Article - The Israeli
The nickname “Sabra” has stuck with native Israelis since the 1930’s. The image of “our cute and prickly Sabras”, coarse mannered “on the outside” but kindhearted and full of humor “on the inside” took form as they adapted their own rich lexicon of slang derived from Hebrew, Arabic and other languages, a unique form of speech and articles of clothing that were all their own. Young people who immigrated to Israel from around the world sought to shed the customs of their native lands and to become like the Sabras, who appeared to them as if descended from gods. Palmach soldiers elevated the Sabra to new heights of glory during the years prior to the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent war.
In the 1950’s, political caricaturists and children’s book illustrators conceptualized the young State of Israel as a typical Israeli boy. The caricaturist Dosh (Kariel Gardosh), a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, called the boy “Little Yisrael” and turned him into a symbol of the State of Israel, just as “Uncle Sam” symbolizes the United States and “Marianne” symbolizes France. “Srulik”, as people called him, was the central character in Dosh’s caricatures for 50 years. Over time, he grew to be a na?ve youth, who continued to suffer and defend himself against acts of violence and hypocritical reactions from the world’s nations.
In honor of Israel’s 50th anniversary celebrations, The Israel Philatelic Service issued a stamp featuring “Srulik”.
Over the years, Israeli society has moved away from the Sabra ideal that “Srulik” represented. The identity of today’s young Israelis is no longer made up of one single mass: on one hand, there is a trend toward returning to the traditions of one’s family’s country of origin, and on the other hand, there are aspirations to belong to the youth culture of Europe and the U.S.
The image chosen to represent the “new Sabra” on the stamp marking Israel’s 60th anniversary has traces of the previous Sabra: the hat, the short pants and the sandals. However, these no longer represent a young farmer, but rather the attire of an average Israeli – possibly soldiers’ clothes or possibly intentional fashionable carelessness. Chutzpah, bluntness and directness still characterize today’s Sabra, along with a large measure of affability, which compensates for the rest. The young Israeli is also a proud patriot, holding a flag in hand, but he no longer withdraws from the world, rather communicates with it through the internet and electronic mail.
The “collectiveness” of the early days of the State has been exchanged for the “individual” and the Sabra has become a young Israeli seeking his identity among an abundance of alternatives.