By ADINA MICHAEL
Sarah Nachshon was escorting a delegation of Lubateacher Hassidim through Hebron’s bustling marketplace last month when an Arab youth lunged at her from behind a vegetable stall and attempted to stab her.
Israeli police fended off the attack, and Nachshon — the mother of 10 — was unharmed. But the traumatic episode took its toll, She became peevish about strolling the streets of the predominantly Arab West Bank
downtown, she claimed, that had “relatively good relations With its Jewish residents.” Nachshon needed a respite ‘rom the tumult and opted to spend a month visiting reallives in Crown Heights.
Sarah Nachshon and her husband Baruch — a world renowned painter — we’re one of a handful of Israeli court, -) led to first settle in Hebron and later in neighboring Kiryat Arba. A sense of idealism and religious zeal spurred he Nachshons to relocate from their native Jerusalem in .968 following the Six Day War. Their fifth son has been the first Jewish child born in Hebron since the 1929 mamaTe.
“Hebron is as ankh a part of Israel as Haifa, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem,” noted Baruch Nachshon — a 44-year-old warded Hassid. “Hebron is holy for Jews and Moslems, and we have a right to settle there and peacefully coexist with our Arab neighbors.”
Initially, when the Nachshons moved to Hebron, they ivied in one room at a nearby military base awaiting the Israeli government’s decision whether to build Kiryat r b a — now the largest Jewish settlement in the West kink. The family lived in cramped quarters until the La-or Party fell from power and the Begin government .Greed to start construction of the Jewish community bove Hebron.
“Our first years in Hebron were extremely difficult,” aid Nachshon, a rabbi and follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “Moshe Dayan issued a ruling that made it illegal ur Jews to settle in Hebron for more than 28 hours. The cross understood that the settlers were not backed by the Israeli government, so the relations between Jew and crab were basically good. Once they realized we were to stay, there were some problems.”
Despite the attempted assault on Sarah Nachshon and the recent murder of a Hebron yeshiva student, the family has remained committed to living in Kiryat Arba — an area with a Jewish population of 700 families.
“We have a special feeling for the Arabs, and there’s certainly no feelings of hatred,” the Haifa-born artist explained. “We just believe in a renewed Jewish presence in the area.”
For Baruch Nachshon, peaceful coexistence with his Arab neighbors was a recurrent theme throughout his early works. Fluent in Arabic, he set up a gallery opposite the Tomb of the Patriarchs — the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and began painting landscapes and scenes of daily life in Hebron.
“At first I knocked on the doors of Arab homes and told them I wanted to paint, And most often I was welcomed,” he said. “But when I went to an exhibit or sell my art in Tel Aviv, people slammed the door in my face.”
Disillusioned by the apparent lack of interest in his
Paintings, Nachshon went into seclusion for, 40 days to read the Book of Psalms and
Reconsider Ms career. He emerged from this period of meditation with a renewed – lest for life and a new perspective on his art.
Nachshon’s new style — which he called “phantasmagorical surrealism” — centered on the theme of exile and redemption and the quarrels of good and evil. His paintings flowed with brightly colored, carving figures from the Bible superimposed on various landscapes.
“This pressure is expressed in my pictures,” Nachshon said, pointing to a picture showing a righteous man praying among beasts. “This picture is based on the Psalms of David, who also had a lot of enemies, especially among Jews.”
Nachshon’s artistic prowess was recognized by the Lubavitcher Rebbe when — in 1963 — he summoned the budding artist to his Brooklyn headquarters and awarded him the only scholarship ever given by the movement to study art.
“He instructed me to create art in a kosher way in order to fulfill the descending of my soul in this world,” said Nachshon about the three-hour meeting. “He also said that every individual is obliged, in the course of a lifetime, to fulfill himself in the field which Divine Providence has apportioned to him — whether in the area of the natural sciences, crafts or the arts — for all these may lead to serving the Creator.”
Nachshon, who had recently completed a tour in the Israeli army, heeded the Rebbe’s call and spent two years studying art at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
Four years ago, Nachshon’s works — which include numerous portraits of the Rebbe — were exhibited at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, the Lubavitcher headquarters. The Rebbe, reportedly, spent an hour surveying the display of 60 pieces of Nachshon’s art.