In the last part of Dahlia Ravikovitch’s poem In Memory of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the poet regrets that
The world is not what it used to be
grass and wind
wind and sand.
Surely this is the sight of the world
which no longer has
In the absence of Saint Exupéry only fragments are left with nothing to hold them together. This is a vacant world and we, who are left behind, are all alone.
Today, on the anniversary of the death of the Israeli singer Arik Einstein, 1939—2013, in a midst of a war that started with a massacre, I feel this void and miss the familiar voice of the beloved singer. The music critic, Yoav Kutner said: “Arik is more than the greatest ever Israeli singer, he is the true Israel.”
The writer, poet and pilot de Saint Exupéry disappeared over the Mediterranean on a reconnaissance mission in July 1944 at the age of 44. At the time of his death he was already a very well known artist and a pioneer aviator. His work had won the highest literary awards in France and in the US, and after his disappearance he became a legend.
Similarly, in 1981 when he was about the same age as de Saint Exupéry, Arik Einstein disappeared and stopped performing in public. At that time he has already been an admired singer and actor. Privately and in collaboration with other artists, he never stopped working. Arik continued to make music and record. He had a special talent to discover new and outstanding musicians and to bring out their special qualities. He sang their songs in his beautiful clear baritone voice. His clean and unaffected voice has become a symbol of everything that was good about Israel, and it made us yearn to better and simpler days.
In spite of his disappearance, Arik Einstein became more significant and influential un the music scene, in a way he too became a legend. It is quite incomprehensible how a shy person who has chosen to stay at home for more than 30 years could turn into a cultural hero and a symbol of true Israel. .
At his funeral, ten years ago, someone said that every Israeli has his/her own Arik. This is part of it, only few got to meet Arik Einstein the person, but we all felt that we knew him, and that he was our Arik. As a teenager I had his photos on my wall, and with my first paycheck I bought an Arik Einstein record. I saw him in an unforgettable performance at the Hebrew University in 1974, and once I even walked right towards him on Ibn Gvirol street in Tel Aviv. He was really tall and very good-looking
Dahlia Ravikovitch ends the poem In Memory of Antoine de Saint Exupéry with these words:
People do not live forever
and we too are not forever
but had he been saved
in March of forty three,
he would have been with us
a shiny grain,
a rose in the wind
laughing in the clouds.
Ravikovitch is right, people do not live forever, and Arik was almost 75 year old when he died. But on days like today I wish he could still be with us, the world was a better place with Arik Einstein in it.