Salah Alkara



It all started since Ein Hod, the artists' village in the Carmel, was established. Ein Hod is an abandoned Arab village, settled by artists who have found romance and orient in it. Not far away from Ein Hod, on Mount Carmel, a Druze village called Daliat El Carmel is situated. The citizens in Daliat El Carmel made a bond with Israelis. One old family, called 'Alkara', sought employment like the rest of the citizens, and Ein Hod seemed a suitable place.


The father of the family arrived to Ein Hod and offered himself as an employee for renovation work in the renewed village. Each and every day he used to make his way to Ein Hod, sometimes walking, other times by car, in fact, he became like one of them. The ruined houses that were restored were a good source of income. Naturally, he became as a native explaining the new workers how to construct using the local stone, how to insulate the roof with boiling tar and how to convert a ruin into a house. This how, Alkara became an instructor to the natives. Alkara's sons desired to assist the father with the home livelihood arrived together with him. They integrated with the place and learned different labors from the villagers, particularly from Aiche Mambosh, the Mukhtar (head of Arab village) of Ein Hod. Aiche Mambosh, whom is going to be told about in detail once the full Israeli art history is written, owned a carpet and ceramics workshop. Throughout time, he established a network print plant that served Ein Hod's artists. Saleh Alkara started working at Aiche's and at Jenia Burger's, a painter. He learned, saw, absorbed and at the end turned into a professional. 


Years have passed and the acknowledgement with art seeped into his awareness. In fact, without any formal studies and perhaps at the right track of an apprentice, Saleh has become an expert.


Thus, throughout his adulthood, Saleh has lived surrounded with art works and artistic practice. He has seen the best artists during work, assisted and learned from them. Only now, many years later and after having overcome hesitation, he has begun to paint as well.


I have seen his first paintings in one of my visits to the gallery he owns in Daliat El Carmel. On the same day I have revealed two secrets about Saleh. The first was about his knowledge and ability to play the Oud. Playing that causes the heart to shake. Playing that blends with the landscape and the whistling of wind through the pine trees that cover the green Carmel. As I listened to the playing I have sensed the bond between the place and the sounds, between the tunes and the wind, and between the melody and the Mediterranean Sea lying at the foot of the mountain. That was a big surprise, as if it was not likely. Why not actually? The sensitivity revealed by the playing of Saleh has touched my heart. It was, in a way, an experience that has reminded me of the playing of the Greek Zorba at Bozouki. A skilled hand gently caresses a string, taps it and imbibes the right tune. Tune gets out of the string causes the heart cord to shake. Then, Saleh says casually, "You have not seen my paintings."


At the same time I have revealed the other secret. A secret, turns into a surprise, a surprise, turns into an exhibition.


Saleh Alkara's paintings are "an Israeli painting" at its best; just as the Carmel and Daliat El Carmel are Israel at its best. A pose free painting. A painting takes the visible and turns it into poetry. A painting comes from here and addresses everywhere. Even though he has not studied at the academy, his technique indicates a complete understanding and total control of the secrets of paint and material. Most important of all are the themes in his paintings. Out of all the paintings, I have chosen to write in short detail about Saleh's flowerpots. The flowerpots are not the only theme though. He paints houses, trees, he paints whatever is visible to the eye and to the mind. Mainly, he paints whatever the heart senses. 


The flowerpot, perhaps more than any other, symbolizes the connection to the ground and disconnection from the ground. Growing a plant in a flowerpot is a substitute for land cultivation. The plant growing in a flowerpot is totally disconnected from the land. It is not subject to the wind and the rain. It grows in some type of an incubator, under a protected environment. The flowerpot fills a human need for the grower of connection to the land, a primeval need, a need that is difficult to explain and even more difficult to eliminate, a need which mainly exists once the cement and asphalt conquer the land. Thus, Saleh, being connected to the place, connected to the land, lives among the Carmel Mountains and paints flowerpots. Those flowerpots are not recognized as typical flowerpots. Those are containers containing flowers, a group of flowers and, occasionally, a single flower with the background not being definite.