By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
For Israel’s 30th anniversary in 1978, Tartakover produced a poster with the word Shalom— which means peace as well as hello and goodbye — hovering in a blue sky. Soon after, then-President Anwar Sadat of Egypt announced his historic trip to Israel, and Tartakover’s poster became a symbol of the nation’s move toward peace.
“That was a very important event in my life — the visit of President Sadat of Egypt,” Tartakover said. “Before that, I’d been in two wars — ’67 and ’73. The excitement of this visit was really something. I remember everything. Watching it on a black-and-white TV. No color TV at the time. It was so exciting to see the plane coming down and to see him coming down from the plane. We felt everything was changing. There was hope. Like after Oslo.”
We looked through more posters, one a picture of a group of men seen from the back, waist down, all holding slingshots.
“This was the stone intifada,” Tartakover said. “And it’s okay, stone. Now, it’s . . .” He trailed off. “Now it’s cruel. It’s not human, you know. I am against violence from any side.”
A poster of two Israeli soldiers standing at a funeral, their arms around each other’s shoulders, one of them looking down and away, his hand at his mouth. The caption reads, “1,245 soldiers have already left Lebanon in a unilateral exit.”
“This was a year before [Israel’s] withdrawal from Lebanon,” Tartakover said.
He showed me a poster from the year 2000 with the words “BRING THE SETTLERS HOME” across the top, and underneath a yellow truck hauling a trailer-home across a green line. I asked him what he sees for five years from now.
“More of the same,” he said. “Even 25 years from now. Unless the Americans will do something. And really do something.”
The man who painted Visit Palestine, Franz Krausz, became a friend of Tartakover’s more than 20 years ago. Tartakover sought him out after seeing his work in an old book of Israeli advertising posters. Krausz was a pioneer in Israeli graphic design who immigrated to what was then known as Palestine in the 1930s. It was a good time and place to be a Jewish artist.
“The first art school [in Israel] was founded before Tel Aviv,” Tartakover said. “The arts in Israel are big.”
Krausz, like most commercial artists at the time, was splitting his time between Zionist propaganda and advertising. He created Visit Palestine as an ad for the Tourist Development Association of Palestine, which had been formed to convince Jews, and others, to come to Palestine. Sir Wauchope was the patron of the Tourist Development Association.
Krausz was part of the last big wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine before the Holocaust. Many, like Krausz, were fleeing Germany. Within a four-year period starting in 1933 when the Nazi party came to power, tens of thousands of Jews settled in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the surrounding land. The year Krausz painted the poster, 1936, was the start of the Arab Revolt — three years of riots, work stoppages and clashes where Arabs tried to force Palestine’s British rulers to halt Jewish immigration. Several hundred Jews and between 3,000 and 6,000 Arabs were killed in those years; most of the Arabs were killed by British troops.
Tartakover approached Krausz — who still lived in the same Tel Aviv apartment he’d moved into in 1934 — about reviving the poster in 1994, the beginning of the Oslo Accords. It was a time when, as Tartakover said, “The whole horizon was different.” Even so, he and Krausz didn’t have a specific political message in mind for the poster; they liked the ambiguity of the call to “visit Palestine.” Also, it was pretty.
“I liked the way it treated the landscape,” Tartakover said. “Everyone likes it, and I thought it’s a pity people couldn’t have it on their walls.”
Visit Palestine was not a moneymaker, Tartakover said. He and Krausz printed a limited run of 1,000 on extra-large sheets of good, heavy paper. Krausz got a little money from it, they recovered their costs, and that was it. Tartakover didn’t think about the poster again until several years later as Oslo was beginning to deteriorate. Suddenly, he started seeing it in the background on TV as high-ranking Palestinian Authority figures were being interviewed in their offices. He could tell by looking at the posters that they were unauthorized reproductions: The paper was smaller and of lesser quality than what he and Krausz had used, and the colors were faded. I asked Tartakover how he felt when he saw the poster on TV taking on a new meaning.
“I think everyone can use it the way he wants,” he said. “You can’t control something you put out there. You can’t give people instructions how to use it.”
The poster that was painted by a Jew to entice people to Palestine and revived by an Israeli in the heady days of a peace plan was taken up by Palestinians as a symbol of their nationalist ambitions. An American bought an original at auction last year for more than $8,000. Before I left, Tartakover carefully rolled one up and gave it to me.