From the '30s to the '70s the name of Tarzan was a household
name in the the land of Israel far above competing heroes of the
time, such as western heroes Buck Jones and Tom Mix and space hero Flash
Gordon or super hero Captain Marvel, all of whom were heroes in their own
Hebrew original stories, though none with even the fraction of the number
and the longevity of the Tarzan stories of which there are more than a
1000 original Hebrew stories!
One of the chief reasons for the character's success in Palestine was
a very widespread conviction that Weissmuller was a Jew, a conviction which
can be found to this day in Israeli newspaper articles about Weissmuller
which reported his Judaism as a well known "fact."
Actually Weissmuller was not a Jew but a Catholic. In Palestine, however,
people longed to think that he was a Jew. This belief became stronger after
the Nazis forbade some of his Tarzan movies in Germany. As a result even
today people in Israel believe in his Judaism. In the '30s when Zionism
searched for a suitable role model of a "new" strong Jew close to nature
(the complete opposite of the regular image of the Jews then as bookish
"soft" city people) Tarzan, played by a presumedly Jewish Weissmuller,
seemed like a perfect choice. His face appeared on zionist propoganda
posters as the face of the ideal Israeli sabra. The famous Israeli writer
Amos Oz (himself a fervent Tarzan admirer in his boyhood as revealed in
his autobiographical stories for children) wrote: "Our parents were very
proud that Johnny Weissmuller the real Tarzan is a Jew" -- and in Palestine
only Weissmuller was considered the "real" Tarzan. All the other actors,
as well as the obviously British Tarzan in the original books, were consider
to be unauthentic ones. For them it was part of the need for a new kind
of strong Jew, a revived "Macabi." Oz continued: "Tarzan for us was a Jew
since he always fights as 'one against many' and because he was smart and
full of tricks and his enemies were stupid."
Various teachers and youth movement guides presented Tarzan specifically
as played by Weissmuller as a role model to children, hoping to make them
enjoy the hard strenuous life of the outdoors by his example. And in this
they succeeded as shown by many reminiscences of people who lived at that
period. In a very real way the figure of Tarzan had influenced a whole
generation of children in Palestine.
As a result of the extraordinary popularity of the movies and the character,
the first eleven Tarzan books where translated into Hebrew in the '30s
and the '40s, even though such "low" pulp adventures stories where
ordinarily criticized by Hebrew society of the time and few such stories
were being translated. But in the special and only case of Tarzan
there was an exception of special silent agreement to their publication
because the Tarzan figure was considered as actually extremly helpful in
the creation of a different breed of strong Jews, and because Tarzan was
considered "one of us." In one sense the Israeli Sabras felt great identification
with Tarzan, particularly in the way he was played by Weissmuller. In fact
Weissmuller's characterization of Tarzan as a strong nature lover with
very few words had a great influence on many sabras of the time, who behaved
just in this way.
The books were immediately very popular. This popularity increased over
time and other books by Burroughs in the Pellucidar and the Venus series
were translated as well, but they were never as popular as Tarzan for whom
the Israelis felt a special bond as an "honorary Jew." Fighting and taming
savage natives and evil Arabs in Africa was seen as clearly parallel to
their own experiences in "wild" Palestine.
The stories of Tarzan were central as sources of inspiration in children
games at the time, and caused Israeli children and adults to be much interested
in Africa. In the 'forties and 'fifties interest was intense and wide ranging.
In that period Israeli author Igal Mosinzon wrote what would become Israel's
most famous and most popular adventure series for children, namely CHASAMNA.
These were stories about a group of heroic children, purportedly written
to fight Tarzan's "damaging" influence on children, a purpose the author
stated many times, even in the books themselves. The characters sometimes
said that it was better for the nation if children would read their own
adventures rather than those of Tarzan!
But all this was for naught. The translated Tarzan stories continued
to be extraordinarily popular. The need for new stories was so great that
enterprising Hebrew publishers began to supply them themselves, and these
new series were immediately very popular.
