Park West Gallery artist David Najar attends the 40th Anniversary Gala Event in Detroit, Michigan in August 2008. Growing up in a traditional Sephardic family in Netanya, art had no place in David Najar�s childhood. �In my family there was no such thing as an artist or painter. The closest thing to a painting we had at home was a tapestry.� Though his public school teachers were impressed by his artistic skill, his fellow classmates mocked him. The young David understood that it was best to give up painting and join the boys on the soccer field. Sports became the center of his life. When he was older, David started working out at a center for Krav Maga (an Israeli hand-to-hand combat method) in Netanya. The center was opened by Imi Sde-Or, the legendary Israeli figure who developed the defense method. When Najar met Imi a special bond immediately formed between the two, despite the 50-year age difference between them. Krav Maga is based on various techniques in judo, karate, ju-jitsu, boxing and other martial arts. The method was adopted and developed by the Israeli Defense Forces and later by special combat forces around the world. Imi started developing the method back in Europe as a way to fight the Nazi gangs that attacked him and his friends during his youth in Slovenia. When he immigrated to Israel, he was invited by Yitzhak Sadeh (an Israeli military leader and one of the founders of the IDF) to teach the method to the Hagana defense forces. Now working with the army, Imi continued to develop the method until he retired to open a Krav Maga center in Netanya. After training intensively, Najar became a coach and soon one of the leading figures in the field. �I used to meet Imi at his café in Netanya,� Najar relates. �He had a special table there where he�d receive his guests. People from all over the world came to meet him � he knew everyone who trained in his method. We would talk about everything, about Krav Maga, life, God and girls. Imi always told me that I�d get involved with a lot of things I wasn�t aware of yet, but I didn�t really pay attention,� Najar says, smiling while he serves Turkish coffee. We�re sitting in Najar�s studio in south Tel Aviv. It�s raining outside and there�s a chill in the air. Najar smiles shyly. Even with his success and sales in the United States, he still has a hard time believing that he�s managing to make a living from painting. �For years I did Krav Maga and made a living from it. My friends were accountants and engineers and suddenly I became a painter. People were shocked. My friends and family said it was nonsense, a passing phase.� But it didn�t pass. It all started with a visit to the museum. �I saw a painting by Renoir, and I said to myself, I have to learn how to do that.� He signed up for a painting course in Ramat Aviv. Most of the other students were retirees and Najar, with his wide and muscular shoulders, was without a doubt an attraction in the class. �I bought paints and started ruining canvases,� Najar says. �By day I taught Krav Maga and by night I painted. In the beginning I would paint all night in our tiny spare room, but when we had a baby he started taking over the room. I moved to the living room. My wife said I was messing up the house and that the piant smell was unbearable. But I couldn�t stop. I would get up in the middle of the night to paint.� Najar wanted to paint all day and make a living from his art, but all the artists he knew seemed to be struggling financially. �That wasn�t what I wanted,� David says. �I wanted to live a normal life.� One day his teacher invited him to participate in an exhibition. �I got really positive feedback and lots of complements, but someone also came up and asked to buy a painting. I name a price that at the time seemed astronomical to me � and he agreed.� And the rest is history. David sells his paintings mostly in the United States. He doesn�t need to wake up in the middle of the night to paint in the living room anymore. He has a studio in south Tel Aviv where he paints. The decision to rent a studio and be a full time painter wasn�t easy. There were a lot of things he was unsure about. �I understood that to make it you can�t just be a weekend painter and I had a lot of concerns,� Najar says. Luckily, he met a painter that helped him. �I trained him at the gym and he trained me at painting. After I�d finish a painting I couldn�t help myself � I�d run to show it to him. I wanted to hear what he thought, how I could improve. He always had the patience to talk to me and he always supported me. We�d work out with the painting in the background. He�d critique my painting and I�d critique his moves.� Najar smiles and offers me another coffee. It�s pouring outside now, but his studio is full of canvases with spring blossoms. They�re waiting to be sent to the US. �I love nature,� he says, glancing over his paintings. �I like to paint nature. I travel a lot, to see flowers blooming, to the sea. I have to be in contact with nature. But the truth is you don�t have to go far. We can be in contact with nature all the time. It�s enough to just look out the window. There�s nothing ugly in nature. The only ugliness is in places that have been touched by man�s hand. People seek harmony. Nature has amazing colors and harmony � all you need to do is look. Sometimes people don�t know how to look sideways. I think people need to learn to take a break to see the beauty around them. I say, stop for a moment and look. Especially in this country with things as they are, it�s healthy to stop a moment. I think my paintings open that channel up for people, maybe that�s my duty�� Photo by Phil Parmet. www.davidnajar.com
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