The Frozen Bird

Once upon a time, as fairy tales begin - or more exactly, in the winter of 1950, I had
an experience which left a deep impression on me and is no doubt reflected in my
pictures.
My brother and I were ill at home, not well enough to play but very bored. Our
parents were abroad and we were taken care of by a huge woman called Sasa with a
terrifying thunderous voice. One morning we were woken up by the sound of merry
voices. We pulled ourselves from our warm beds to the window and looked out. The
sight that met our eyes made us pinch one another in disbelief, and only the resultant
"ouch!" convinced us that we weren't dreaming. The whole world outside was white.
The trees, the rooftops, the grass, the road, everything was dazzlingly white and the
wintry expanse of the park was alive with children and grown-ups making and
throwing snowballs. There was a carnival atmosphere in the air, a sense of exhilaration
and sheer joy.

Forgetting all about being ill, we made a dash for the door, but the doorway was
blocked by the immense body of Sasa. All our supplications and promises fell on deaf
ears, and she promptly sent us back to bed, muttering that sick children should know
better than to sneak out in snowy and cold weather.
It's snowing in Ramat Gan for the first time in decades, and we are forced to stay
inside - with that mountain blocking the doorway! Just imagine our blubbering
frustration and disappointment . . .

We had to resign ourselves to gaze longingly at all that fun we were denied.
Suddenly, watching the children build a beautiful snowman, I noticed a black spot at
the far end of the garden. As I fixed my eyes on the spot, which was situated at the
foot of a large fir tree, it seemed to me that it was moving slightly, and I realized that
it was actually a black, frozen bird. Most probably it had been too weak to keep up
with the flock on its annual route to a far-away country with warmer weather.
While my brother was diverting the attention of Sasa, I tiptoed out of the house,
clutching a shoebox padded with a little towel. It was cold but lovely outside. I ran
towards the black spot, and as I approached the tree the bird sensed my presence and
opened its eyes for a split second. I lifted it very carefully, put it in the box, and
scuttled back into the house before Sasa had even noticed my absence. I put the box
under my bed and hurried to call my brother . . .
To make a long story short, Sasa, who eventually discovered the new tenant, took
mercy on it and helped us feed the faint and frost-bitten bird with a dropper. We
nursed it with loving care. After a few days the snow melted, we were hale and hearty
again, and the bird also recovered. Now it began to try its wings and hop around, and
we took turns letting it out of the shoebox and bouncing it gently on our palms. The
bird got stronger every day, and after a week Sasa explained that we would have to
set it free. It was getting warmer and the bird should be given a chance to rejoin the
flock. We realized that it wasn't right to keep the bird captive and, however sad to
loose it, knew that this was the only way to help it. Finally we placed it on the
window sill and opened the window wide. The bird wavered a little, skipped, took a
leap, and suddenly flew in little circles, testing its strength; then it darted to the
garden and back as if unwilling to part and, at one go, spread its wings and soared,
carrying a small piece of my heart with it . . .

That "farewell scene" is imprinted on my memory in all its vividness and
poignancy, as if it took place only yesterday.