The peak of this popularity was 1954 to 1964 with a particularly extreme
obsession in 1960-61. At that time there were 10 competing Tarzan series
on the stands, all originals and all without the knowledge of the American
The first original Hebrew stories about Tarzan appeared as far back
as 1939 and were purportedly written by a woman writer called "Sulamit
Efrony." In reality they were the work of a male writer called David Karsik
(who later went on to edit a women's magazine for many years). Those first
Tarzan stories were part of a much greater series about the adventures
of a brother and sister exploring Africa. In one of the stories, TARAZAN
ANOKEM (The Revenge of Tarzan) they meet Tarzan who turns out to be the
son of a cinema star who got lost in the Jungle in a previous adventure
in the series.Tarzan helps the explorers against arabs and a lost city
and he eventually falls in love with a woman called Helen . The story was
in essence a copy of the plots of the typical Weissmuller movie but was
quite credible as a story. The publisher (Kersik) promised a continuation
story about the adventures of Tarzan, Helen and their children, but that
story, alas, doesn't seem to exist anymore.
Those first Hebrew stories from 1939 weren't forgotten. One of the very
last original Hebrew Tarzan stories from the '60s actually referred to
the characters and to the events in them in what was probably an homage
by someone who had read them, perhaps, when he was a boy.
The "big bang" in Hebrew Tarzan stories was brought about by various
publishers between 1953 and 1964. One company, Defus M.L.N, took
the names of jungle animals such us "Karnaf" (rhinoceros), "Namer" (leopard),
and "Bardalas" (panther). This company, along with several others, including
"Phil" (elephant), published many hundreds of original Tarzan stories,
usually published each week in issues of 32 pages.
The first such stories, which were published by Karnaf, were the longest
running. Karnaf was the most prolific of the publishers, with some 500
titles issued under this name, not to mention various other fictitious
publisher names in which they published another 165 issues! In all they
published seven different Tarzan series under three different names for
a total number of 665 issues.
The creator and the editor of the first stories was a person who since
had become very well known in the Israeli literary scene. Aharon Amir is
today considered one of the best editors and translators Israel has ever
known. He was part of a very peculiar and influential literary and artistic
movement "the Canaanites."
The Canaanites were a cultural movement of poets, writers and artists
who believed that in Israel there should arise an utterly different type
of secular Jew, a "Hebrew," who would be in effect a return to the strong
pre-monotheistic people of the far past of Israel and who should be as
different as possible from the "weak" religious Jews of the diaspora, who
should be close to the land and to nature. They also tried to be as far
from religion as possible. Their influence is still very much felt today
in anti-religious circles in Israel. Their most famous symbol was a statue
called "Nimrod" (after the biblical hunter which was a "tarzanic" figure
of a naked hunter (even today this is the most famous and controversial
statue ever created in Israel, though it was created as far back as 1939).
Perhaps unsurprisingly Tarzan stories were mostly written by people
from the Canaanite movement. One of them was Amos Keinan who is today a
very well known writer and journalist who among other things has written
the most famous science fiction novel in Hebrew, ADERECH LEIN HAROD (The
road to Ein Harod). This novel was also made into a movie with Alexandra
Musulini. and translated to English. Others included Yesayau Levit, Chaim
Gibori and many others. They used the pen name "Yovav" (chosen by Amir
as the embodiment of Hebrew nativism). In those stories Tarzan appeared
as a person full of vitality who is close to nature and to animals and
(most important of all) free of over-intellectualism. This was just like
the "Canaanites" who wanted to see the Israeli sabra. Since Tarzan was
considered a "True Blue" Israeli the stories weren't even presented as
"translated" as was usually the case in such stories, but as the work of
a single Israeli writer, Yovav.
Later when Amir left Tarzan to edit Israel's most important literary
magazine of the time, "KESHET" (were he discovered many of today's best
known Israeli writers such as Amos Oz), this characterization of Tarzan
was changed somewhat to a person who has many books in his jungle home
and knows among other things -- even Latin! But that was not how he was
presented in the first years.
In later years the quality of the Karnaf stories dropped sharply. Many
of them were exact plagiarisms of various westerns and detective stories
in which the hero's name was simply changed to Tarzan. But in their heyday
the stories were enormously successful and there soon appeared various
other publishers which competed with Karnaf.
