The sculpture garden

After 60 years in Israel, a couple in Kfar Shmaryahu enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Bronca (Bracha) and Zvi Sztrauch, both now in their eighties, moved to Kfar Shmaryahu 25 years ago. Both Holocaust survivors, they came to pre-state Palestine in 1945, eager to put the horrors of the past behind them and start a new life. For many years, neither of them talked about the war and none of their three daughters knew anything about their past when they were growing up. They worked at several different jobs - she used the dressmaking skills she had learned as a girl in Warsaw and he was a welder. For a time, they owned a clothing store on Dizengoff. Then, in the early Seventies, Zvi went into the building business and his son-in-law took him to see Kfar Shmaryahu, a rustic place filled with orchards and chicken coops. They bought a parcel of land and decided to build a house, although Bronca had her reservations. "I'm from Warsaw, why on earth would I want to live in a place like that?" she remembers now. The village had been populated from its beginnings with new immigrants, who were each given a very small house and seven dunams of land. By this time retired, and their daughters grown, the Sztrauchs decided they would build a house that would suit their new stage of life. "We wanted it to be practical and comfortable but certainly not grandiose," they say. Back in the Seventies, there was still no Tel Aviv-Haifa highway, which today runs 200 meters past their back door. (They say they've gotten used to the noise.) And when they built, they never thought they would need space for a computer or a studio where Bronca would work on sculpture. WHEN THEY were designing their home, they decided to put in a rough stone wall in the living room, which they had seen in a hotel, and liked. They also decided to keep the lounge and dining room open plan and linked the two rooms with a wide archway. All of the furniture in the living room they brought with them from their previous apartment. The tan leather suite and the mole-colored stone wall create a restful color scheme. The large kitchen is furnished in louvered wood in shades of bamboo with a terra cotta floor. Next to it is a sewing and ironing room with the iron always set up for use. "I wanted a work room next to the kitchen," Bronca says, "so that I can pop in and out while I'm cooking and do other things." Next door is the study, whose walls are covered with enlarged pre-war family photos from Poland. There is also a computer, which they say is still a learning experience for them, but which they are determined not to write off. Large windows in the entrance hall open straight onto the vast back garden and, at first glance, create the illusion of an indoor atrium. Upstairs, a large landing leads into a TV corner, off which there are two bedrooms - a guest room and their bedroom, overlooking the back garden. What looks like a cherrywood parquet floor in the bedroom proves, upon closer inspection, to be ceramic tiles. "Much more practical," they say, "and it really does look like parquet." The master suite's bathroom is huge, with a rounded wall set with tall windows. The bathtub is in the corner under a window. Throughout the room, coffee and cream tiles are interspersed with tiles imprinted with an abstract design. "We wouldn't put in a bath if we were doing it today," they say. "With the water problem in this country, baths are an unnecessary luxury and a shower is enough." Soon after moving in, Bronca began studying sculpture and the house and front and back gardens are filled with the fruits of her labors. Zvi helps by producing the molds for her work. "We're not artists, and it's strictly a hobby," he demurs, "but I like to help. All our life, we've done things together." Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail