Photo: Ilan Bashur
Yehuda Poliker
Photo: Ilan Bashur

Childhood memories: My very own Cinema Paradiso

In his own words, Israeli singer and composer Yehuda Poliker recalls how he fled his home in his pajamas to visit the brand new cinema that opened near his home in 1954, and how terrified he was by the cowboys and Indians on the big screen.

The year was 1954, and what a great excitement! It was the official opening night of the new cinema on Bussel Street in western Kiryat Haim—practically two blocks from my childhood home.



My parents, who didn't go out much, finally found a good reason to leave the house at night. A sense of euphoria and anticipation could be felt in the air as my family began getting ready to go to the movies in the afternoon: They showered, dressed up, and dolled up.


The plan was for my parents and two older siblings to go to the opening of the new cinema, while I, little three-year-old Yudko, would stay at home under the watchful eye of Esther, my sister who is seven years my senior.


Yehuda Poliker performing (Photo: Benny Doutsh)
Yehuda Poliker performing (Photo: Benny Doutsh)


Despite not even knowing what the word "cinema" meant, I remember being very angry and frustrated. Why is everyone going, and I'm the only one who has to stay home and go to sleep?! On the way out, mom muttered to me: "Yudko, be a good boy." And then, with the sweet smell of her perfume lingering in her wake, she left the house with my father and two brothers.


After half an hour of crying and frustration, I decided to do something about it. I opened the door and ran out to the street in my pajamas. My sister tried to stop me, but she couldn't stand in my way. I found myself running like crazy to the cinema, in complete darkness, on a dirt road that crossed a boulevard (it was right next to my kindergarten, so I knew the way). Three or four minutes of running in the dark felt like eternity for a three-year-old boy.


Huffing and puffing, I arrived at the cinema and pounded on the door in a storm of emotions. The usher answered. "My parents are here," I exclaimed. "I want to come it." I burst out in tears, "I want to go in too!"


The usher calmed me down and told me to come in and sit next to him. "During the intermission, the lights will come back on and we can look for your parents," he said.


And then we entered the cinema. On the opposite side of the room, a massive wall suddenly appeared with flickering figures: Cowboys, horses, Indians, gunfire. I was in awe. I sat in the dark next to the usher, frozen and glued to a reality I hadn't known. I was scared and frightened; I didn't know what it was that I was seeing.


The young Yehuda Poliker
The young Yehuda Poliker


After 15 minutes of that terrifying horror show, the lights came back on. The entire neighborhood was at the cinema. The neighbors were impressed with my pajamas and called out terms of endearments in my direction.


Darting around, my eyes quickly locked onto my parents. I ran towards them. "Yudko, my darling, what are you doing here?" dad asked. Mom seemed angry to say the least. It's lucky the neighbors were around...


Dad went to the kiosk during the intermission and bought us all delicious ice cream sandwiches. I was sitting between my parents, enjoying my ice cream sandwich, while the second part of the movie began—I was the happiest kid in the world.


Later, that cinema became one of my main stomping grounds. I grew up with the movies that were screened there, and they make up a good part of my childhood memories. This was my very own Cinema Paradiso.


Yehuda Poliker, a popular Israeli singer and composer, is going on tour in the United States. He will be in Boston on October 29; New York on October 30; North Miami Beach on November 3; Stanford on November 5; and Los Angeles on November 6. For more details and tickets, visit his official website.


פרסום ראשון: 10.16.16, 13:11
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