The best of the stories was APIL published by Ezra Narkis. Nearly 200
issues were written by the same anonymous writer, Miron Uriel (who wrote
westerns at the same time, in the "Buck Jones" series, and super hero stories
about Captain Marvel also for the same publisher). His stories were perhaps
the best Israeli Tarzan stories. They were far longer then the usual and
typically took at least two or three issues to complete. The stories were
full of suspense and many of them were true horror stories in which Tarzan
fought such horrific characters as living mummies, Frankenstein monsters,
Count Dracula and even a Hannibal Lekter-like mad murderer. Apil also created
a new form of Tarzan stories, the serial, or one long story which continued
on from issue to issue -- for 30 issues in one case -- as well as special
series about the adventures of Tarzan's son Boy.
There were other publishers as well, such as RAMDOR which published
a series of 32 issues. While Ramdor didn't have the best of the stories,
most issues certainly had the best covers, some of them by reprints of
covers by Manning and Marsh and some of them original by Dickshtein (many
examples are reproduced in my book). Most of the other Publishers, alas,
didn't have such good covers, preferring to use stock photos of Weissmuller
In all, more than a 1000 issues in some 18 series were published by
the various competing publishers. Their success was so great that a lawsuit
resulted between the various unauthorized publishers, with Karnaf trying
to forbid her great rival Apil to publish stories about Tarzan because
Karnaf had done it first! The Israeli court, however, didn't see it that
way and permitted Apil to continue to publish their stories at will. The
original American publishers, needless to say, didn't see a penny from
all of this. They didn't seem to know about all those stories, otherwise
they would have been suing all concerned, as they had done with similar
cases in England and India.
At this time the period of the late 1950s and early '60s and most particular
the years 1960-62, Tarzan became almost a national obsession in Israel,
with many jokes, famous songs, and caricatures about him. There were events
organized by the publisher of Karnaf and the fans in which they had gone
to the forests to live like Tarzan -- somwhat in the manner of role-playing
games of today. There was even a series of books about the adventures of
Tarzan fans! That series, which was published by Karnaf, was written as
a counter blow to the successful Chasamba series from Mosinson which was
attacking Tarzan stories and their readers. In these stories from Karnaf
it was explained how those children who read Tarzan are better and have
greater adventures than those children who didn't read Tarzan stories or
read only Chasamba
There were also several original comics stories about Tarzan by Dany
Planet who retold Tarzan's origin in comics format and wrote an original
story in which Tarzan fights Arab slavers. There were also stories by Asher
Dickshtein, Israel's best comics artist of the '60s who painted many Tarzan
covers and illustrations for various publishers. Dickshtein also drew the
definitive Tarzan comics story in Hebrew, TARZAN BEMARTEF AEIMIM (Tarzan
and the Horror World), in which Tarzan discovered a lost Viking city in
Africa and descended to a horrific underground world. This story alas remained
uncompleted as a result of the suspension of the magazine in which it had
appeared at 1965. So readers were left in suspense not knowing if Tarzan
survived his perilous journey. Examples from these comics appear in my
book. Undoubtedly Dickshtein was the best, as well most prolific, Tarzan
artist in Israel (examples of his cover art appear as the color back cover
of my book).
There were also Israeli "regular" hardback children's books about Tarzan
written by well known writers. In one such story, ABALASHIM AZHIRIN VETARZAN
PORZIM LEMIFRAZ SHELOMO (The young detectives and Tarzan Attack Solomon
Gulf), by well-known and extremely prolific children's writer "Avner Carmeli,
( pen name of Shraga Gafni another member of the Chanaanit movement
who also created the long running series of Israel's most famous children
hero, DANI DIN THE INVESIBLE BOY, running from 1961 till today). In this
series Tarzan helps a group of heroic Israeli children, "the young detectives,"
fight Saudi slavers, Arab spies and evil Egyptians who are doing a movie
on Tarzan's life as a cover to their evil activities. In the end Tarzan
comes to visit Israel with his bride.
