It was 1968 and I was 15. It was a year after the “Six Day War” and 23 after the walled ghettos and crematoriums of Europe … and I, I was in the reborn State of Israel serving as a volunteer at a kibbutz in the upper Galilee. Kibbutz Gesher Haziv…Splendor Bridge.
The days consisted of an early morning Hebrew class then the raising of the Star of David (the Israeli flag) and singing of the national anthem…Hatikvah…The Hope. Then onto the tractor pulled carts and out to the fields. As volunteers our jobs were to harvest tomatoes, prop up banana trees and plant vine-like grass near the kibbutz school. We were changing the soil into a small part of that prophesied “Land of milk and honey”.
We started early and ended early, going down to the beach at Akhziv to cool off in the Mediterranean before walking back to the Kibbutz and sitting under a large olive tree. Then Sam would come out with his guitar to sing some of the most amazing songs I have ever heard.
Sam was kind of a cross between Bob Dylan and Ari Ben Canaan. He was a camp counselor. I had brought my guitar with me and he had me show him a few tunes I knew from those times. He especially liked “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and, in return, he spent hours and hours teaching me his songs until I had every note down perfectly. The one song (still sung at some Kibbutzim today) was “Splendor Bridge”, which was about his being torn between living in America and his longing for Israel and his beloved Kibbutz. I can understand this. To me it’s like being a child of divorced parents living far, far apart. Wanting to please them both…show them your love…get their acceptance.
“So don’t you ask me what I’m thinking;
If I make you happy I will keep on singing;
For I sing when I can’t talk, and I dance when I can’t walk,
I am going back to Splendor Bridge and trying to call it home”.
Sam was born in Harrisburg then moved to Philadelphia. He made aliya to Israel and fought in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War in an artillery battalion. In 1979 he moved back to the US and became Doctor Flesher, a psychologist, working with patients with schizophrenia. I, however, remember him as a songwriter and the composer of “Splendor Bridge”.
“I once had two loves somewhere in my heart.
Now I have but one and we’re 10,000 miles apart,
And she’s beckoning to me from far across the sea,
And I’m going back to Splendor Bridge and trying to call it home”.
Sam was politically liberal and I probably would have disappointed. I’m conservative, but regardless, I could see his passion, his love of life. Sam died of cancer (something we both share) on January 27th 2010, playing guitar in his hospital room to his doctors and nurses. That was Sam.
When I returned from the Kibbutz I would play his songs, “Splendor Bridge”…”Even in the Sunshine”…and his take on Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”. I would sing his songs and people would cry, the words filled with passion. I often had a hard time getting through the lines myself without breaking down. I think of Sam often….I know I’m not the only one.
“Tell me how many times will the sun set in my sea by Splendor Bridge,
Before we can share it from a cabin on the ridge,
And I’ll count each lonely day, ‘til I’m traveling on my way,
And I’m going back to Splendor Bridge, and I’m trying to call it home”.