Text by Shimon Tzabar; Matta’s drawings

A late-night scene. Street lamps shed their light on cobblestones. A carriage approaches. It advances noisily then slows down. The horses come to rest as the cab draws up along the sidewalk.

The cab door opens. A tall, smartly dressed man steps out. He settles his fare and heads for the entrance of a townhouse. The coachman drives off and disappears into the night.

The man rings the doorbell. The entry door opens and he enters. The doorman welcomes him. The hallway is dimly lit. The butler takes away his coat, his gloves, his top hat and his cane. Now we can tell his features: in his fifties, gray haired, exceedingly good looking. Our man, back as it seems from a soirée, contemplates himself in the mirror with satisfaction. We gradually make out the tune of a minuet by Mozart in the background. The man turns away from the mirror, crosses the hall and goes up to the first floor.

He is now in a magnificent Baroque-style bedroom. A four-poster bed occupies part of the bedroom. A ravishing, smiling woman awaits him in bed. He puts on a nightgown and a cap and gets into bed. He mounts her.

The same room. It’s dark. A small flickering flame can be seen. The sound of snoring. The little flame is getting bigger. There is now a trail of smoke and the flame is no longer that flickering little light but a real fire. The fire spreads rapidly, taking over the entire room. The man jumps out of bed surrounded by flames. He’s now wearing a concentration camp prisoners’ outfit with a large yellow star on his back. On his right arm, a tattooed number. He’s in panic. The burning doors prevent him from leaving. He can barely get to the window and open it. Light enters the room – it is daytime. He leans out and cries: “Help!”

In the street below, business as usual. People come and go. Shops are open and traffic is busy. Nobody pays attention to the man who shouts: “Fire! Help! Gevald! Hatzilu! Hilfe! Ayuda! Au secours! Help! …”

Seen from the street, we notice that the building is built in Bauhaus style, has five floors. Smoke comes out of an open window on the fourth floor. Our man is screaming out into the street.

Seen from up there, the pedestrians don’t seem to pay much attention to his cries. Some raise their heads, look at the man for a few moments, then continue to go about their business.

The crowd browses the shop windows. The man continues to scream. Drivers are getting impatient at red lights. We see the face of the man surrounded by flames.

(A few images of spectators at the Ascot races.)

Once again, the man screaming.

(An image of Palm Beach, Florida.)

The man accompanies his screams with big gestures.

The street below, full of onlookers.

In front of the stores, several people begin to pay attention to his screams. A woman seems to be watching him more attentively. She looks up. All of a sudden, she rushes into a nearby shop and tries to tell people what she just saw. Her voice is drowned out by the noises of the shop and the street. Only her gestures are perceived. No one seems interested. The woman rushes to a red emergency call box and dials 18.

A fire station. The duty officer is dozing at his post. Other firefighters polish their helmets. The phone is ringing. The drowsy officer slowly regains consciousness. He picks up the phone and listens. The expression on his face changes from dull boredom to intense emotion. He hangs up abruptly and presses the alarm bell. He yells at the firefighters.

(The maneuvers of the firefighters are abnormally slow.)

The gate opens. The firefighters spring aboard their fire engine which sets off. The car goes across streets.

We come to a zebra crossing. An old lady is crossing very slowly. The fire engine stops. The old lady walks with difficulty. After the interruption, the firefighters set off again. They stop at red lights and let other motorists pass.

At some point along the way they stop to buy cigarettes and newspapers. At last, they arrive in our street. The man is still screaming.

One of the firefighters unrolls the hose and searches for a fire hydrant. He connects the two and opens the valve. But apparently very little water trickles out from the spout of the hose. Another fireman maneuvers a ladder which is too short to reach the screaming man at the window.

A crowd gathers around the firefighters. There are lots of people at the windows of neighboring buildings.

The man stops screaming for a moment and realises that the firefighters can’t help him. He climbs onto the window sill and tries to slide down the wall towards the next window below. He slowly progresses, but dangles precariously. The people at this window watch him with interest, but as he reaches them, they do not make room for him and point to the next window. He reaches this second window with great effort. But, once again, he is prevented from entering. Suddenly his hands lose grip and he falls into the void.