Another book, TARZAN VETALUMAT AATOM (Tarzan and the Atom Mystery),
was written by Yariv Amazya, pen name for one of Israel's most famous
writers and poet Pinchas Sade. This book appeared originally in the 1960
issues of the children magazine AARETZ SHELANU. In that magazine there
appeared at the same time, and in the same issues the Planet comics, stories
about Tarzan. This shows how incredibly popular Tarzan was. In Amazya's
story Tarzan stopped a plot to conquer the world.
Tarzan spent so much time in Israel because there was a great interest
in the continent of Africa. Israel was trying to forge relationships with
recently emerging nations by forming diplomatic contacts, and sending teachers
and doctors, as well as by other means. In some ways the original eleven
Tarzan stories and his character symbolized this interest in Africa, even
though I have to admit the Africa in the stories was mostly colonial and
ruled by the British. However, later stories presented Tarzan as helping
the black freedom fighters in places like Biafra, a nation which Israel
had actually helped. In many ways Israelies identified themselves with
Tarzan: the civilized man who brings culture and freedom to the savages
and along the way stops various schemes of evil Nazis and Arabs.
The subjects of the actual Tarzan stories were many and varied. At first
they were actual adaptations of the DELL comics stories about Tarzan (the
eagle Argos from those stories was always very prominent in the Hebrew
stories) but very soon they had become entirely original. The stories by
Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't served as inspiration except in one or two
cases, even though his original stories were known in Hebrew.
The only character remaining from Burroughs' books was Jane who was
a minor character whose only function was to serve as "mother figure."
On the other hand, characters from the movies -- Chita the ape and particularly
Boy -- were very prominent in the Hebrew stories, and Boy has the distinction
of having had two different series about his own adventures published by
Apil. However, the character of Tarzan, as presented in Hebrew stories,
was dissimilar even from Weissmuller and more closely resembled Gordon
Scott's Tarzan, a somewhat cultured man who performed various tasks for
British Government in Africa.
Interestingly the subject of at least one-fourth of the Tarzan stories
was science fictional. Tarzan fought many, many invasions from space and
even received a knighthood from the British queen for stopping one such
invasion. He went several times to other planets and sometimes found that
the peoples there were already familiar with him since they were readers
of his sundry adventures
He also time-travelled both to the far past and the future . He went
to the time of the dinosaurs, to the time of the cave men where he found
that they all spoken the language of the great apes of his time, and to
the time of Caesar. He went to the future both near and far. He was kidnapped
to the depopulated near future of 2089 in a story by Uriel which is startlingly
similar in plot to the later book and movie MILLENNIUM by John Varley.
And he went to the far future of 3958 where he found a world populated
by wandering, dangerous mutants which included a mechanical city. These
predated, by many years, the books of Philip Jose Farmer about a similarly
time travelling Tarzan.
In those stories Tarzan was presented as a sort of super agent akin
to Fox Moulder, the world's number one expert on monsters and aliens. It
was Tarzan upon whom the government always called when the world faced
an inexplicable danger, such as an indestructible mummy, gigantic ants,
murderous Godzilla, living skeleton, or an army of Draculas. All those
and much more where presented as daily routine for Tarzan. These were perhaps
the first true original sf stories written in Israel. Tarzan became, in
Israel, a sort of fantastic character caught up in all kind of various
science fiction situations which bare no relationship to the original character.
This shows the interest in science fiction subjects in Israel in those
times. Because sf as a genre was frowned upon as too frivolous, the Tarzan
stories were almost the only outlet for that kind of imaginative entertainment.
In the stories from the Aphil publisher there was a a regular formula:
there appears some terrible and monstrously destructive menace (a living
mummy who is destroying new cities for enjoyment, a living indestructible
skeleton, invading army of aliens, etc.) which is impervious to any
modern weapons (including sometimes nuclear weapons). The story then presented
in the most graphic details the destruction and the government's inability
to stop it. Until as a last resort the authorities call to humanity's ultimate
weapon -- Tarzan. The apeman goes with his knife to confront the menace
and usually stops it at the last minute with the help of the jungle beasts
or with some arcane knowledge -- such as particularly destructive jungle
flowers -- and by very clever trick, proving again and again that the human
mind and will are always be superior to technology.
