Symbolic, Real and Imaginary

Spitzer makes a gesture of awkward patience, his gaze directed over her shoulder and the remnant of an exchange still hanging in the air.

This photograph of Tzipi Livni straightening the tie of her husband, Naftali Spitzer, was taken by Michal Fattal just before the start of the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, which officially launched Israel's 63rd Independence Day celebrations. It's a good photo, proper and balanced, of a "small moment" that tells us quite a bit about the leader of the opposition. But on another level, linked to our knowledge of what happened at the ceremony, it is a prelude to the important, shocking photograph Fattal took in the dark and from a distance, which appeared on the front pages the next day. This was a shot of Yoel Shalit and Ya'ara Winkler being ejected by security guards after they ran into the plaza during the ceremony and rebelled against the annual pastiche of grandeur and mourning, standard-bearers and folk dancers, playback and fire, sentiment and pathos.

(Michal Fattal)
Michal Fattal

Because when Shalit and Winkler disrupted the ceremony with the courage and honesty of those who are beyond pretensions, turning it into one of the most important and fascinating events of the recent past, they redefined the relationship between "public" and "personal." They injected into the realm of the symbolic the unbearable pain of the real, and confronted worshipers of the ritual of loss with the possibility of a refusal to be sacrificed.

But before all that, this "private" moment took place, in which the Kadima leader, wearing a pristine, becoming white jacket, dealt with the tie issue, her face displaying that familiar expression of concentration. Spitzer placed his thumb on the soft back of his hand, speckled with age spots, in a gesture of somewhat awkward patience, his gaze directed over her shoulder and the remnant of a sentence they had exchanged still hanging in the air.

This is a private, representative moment, quite restrained, not unpleasant, mature, which may not have been fashioned for the photo, though one can assume a certain awareness on their part that they would be photographed. After all, as is hinted by the blurred face of Stanley Fischer - sitting a few rows above, on the left - and as Yossi Verter reported in Haaretz, seating arrangements at the ceremony were no trivial matter: Netanyahu's bureau objected to having Livni and Spitzer sit in the same row as the esteemed Mrs. Netanyahu.

When the disruption occurred, Livni, sitting in the front row, propelled by her finely tuned senses and dressed in her knight-on-a-white-horse attire, got up and went over to Shalit and Winkler and reasoned with them. Their conversation was also photographed, and the resulting shot, like this one, can be added to Livni's album of successful leadership images.

Now, after the ceremony, when it is clearer than ever that the Netanyahu government is incapable of coping with reality, and with its head, who is shackled to his wife, singing just one song - the song of terrorism, which to him seems the sole reason and justification for the existence of everything - Tzipi Livni, who is here adjusting the tie of her partner, needs, perhaps, to think about more than representative words of solace. She is invited to look into the face of the real, to articulate a new vision for the Israeli center and to form her government with Zahava Gal-On.