Prime of life
Some of Anastassia Michaeli's children are seen here during a visit by her Knesset faction, Yisrael Beiteinu, to the Circassian village of Reihania. It was a courtesy call, filled with promises, in which party leader Avigdor Lieberman called the Arab MKs traitors to the Syrian nation - though no one has yet appointed him Syrian foreign minister. It was part of his never-ending effort to remove them from the political game in Israel by force and castigate them at every opportunity. Reihania, on the other hand, he said, is an example of the "loyalty" his party demands from Arab citizens. (Yisrael Beiteinu promoted legislation - which failed to pass - requiring a loyalty oath from all citizens. ) He went on to float a vague promise to improve the village's development programs, part of his efforts to be seen as "beneficent" to non-Jews, too - those of the right kind. Meanwhile, MKs Hamad Amar and Faina Kirshenbaum watched a traditional dance along with Michaeli's children.
It was a very cold day in the north, and the beautiful sad-eyed girl on the right is not wearing a coat. Maybe because she wasn't cold, as children tend not to be, maybe for considerations of charm that are typical of girls her age. She looks into the camera of Gil Eliahu, who documented the whole tour, and does not smile. With her Minnie Mouse sweatshirt and shiny brown hair swept over her left eye, she looks like Violet from the Incredibles family, the super-heroine who can make herself invisible. Michaeli's little girl, in a brown pinafore dress and yellow blouse, tugs mom's skirt, crying, occupied with the remnant of a complaint, maybe an attack of rebelliousness and the need to be heard. Perched on Anastassia's shoulders is the baby, looking at his sister, while on the left, with clipped hair, the boy with the intelligent, sharply etched face enjoys the cookies he has kept for himself in a plastic cup. In the back, the coat of a fifth child is visible.
In an interview he gave before his wife entered the Knesset and ahead of the birth of their eighth child - the one sitting on mom's shoulders - Michaeli's husband, the businessman Joseph Samuelson, responded to Gabi Gazit's question about the effort involved: "I don't want to mix happiness with sadness, even though the historical facts are such that before the Second World War an average Jewish family had eight to ten children, and had it not been for the Germans, may their name be obliterated, we would now be a nation of 30 to 40 million and people would show us a bit more consideration. So, if everyone can make an effort and have another child or two, it will only be a boost to the whole people of Israel."
"Show us a bit more consideration" is an ironic declaration of sarcastic intelligence. But the experience of childhood is not sarcastic. It is not only ideology or a struggle by means of fertility that are reflected in this photograph; it also shows the proud, erect, focused and indifferent-to-difficulty path of the mother and the children. Michaeli's smile is aimed at the camera and she seems to be holding the child without any effort. She is well-dressed and stands tall, holding a huge bunch of keys and cups filled with cookies, at the same time placing her hand on her son's shoulder. She is poised, even though the little one is pulling at her skirt and wants to say something. It's a situation without an iota of pampering. A situation of self-discipline. A division of forces with no consciousness of sacrifice. This is a photograph that answers the question of how one combines everything. And also, perhaps, answers the question of how children react to it.