Some of the Israeli Tarzan stories described his meetings with other
well-known characters such as Dracula and Doctor Fu Manchu. And Doctor
Jeckyl and Mister Hyde. Particular favorites were spaceman Flash Gordon,
who had many adventures with Tarzan and boy both on space and on earth
where, in a special three-issue adventure, the two stopped an invasion
of robots from mars which actually destroyed most of the cities of the
world. In the series with Boy, he and Flash had helped destroy an alien
armada which threatened Earth after it had already destroyed Venus!
Another favorite was super-hero Captain Marvel, who had his own regular
(non comics) series, besides his many adventures with Tarzan and Boy in
both their series. Tarzan even met characters which originally were imitations
of him, such as the lion boy Kaspa, the jungle girl Sheena, and the Indian
jungle man Zimbo, who had originally appeared in a series of Indian jungle
movies of the period. These stories preceded a similar trend in today with
the Tarzan and Sherlock Holms stories
Tarzan was presented in the stories as being politically aware. Time
after time he is presented as helping British imperialism against the Mau
Mau rebellion in Kenya and French imperialism against Algeria and Vietnam.
On the other hand he helped black freedom fighters against Spanish and
Portuguese imperialism. He also dealt with the changing situation in Africa
and with new black governments and particularly those in Congo and Kenya
(Jomo Kenyata, a Kenya leader, was presented as Tarzan's personal friend)
and he helped the Tibetan delhi lama against the Chinese. He personally
destroyed the despotic government of Truchilo at the Dominican Republic.
There were some Tarzan stories in which he was presented as helping
the Israeli government. At one point he helped the Jewish illegal immigration
to Palestine at the time of the British mandate, and for which he was thrown
into prison by his fellow British. On another occasion he singlehandedly
broke the Egyptian blockade against Israel at Suez, killing many Egyptian
soldiers on the way and on another time he destroyed the fiendish Soviet
machine with which Egyptian leader Naser threatened to destroy Israel.
He helped Mosad agents catch a Nazi criminal in Moscow. In the story "Tarzan
and the Ten Tribes" he discovered evidence of the existence of a Hebrew
empire in Africa which had existed since the time of Solomon and was destroyed
by the Romans.
At other times he stopped various Nazi-aided Egyptian schemes to conquer
Africa and the world. In the Carmeli book he even stopped an Egyptian plot
to make a film about him in which he was to be presented as pro Arabic!
In that story he had come to visit Israel and decided that the place so
suited him he would make it his home. In fact the routine of Tarzan living
in provincial Israel and having to struggle with the hazards of red tape
is a favorite subject among Israeli humor writers and comedians.
At the same time that stories appeared in which Tarzan was killing Egyptian
agents, Saudi slavers and Arabs in general, at every possible place in
Africa, there were similar unauthorized series in the Arabic lands of Syria
and Lebanon and in which Tarzan's foes were Jewish.
In Arabic lands Tarzan was as popular as he was in Israel. The first
original Tarzan stories appeared as illustrated serials in Lebanon back
at the '30s, just at the same time that the Efroni stories appeared at
Palestine. Similar stories later appeared in Beirut in at least two more
Tarzan series. One of these was a series of comics stories from which there
appeared at least 13 issues, with at least 16 issues of a second of set
of stories (two stories in each issue) written by Faris Daher, a professor
in the academy of sciences in Beirut.
