8-19-2003 YEDIOT ACHARONOT – Israel’s largest and most popular newspaper.
COLORS OF HOPE
Photo caption: Omer and Tal Golan with one of their paintings.
“We also need to help.” Omer Golan (23) was severely wounded by a suicide bomber: his recovery is considered a medical miracle. That is why his painting exhibition—half of its proceedings will be donated to other terror victims—is named “Re-Birth”. I remember everything, but do not hate,” says Omer Golan, “now my dream is to collaborate with Palestinian artists.”
By: Jehudith Yechazkely The life of 23-year-old Omer Golan changed one Friday afternoon in December 2000 in the Jordan Valley. Omer—who was a soldier at the time and wrote poetry and music—was severely wounded by a suicide bomber who carried seven kilos of explosives around his waist. Omer’s recovery is considered a medical miracle. That is why Omer’s new painting exhibition—who feels he is reborn—is called Re-Birth. Fifty percent of the exhibition’s proceedings, exhibited in Amsterdam, will be donated to the Fund for Victims of Terror of the Jewish Agency, which supported Omer throughout his long recovery. “I am interested in collaborating with Palestinian artists,” he says. “Together we can create an exhibition for us all.” The terrorist grabbed me from behind Omer was born and raised in Ramat Gan. He studied theatre and literature at Ort High School in the city. He served in the army in the Nachal unit. “We left to do our service in kibbutz Ma’oz Chaim in the Jordan Valley,” he says. “On 22 December 2000, everything changed in a second. On my way to the kibbutz, I stopped at a café near the bus station of the Jordan Valley. A young Arab guy, wearing jeans and a red checkered shirt, was sitting there. He looked me in the eye and smoked a Marlboro cigarette. I never imagined that he would choose me as his victim. He sat there for about two hours. A religious soldier and Tzippy Ben-Shachar, who was in my unit, were with me in the café. “Tzippy and I left the café in the direction of the bus and all of a sudden the terrorist grabbed me from behind. He didn’t say a word. With one hand I tried to pull him off me and with my other hand I tried to grab my gun. That is when he blew himself up. Tzippy, who was standing next to me, lost one eye and suffered burn wounds. I absorbed all the force and explosion. “Old bullets that were in his explosion belt underneath his checkered shirt entered my body. I suffered severe injuries, shock and burns. I still remember the sound of the explosion and I still have a ringing sound in my ears. “I remember, but do not hate. The suicide bomber is the only one who got killed in that attack. I always think to myself, he was someone’s son and his parents weren’t afraid of loosing him, even though he is an example for the fact that they do not value human life.” “For four months, I fought for my life in the Rambam hospital in Haifa. My father, Sha’ul, who is a newspaper photographer and who through his work has made many contacts with Palestinians, lay at night in the chair next to my bed and fought with me. With his help and the help of my other family members and friends I recovered.” Two years ago, Omer met Tal. They decided to go on a trip to Spain together, from which they returned a couple. “After a week together, I proposed to her. I felt that this is the woman I want to spend my life with, that I do not need to look any further: I do not need to search for myself after the injuries that I sustained, and not for the person who will be by my side. I found her. We had a civil wedding ceremony one and a half month later.”
The magic of colors
After visiting his cousin’s exhibition in Ein Hod (an artists’ village), Golan decided he wanted to paint as well. He decided to study art in The Hague in the Netherlands, where he has been attending the Royal Academy of Art for a year and a half. “I needed to get away from Israel, to find myself abroad,” he admits. “In Israel, every terrorist attack hit me again and again and took me back to those difficult days. “Here, I met a group of Syrians, Lebanese and Libyans. We met coincidentally at a café and started talking about painting and art. At the end of the conversation, they were shocked when I told them I am from Israel. After a few seconds the same question always comes up: ‘Are you sure you are Israeli?’ Now they curse the suicide attackers even more than I did.” The idea to donate proceedings of his paintings came up when Omer and Tal attended a ceremony of the Fund for Victims of Terror of the Jewish Agency, during which it presented orphans who have lost their parents to terror attacks with scholarships. The fund was established to provide the victims of terror and their family members with direct financial support and with supplementary financial support to what they receive from government institutions. In the last two years, the fund has helped, among others, more than 400 orphans who lost their parents to terror attacks by opening a savings account for them which they will have access to when they reach the age of 21. The fund also contributes to the recovery of victims. The fund’s activities are made possible by the donations of communities worldwide. “The volunteers of the fund helped me recover after I was injured,” Omer says. “During the ceremony Tal and I were very moved and thought to ourselves that now we also should help and contribute just as I had been helped in the past. We returned to Holland and contacted the Israeli embassy there. Within a month and a half we set up an exhibition, exhibiting 44 of our art works. Most of the paintings we had drawn in Israel with oil paint and acrylic. “Artists who have experienced terror attacks tell the truth, they can be revealing without hiding what happened, regardless of whether it is a political statement or a different emotional experience. Here in Holland, where I see how you can travel from one country to another without being afraid, I realize how important it is for Israel to grow stronger. Although all the blood spilled does not justify the country’s need to grow stronger, Israel must not give up on its dream to strive and blossom, despite the desire of the terrorists to ruin it.” In their paintings, Omer and Tal express the magic of colors. The paintings represent a dream of an optimistic world lit with pink bubbles, fields in blossom and blue skies. The exact opposite of the surrealistic reality that has shaped Omer Golan’s life.