Wild Eyes Searching for an Answer

Alona Einstein, singer Arik Einstein's ex-wife, who was associated with the Lool comedy troupe and became a religious Jew in 1970, died of cancer at the age of 68 over the weekend.

Alona Einstein, singer Arik Einstein's ex-wife, who was associated with the Lool comedy troupe and became a religious Jew in 1970, died of cancer at the age of 68 over the weekend.

Einstein was born in Kibbutz Kfar Giladi to a family which included founding members of the HaShomer guard organization: Her grandparents were Israel Shohat and Manya Shohat, and her father was one of the first pilots in the Israeli Air Force. After she completed her military service, Einstein married her first husband, engineer Avraham Leshem, and the couple moved to Los Angeles. There, she worked briefly in the Israeli Consulate but the couple separated soon after. During that period, Arik Einstein had already risen to stardom as an actor appearing in the play "Irma La Douce," and Alona wrote him an adoring letter in which she asked to meet him.

In 1963, shortly after they met, the couple got married in the hall of Habima Theater where Arik Einstein was performing. Alona and Arik Einstein joined Uri and Elia Zohar in forming the foundation for what later became the Lool comedy troupe - along with Tzvi Shissel, Moshe Ish-Kassit, and others. After four years of a turbulent marriage, in which their daughter Shiri was born, Alona and Arik Einstein separated.

After the divorce, she turned to a field which fascinated her and in which she excelled: photography. She then opened a photography studio near Tzvi Shissel's Hagar production company.

"She was a wonderful woman and a wonderful friend, and a real partner in everything we did," Shissel said. "In recent years, we maintained contact - typically in the context of family events. She came to my son's bar mitzvah, for example. But the interest in one another's lives was always mutual."

Einstein was a talented photographer in high demand. She soon began to document the activities of Lool and participated in most of the troupe's film projects: She appeared in "Lool" and "Big Eyes" and was a constant presence in the "Shablool" film, as she photographed Arik Einstein with her camera.

Poet and director Lihi Hanoch, singer Shalom Hanoch's ex-wife, was a close friend of Alona Einstein's. "She was an extraordinarily talented photographer. Her joyful vision is apparent in her photographs, and always, always hunger. She had this look that did not change even after she became religious: wild, searching eyes, searching for an answer."

Hanoch says that Einstein influenced the characters in her books. "The main character and heroine of my new book, `Saif Cello,' is Einstein, and you could say that she is always my heroine," Hanoch said. "I met her when I was 18 and she was 15 years older than me. Our connection was powerful and immediate. We share a common history. She is the granddaughter of Israel and Manya Shohat of Kfar Giladi and I am the granddaughter of Professor Mar of Rosh Pina. When I met her, I fell in love with her immediately, a love that continues to this day."

In 1968, a year after they separated, Arik and Alona Einstein reconciled and remarried. She photographed and documented the activities of the cast of the "Metzitzim" film, and turned the shack on the Sheraton beach in Tel Aviv into her permanent headquarters. The Einstein's daughter Yasmin was born in 1971. But, after a short time, Arik Einstein met actress Sima Eliyah, and they fell in love.

Alona Einstein continued her personal search and, after attending a seminar in Jerusalem, finally decided, in a matter of a few hours, to become religious. "She became religious just as she always fell in love - swiftly and intensely," Lihi Hanoch recalls. "Uri and Elia Zohar went to the religious seminar in Jerusalem and I remember Alona standing on the corner with her dog saying, `I'm going over there to make them become non-religious again.' When she came back, she said with the same never-ending charm, `Oops, guys. I'm religious.'"

Einstein occasionally gave lectures promoting religion and repentance. In a lecture she delivered in 2001, she described the moment in which she turned to faith, "Look, I got divorced, got married, gave birth to daughters. I lived at night and slept in the morning. Then I turned 40 and came to the conclusion that there wasn't a single intelligent individual who could tell me why I was alive. I always asked why I was here in the world."

She said that she heard Rabbi Tzvi Inbal deliver a four-hour lecture that she described as, "a clear lecture by someone who said, `I know, I am wise, I am telling you, and you have to decide.' After four hours, at the age of 40, I became religious."

Friends say she remained, "the same Alona." Hanoch agrees, "Since she became religious, we spoke a great deal on the phone and corresponded. The connection was strong but she was always afraid for my behalf - how I do not see what she sees." Hanoch says that, several months ago, she brought Einstein her new books of poetry, and Einstein read them despite the fact that they came from the secular world. "She phoned me and said, `So much pain and so much blood, and you don't know why.'"

Restaurant owner Rafi Adar and his wife Yehudit Sola, who were also members of the Lool troupe, maintained contact with Alona Einstein and the Zohars.

Yehudit Sola said, "We met at family events and would always talk about our memories. But the memories were always accompanied by questions of why we did not join their path. Alona was a gentle woman and less given to proselytizing, but she always talked about the path of repentance and the great significance that it contributed to her life since then."

Israel Army Radio aired a marathon of Arik Einstein songs over the weekend to celebrate the release of his latest CD, "Regaim" (Moments). During the marathon, broadcasters stressed that discussions with Arik were taped in advance because he was mourning the loss of a dear individual. Because no obituaries appeared in the secular press, only a small circle of friends knew of Alona Einstein's death.