At Damascus there appeared another series with at least 20 issues. The
writer is particularly interesting. His name was Rabki Camal and he was
known to Israeli radio listeners in the '60s as the Syrian announcer on
the Voice of Damascus, which was in Hebrew. He was well known for his savage
propaganda against Israel. In his youth Camal learned Hebrew in Jerusalem,
and it was there he met (before the creation of Israel) the people of the
Canaanite Movement in whose ideas he was interested for a time and even
attended some of their meetings. He had met several of the people, such
Yesayau Levit, who would later write Tarzan stories for Karnaf. By some
strange coincidence, when Camal became the voice of Damascus and expert
for Israel affairs because of his knowledge of Hebrew, Levit served as
as the Israeli army and radio expert for Arabic affairs because of his
expertise in Arabic. And both of then wrote Tarzan stories to supplement
It is likely that Camal, the expert for Israeli affairs, knew very well
the Israeli Tarzan and perhaps read some of them. It is possible that he
wrote his Tarzan stories as counter propaganda to the Israeli stories in
which Tarzan helps Zionism. In those stories Tarzan was presented as helping
the Palestinians and fighting the evil Jews and their attempt to achieve
world domination. Needless to say this also was all without the knowledge
of Burroughs estate.
Those stories were very successful and were bought all over the Arab
world from Egypt to Yemen, giving the Arab readers the good patriotic feeling
that Tarzan is on their side against Israel.
All that sucsess didn't helped Camal though, who was accused in one
of the Syrian political upheavals as being "pro Israeli" and was put to
The great popularity of Tarzan in Israel demanded in the minds of some
that there should be a suitably religious Zionist answer to this hero,
who was after all (as muchas the Israelies preferred to forget it), a British
gentile. Such an answer appeared at 1960-61 in a series of issues called
"Dan-Tarzan, the Israeli Tarzan." That series was written by Amnon Shepak
and later by religious journalist, Zeev Galili, who had belonged to the
circles of the "right" in Israel. Galili had read the Karnaf issues of
Tarzan and he remembers today that he was angered by the "leftist-canaanite"
nature of the stories. He decided in response to write his own Tarzan in
whose stories there were to be a proper rightist nationalist message.
Dan-Tarzan was an Israeli boy who crash landed in the African jungle
where he was reared by the granddaughter of Kala the she-ape who had previously
raised Tarzan. He understood her language thanks to his previously reading
of the Tarzan books! Dan-Tarzan became a new Tarzan, who according to these
stories "died many years ago," and eventually came to Israel where he worked
as a mossad agent. He even caught Adolf Eichman and brought him to Israel!
-- a story which caused many comments in the Israeli newspapers of the
time. In a sequel, he had to catch Eichman again, after the Nazi criminal
escaped his prison to Egypt. Other stories in that series were just as
fantastic as in the actual Hebrew Tarzan series, depicting voyages to another
planet, his war on space invaders, his finding of a lost city of ancient
Hebrew warriors at the Dead Sea, saving the world from a monstrous underground
civilization, and fighting a superman who could control people like puppets.
In August 1999, after he read in a newspaper article about my research
about the Israeli Tarzan, Galili wrote sadly that it seemed to him that
the war for the minds of the Israeli youth was won by the Canaanite secular
Tarzan of Amir and Keinan over his own "patriotic" Dan Tarzan. "If Dan
Tarzan would have lived today," he wrote, "he would have been thrown out
of the Mosad. People would have said of him that he is out of touch with
the times, that he still believes in that old fashioned Zionist ideology
and that he can't understand that a Palestinian state must be built."
Recently, in 2001, the last book to-date in the famous Danidin series,
danidin bajungle ??NIDIN IN THE JUNGLE, by Shraga Gafni dealt with an invincible
boy going to Africa and meeting a Israeli Tarzan fan who lives there like
Tarzan under the name SHYRAN. He fights the lion Numa, showing that not
much had changed in this story since the time of DAN TARZAN.
IN ISRAEL TODAY
In the '70s the popularity of Tarzan in Israel declined. New issues
continued to appear but they were translations of American comics by Manning,
Celardo and Lubbers, along with the Burroughs books. There were no more
new Israeli stories though there was at that time an enterprising publisher
issuing a new series which largely made up of reprints of American Tarzan
comics, along with reprints of old Karnaf stories without Karnaf's permission.
Eventually this was stopped by court decision. But what the court didn't
seem to know was that most of those particular Karnaf stories which were
being reprinted were from the last and worst volumes of Karnaf and they
were already a plagiarisms of various detective and western stories! One
should have thought that he who is stealing from a thief should get off
free, but obviously the court didn't think that way. Then in the 1980s
even the comic book stories about Tarzan ceased to appear.
