Shortly after the death of my father, I received two packages from him, very well organized. Attached to each was a description of the contents. Each contained over a hundred drawings, sketches, and paintings, in color and black and white. Some were in blue and white, drawn with a ball point pen. Some were drawn with colored pencils. Some with plain pencils. Some were watercolors. In most but not all cases, the subjects of the drawings and paintings were familiar to me. I found scenes from many of his vacation spots, from his favorite haunts. Drawings of his favorite table, his book shelves, a favorite silver platter with fruit on it; a shelf with a clock that he and my mother had in their home; a view of the neighbors’ house, and a view of the house across the street. Views of forgotten corners in old houses where he had once lived. And a few pictures of people. A few pictures of my mother. It was really hard to recognize her, but there were tell tale signs that erased doubt. There was a painting of myself, from when I was a very young man. I was standing on a raft in a river, with a pole in my hand, seemingly steering my way down the river.
I had seen some of the pictures. I had heard about them over the years. And my mother had spoken to me about them. My father hardly ever talked about his drawings and paintings. They weren’t something he showed his friends.. He was a scientist and a scholar. He had invented certain instruments which were used in space research. He used to sleep a lot, something I was very aware of, because I was usually satisfied with five hours a night. He didn’t like to work long hours. After a few hours work, he had to take a walk to ‘think things out’. Yet he managed to produce a very impressive amount of work. He liked sweets but didn’t eat much. He read and wrote many languages, but didn’t like to read long books. He told me once, “I have tried never to read a book longer than 300 pages. If you can’t say it in 300 pages, what’s the point in going on and on”. He read slowly. Many of the books he read had less than 150 pages. And he would often stay on the same page for the longest time, contemplating the meaning. I got to know him best when he was conversing with students and friends. But in later years we had many conversations, in which I became acquainted with sides of him that usually were hidden. He was the most modest person I have ever met in my life.
My mother loved his pictures, and occasionally would suggest that he show them to someone. There were times when she wanted to hang one on the wall. He would always refuse, and explain that they weren’t art. They were kept in drawers of a closet in their bedroom. Once when they were older, she asked that he give her one of his pictures. He said, they all belong to you. Then she said, I want a couple that will be just mine. He said, choose whatever you want. She picked a few. One of them was of a cabin where they had vacationed a number of times, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. She had it framed and hung it in their dining room.
After his death, as I looked through the many pictures, I realized for the first time, what they were for him. They were his visual diary of pleasant times in this world. He would draw or paint the same scenes, the same places, over and over again, in different weather… in different light… sometimes seeing the same things in a different mood. It reminded me of my own personal photography, though he had never discussed this practice with me, and I hadn’t seen most of his drawing and paintings before he died in old age. He had photographed too, but I had seen only a few of his photographs.
Among his pictures, were pictures of places where we’d visited together. We used to walk to the Wohl Rose Garden, opposite the parliament in Jerusalem, and often we’d sit by the side of the pond and gaze at the water, the birds that visited, and the children that would walk by. I had photographed the pond many times, and one of my earliest pictures of the place also found it’s way onto one of the walls of my parents’ dining room. How interesting it was to study the scene through his eyes. The place looked starker than I had seen it. I could see that that his images were like notes, reminding him of things that had been in his mind, ideas and impressions, as well as emotions that he had felt on many different occasions.