A decent looking, mustachioed, jolly Arab man strolls on the sidewalk, sometimes stopping at the storefronts. Rotund, happy go lucky, he gives the impression of being a merry companion. His hands behind his back, telling his beads.

Suddenly, our man who fell from the burning house lands on top of this Arab.The two men fall to the ground, flat on their backs. The man in concentration camp outfit is the first to regain his senses. Cursing, he goes up to the Arab and begins to hit him furiously. The Arab, who hasn’t completely come to his senses after the shock, tries to defend himself, but in vain. His opponent continues to hit him and the Arab loses consciousness. At that point, our man straightens up, lays his foot on the Arab’s prone body and thumps his chest, releasing a Tarzan-style victory cry. Then he quickly kneels down and searches the Arab’s pockets. He finds a map which he unfolds on the sprawled body. It is a map of Palestine.

Our man promptly folds up the map and looks around for a taxi.

After a short while one stops. He shows the map to the driver, who nods affirmatively and opens the door. The man gets into the cab, the taximeter is set in motion and off they go.

Little by little, the Arab regains consciousness. It takes him a few moments to realize what has happened to him. When comprehension finally sets in, he leaps to his feet. The taxi is already a few blocks away. He tries to catch up with it, but too late. The image of the Arab and the taxi fades into the distance.

The taxi drives across streets, fields, bridges, yet another street and yet other fields at full speed. It traverses sea and desert. In the distance we see the greenery of an oasis. The taxi speeds up. There is a hut between two palm trees. A road sign reads: PALESTINE. The taxi door opens and reveals our man who has now taken on the appearance of a comics book Superman. He carries with him a toolbox, a road sign and flower pots. He pays the taxi driver and dismisses him. No sooner, Superman unbolts the sign that reads PALESTINE and fixes in its stead his own sign which reads: ISRAEL. He then goes to the hut and enters it.

As he crosses the threshold we hear crying, shouting, gunshots. Within a short while, several Arab women, two old men and three children are thrown out of the hut, as if they were kicked by a giant. They land head first. Superman shoots at them. Once back on their feet, the sight of him makes them flee towards the horizon, dropping their shoes behind them, still under fire from our Superman.

Superman rubs his hands like he’s achieved a great feat. With a broom, he begins to clear the ground around the cabin. He installs the flowerpots and waters them with great care. The little oasis grows and blooms as if by magic. While he’s raking and digging, the fat Arab emerges on the horizon, running. He’s been running for a long time. When he reaches the trees, he notices the new road sign. He tears it off and tries to put back the old one that was lying there. At that moment, he is spotted by our Superman who leaps into the air, pounces on the Arab, grabs him by the collar and lifts him skyward. They fly over an ocean. We can see a tiny island at the horizon. Superman carefully deposits the distraught Arab on the sand and sets off on his way back.


As he overflies the small hut, he notices a couple of small, very busy figures. He descends. These are two Arabs, slightly smaller than our well-endowed original Arab, in course of reinstalling the sign indicating PALESTINE. Superman grabs them by the collar and carries them off to the small island. He drops them and flies away.

When he overflies the cabin again, he now sees four Arabs, smaller than the two previous ones, who are furiously attacking the panel. Quickly, albeit with some effort, he grabs them and lifts them skyward. These four also find themselves on the small island.

Upon his return, he sees thousands of little Arabs heading for the house like ants. Obviously, he can’t stand up to them all.

Hence, he takes out a flask of insecticide from his pocket and sprays it in clouds over the little Arabs. White smoke envelops them and they begin to disappear one after the other. Superman continues to spray his bug spray. The Arabs, the trees, the flowers, the road sign, even the house, disappear. But Superman continues to spray his insecticide. The landscape is now completely gone, the sky is no longer visible, and Superman himself blurs out of sight. Everything disappears and the screen goes completely blank.

After a short while, the word END appears.  


This story was published in French only, in Israc no. 6, Decamber 1971. It is not known in which language Shimon Tzabar had originally written it, whether in Hebrew or in English (his knowledge of French was not at a sufficient level to write); the original version has not been found. This is the first publication of the story in English (translated from French by Haim Scortariu in July 2023).