There was a nostalgic effort to reprint the old Karnaf stories in 1988
but the attempt this time was authorized and the choices for reprinting
were the earlier, better stories by Keinan. Despite much publicity the
series failed and no more then 10 issues appeared. The stories didn't interest
the new generation.
But the character of Tarzan was not forgotten. When Weissmuller's health
declined in the '80s there was a new interest in him in Israel. The newspapers
wrote of him nostalgically as a symbol to a period which was over -- not
just in Holywood, but in Israel as well. Probably no other American
actor's decline won as much interest in Israel as that of Weissmuller.
After he died, there appeared several literary works, stories and even
poems which were based on the theme of the "fall" of the once great Tarzan/Weissmuller.
This was actually a quite clear message about the corresponding fall of
the once dominant Israeli "sabra" culture of which Weissmuller was one
of the ultimate symbols. The best of these works, which were also tributes
to the old Israeli Tarzan stories, was that of Yaacove Shavit, a very famous
Historian in Israel, well-known for his history of the Canaanite movement,
These stories were also translated to English.
SIPUR MASA LEAVI ET JOHNNY WEISSMULLER LEAFRICA ("To Bring Johnny
Weissmuller to Africa") (1992) is the story of three older Israelis and
former fans of the Israeli Tarzan stories. They are on a special mission
to kidnap the old Weissmuller from a degrading old people home and to take
him to die in his true home, Africa. The mission is successful and the
story ends with Weissmuller dying as he should, as king of the jungle in
Africa and not as a senile invalid.
The interest in Tarzan and the ability of the character to provoke continues
to this day. When the Disney movie was shown in Israel in September 1999
and the country was full of Tarzan posters, there was a scandal when ultra-religious
groups demanded the removal of these posters because of Tarzan's nakedness!
Those circles explained that they objected to the character of Tarzan in
general as he represents the belief of man's own physical power. Also it
must be keep in mind that the leadearship of the anti-religious circles
in Israel usually comes from the circles of the former Canaanits movment,
which as we have seen were particularly associated with the figure of Tarzan.
Yet it must be said that in the Hebrew Tarzan's heyday there were many
religious people who had read those issues. Once there was even a scandal
at a religious Yeshiva when the head of the institution had forbade the
pupils to read Tarzan stories. The modern scandal over Disney posters incited
secular circles with several pictures of Tarzan in modern clothes including
one in which he wears the ultra religious people's costume!
Obviously Tarzan continues to be a very potent symbol in Israel.
My book TARZAN BEERETZ HAKODESH (TARZAN IN THE HOLY LAND) is a
guide to the whole Tarzan phenomenon in Israel. It is written in
the Hebrew language and gives a detailed listing of all the Tarzan
stories which appeared from the various publishers. It also includes examples
of cover art, particularly by the premier Israeli Tarzan artist Asher Dickstein,
Israel's most important Tarzan artist. I have also listed examples of appearances
of Tarzan in various Israeli media such as caricatures, games and advertisements.
Today most of these magazine and comic book issues are very rare in Israel
and are highly valued by collectors. TARZAN IN THE HOLY LAND exists only
in a very limited nunber of copies and is published only on demand. The
copies in each reprinting are expanded from the earlier ones with new information
on the seemingly never-ending Hebrew Tarzan stories.
This article appears greatly expanded in my history of Israeli pulp
literature: METARZAN VEAD ZBENG (FROM TARZAN TO ZBENG) a book which was
published only five months ago, but already has become a bestseller
in Israel. This book also garnered me the title of WRITER OF THE YEAR from
the leading Israeli newspaper, MAARIV.
The book had got a great deal of discussion from leading critics and
one of the most discussed subjects is Tarzan and his great relevance to
young Israeli culture.
I wish to thank Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Without her advice and encouragement
my book would not have achieved this degree of success. This work was a
pleasure, as time after time I discovered further influences on Israeli
culture in various surprising ways. And I discovered how large the "industry"
around the Ape-man in Israel really was and that the figure of Tarzan touched
something very deep in the Israeli psyche.