My name

How my name came into being

[…….] Gershom Schocken, the editor and owner of Ha’aretz started a new evening tabloid called Yom Yom (Every Day). Uri Avneri and I were invited to submit articles to this tabloid. The editorial staff consisted of three people: Binyamin Tamuz, Avraham Rimon and Meidad Shiff.

These people had one thing in common. They were all members of a small group known as the Cna’anites. The Cna’anites tried to redefine the traditional Jewish identity in Palestine. The question was: will the younger generation of Jews, born in Palestine whose mother tongue was Hebrew, continue the Jewish culture and traditional way of life of the Diaspora, or would they create something new that belonged to this place? There was little the Cna’aanites could claim as their ancient cultural roots, but they could at least swap their Jewish surnames brought from the Diaspora for Hebrew surnames. This also fitted with the Zionist policy. Uriel Halperin changed his name to Jonathan Ratosh; Aharon Lipetz to Aharon Amir; Binyamin Kamershtein became Binyamin Tamuz, and Amos Levin became Amos Keinan.

When I brought my first article to Yom Yom, members of the Cna’anite club looked at my signature at the end of the article. “No!” they cried. “No such name is going to appear in our paper.” They sat down to discuss the new name they were going to give me. After some names were tried and discarded, they hit on Tzabar, which is the Hebrew for prickly pear. Since I was born in Tel Aviv and the Jewish natives are nicknamed sabras, this name seemed to be Cna’anite enough in their view, and it appeared on all my articles, cartoons, books and paintings ever since. For many years it served as my nom de plume, while my official surname remained Hercberg.

This, however, created some problems for me. For example, I had two files in the income tax office: one for Tzabar, and one for Hercberg. After managing to convince my tax inspector that these two people were actually one and the same, I was exempted from a double tax payment but the respite only lasted until he moved to another job. When a new inspector took his place, I had to go over the palaver again. So, one day I decided to get rid of Hercberg and to officially become Tzabar.