The Israeli Rembrandt

A few weeks ago I found myself walking along the streets of the Druze town of Daliyat-al-Carmel when I noticed a group of fellow Israelis coming out of a place marked “Sam Halaby Gallery” . Some of them were carrying large paintings wrapped in loose paper. One of them, seeing me staring, said, “Habibi, if you want to buy exquisite pictures or paintings, this is the place. The artist is a genius”.

I descended a short flight of stairs and entered a wonderland of colors. Flowers. Seascapes. Birds. Waterfalls. And portraits of distinguished members of the Druze community.

A young man saw me drooling over each painting and asked if he could be of help. He introduced himself as Sam Halaby, the under-30-year-old artist. As I gazed and gasped at the beauty of each painting I asked him where he had studied art.  “At home”, he replied.

“I began drawing and painting when I was 13-years-old. My blessed mother saw my work and my creativity and with her praises she inspired and encouraged me to make a life of bringing beauty into the lives and homes of other people”.

That is exactly what Sam Halaby has done. His paintings are in very bright colors. The flowers look alive and I was tempted to smell them and to touch them. The birds in flight were so realistic, it was almost impossible to realize that they were not real.

The seashore paintings were so enchanting I was tempted to dip my fingers into the blue waters in an effort to catch a wave.

I dared not inquire the prices of Sam’s paintings. And I could not carry one so large to fit across a wall in my apartment in Rishon Lezion.  Additionally, it would not have fit comfortably on the long bus ride to Tel Aviv with a change to another bus to Rishon.

I call Sam Halaby “Israel’s Rembrandt.” He is a genius at creating lifelike paintings which bring so much warmth and beauty into homes.

The Druze community is very special. For centuries they have been true friends of the Jews. In Israel the young men serve with pride, dignity and honor in our military forces. They have provided outstanding judges in our courts and well-trained physicians in our hospitals.

If Moshe Rabbenu were alive to behold these wonders he would be immensely proud of his father-in-law’s people. Moshe was married to the daughter of Yitro, high priest of the Midianites, who taught Moshe how to lead and how to govern the wandering Hebrew tribes.

Except for Bezalel there is no record of famed artists in our Bible or Talmud. Judaism paid little attention to pictures of animals and people, considering them as incentive to idolatry.

But I believe that Israel has been made a more beautiful country exactly because of the gifted creativity of artists like Sam Halaby.

If you should ever have occasion to be in Daliyat-al-Carmel, please be sure to visit Sam Halaby’s Gallery. His astonishing and magnificent paintings will warm your hearts and will beautify your homes.

For directions, just ask any Druze whom you may meet. Everyone knows Sam. He is one of their most famous citizens, and for good reason.

On my next visit to Daliyat-al-Carmel I will be sure to buy a painting that will fit on my wall. Then the Israeli Rembrandt will be a constant reminder of the great gift and talent with which God has blessed man.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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