We made a pilot. One of the women and I met at Juha's Guesthouse. Na'ama arranged a nice room on the second floor for us. Ahmed, the guesthouse's manager, made sure we were not disturbed. The woman fails to find the music she is looking for on Youtube. "You don't have an Arabic keyboard," she explains.Her phone was stolen a day before, at a wedding. [Weddings were a repeating motif in each encounter] In the end, we listened to some popular romantic Arabic songs that Youtube suggested.
Nothing of what she told me was romantic. None of which I can share without putting her in harm's way. The only romantic thing was maybe the faint sound of her loyalty to herself, and her desire to take the reins of her life in her own hands."I have nothing I can call my own," she explains, so that I will understand. Even though we are exactly the same age, and I live 10 minutes away, her reality is completely different than mine. "I only have an Israeli I.D. that is my only possession."
The portrait came out awful. Really. I am not hard on myself when I draw, but this one was terrible. At the end, we hugged and I told her I will draw a new portrait of her. I wanted to capture the look she had in her eyes – gloomy yet confident at the same time. The next week she embroidered many colorful flowers, and said it was the encounter that inspired her. The pilot was a hit. The interview is done. The portrait is done. The embroidery is done. Onward to the other women!
This is where things got complicated.
The next encounter was with N. "You're not from here, are you?" I immediately asked. "No, I'm from another village." Something about her face did not look like all the rest. Her green eyes, her red cheeks,everything said kindness and gentleness and softness. "What would you like to listen to?" I asked when we just met. "I don't like music,"she said, explaining that her husband died three years ago, and since then she does not want to listen to anything.
"What are your dreams?" I asked. "I have none," she replied with this gorgeous smile of hers.
By the end, things did come up, indeed they did. I placed them safely in my heart,and went on to draw her portrait. It came out so beautiful, it melts my heart each time I look at it. Like a pure reflection of love and softness.
N,the busy bee, sent me her embroidery within a few days – she made the village in a red square and its borders around – the blue is the sea, the black is the road, the brown is for the dunes near Caesarea, the green is Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael. A perfect piece of work, I thought to myself.
A month later, I met with her and excitingly showed her the portrait. Her smiley expression changed, "Wow, this is really me." She said with a certain wonder. "Yes, it came out this way." I did not have a set agenda about a certain style I would use, in her case the drawing turned out very realistic."You cannot put it in the exhibition," she informs me. "I'm a widow, they'll give me trouble if they see me like this." It took me awhile to understand that there was no way I could convince her, not even putting just a part of it, or with a covered face, or even just the eyes.
I still cannot believe this is happening, but this portrait will stay with me and with me alone. The interview is done, the portrait is done, the embroidery is done. The portrait will not be shown.