for reprobates, role models were in short supply. For the ladies of Ra'anana, meeting a woman like Sarah Goldman was "like a breath of fresh air," remarked one of the youngest member's of the knitting club, Ele Keil, a former Canadian who has just completed her military service.
To crown it all, people heard that Goldman recently shed 26 kilograms. "What can't this woman do?" the knitting ladies were wondering. Predictably and yet so poignantly, she concluded, "The only thing I can't do is fly." This crowd had their doubts.