Thursday, November 28, 2013

In memoriam: Arik Einstein

The story goes that, on his 70th birthday, Arik Einstein was invited to lunch by the president of Israel. "Mr. President," he replied, "please let me stay home."

This week this legendary performer, an icon in the country, died from a ruptured aneurysm at age 74.  The outpouring of grief and appreciation has been truly remarkable.  For example, thousands of people attended hours-long open-air concerts in Tel Aviv, singing the well-known lyrics of dozens of his songs.  The participants?  People of all ages, from teen-agers through the elderly.

Although Einstein had been writing and recording songs into his later years, he had not appeared in concerts for three decades.  How is it that young folks, then, took him into their hearts in such a manner?  After all, their musical heroes tend to be the people who give concerts, dance in sexy clothes, construct music videos, and the like.

One theory is that Einstein embodied the values of "the old Israel," and that this resonates with mutiple generations. Let's face it: Ever since the 1967 war (the Six Day War), this has been a country in which hubris has grown in disproportion to other characteristics.  It was that hubris that likely led to the debacle of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  It is that hubris that encourages governments to support settlements in the Occupied Territories.  It is that hubris that impedes multiple chances at the peace process.

Meanwhile, in the manner that is the contradiction that is this country, Israel sets a remarkable standard in other respects.  We know, for example, of its reputation as "start-up nation" and other well deserved credit in other realms, like the medical education advances I recently discussed.

But, perhaps the young people responded to the unassuming nature and modesty of Arik Einstein, as exemplified in the story above.  Perhaps the message of Einstein's death is that the next generation seeks that kind of guidance, direction, and example from their national leaders.

1 comment:

Mitch said...

Your observations on hubris are spot-on, and saddening to me. I grew up (I am 58) admiring "this spunky little country," fighting to establish itself in the shadow of the holocaust. And yes, post-1967 that changed in a very bad way that deeply saddens me. I had these views, though not well informed for a number of years and then discovered Noam Chomsky a number of years ago. So the hubris saddens me, and I am doubly saddened because it is sanctioned and encouraged by the US; it is baked into this country's foreign policy.