HAMA Israel and The Little Prince (As explained by Avshalom Beni, Founder and Director)

The Hebrew word, “HAMA” appears in poetry and prayer. It is the word for “sun”, which symbolizes creation and life. And the sun, as we know is one of many stars in an infinite universe.

Our name, “HAMA” was inspired by the simple and lyrical “adult ” fairy tale, “Le Petit Prince” by the renowned “explorer” and author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

A recurrent drawing of a tiny star shines through its pages. I enjoyed reading that story to my children when they were young. I was probably looking for a respectable way to justify reading it to myself over and over again. My daughter looked at the pictures and asked me why a tiny star is always there. “It’s so small you can hardly see it”, she said, and then I would ask her back, “ If that is so, then why do we keep looking for it, even on those pages where we can’t even see it at all. ?” ”Because it’s his home, silly”, she replied in a very matter of fact way. You can always see your home, and even when you can’t see it, you can still see it deep inside of you.”

Saint Exupery was right. Children see our world in a much simpler and far more imaginative way than they do when they grow up and become us, their parents. That’s when we forget listening to the child we once were, and that’s what make the art of listening and understanding between children and parents so challenging and frustrating. When we finally do learn the remarkable language of children, we are grandparents, and then suddenly we seem to lose the art of understanding the language of our grown up children all over again — a kind of never ending “win and lose, lose and win” scenario.

So here is my daughter, as a little girl, explaining to her “erudite know it all” father what happens to our protagonist, a small space traveler from a distant galaxy who becomes stranded on our planet Earth. And yes indeed, she is right. From what I understand through her insight and imagination is that in the beginning he loved his rose, but she didn’t love him back, at least in a way he could understand. So, hurt and disappointed, the poor kid left home to get away from his unappreciative, narcissistic and dysfunctional rose. Only the further he travels the more he misses her.

You see, despite all her short comings, she’s still the only family he’s got. So now after a journey which has made him stronger inside, and after having seen and visited all sorts of weird types on different planets, he has gained a deeper understanding of his relationship with his problematic rose. He learns to accept and forgive, and while he knows that she may never be all that he had wished for, he has, nevertheless, made his final peace and preparation for the long journey home.

Chapter 21 of The Little Prince is my favorite chapter. I loved reading it over and over again to my kids. Well, actually it was more for me, I suppose, if the truth be told. It is all about an intriguing encounter between the lost boy and an anonymous fox in an obscure field somewhere on this planet of ours. I always imagined meadows and fields of my kibbutz while I was reading it. Quite a few foxes do indeed live here, so the scene was both familiar and very much in the realm of possibility as far as I was concerned.

“Tame me”, implores the fox , and the little boy, not so sure of what he must do, asks in return what “taming” means. “It means the establishment of ties”, responds the fox. And so begins their story as well as HAMA’s.In this one tiny chapter lie all the richness and beauty of not only the human- animal bond, but even more importantly, the simple and terribly complicated truths we must all encounter and endure in our lifelong journey of search and rescue, love and attachment, loss and acceptance.

In that star I saw the Hebrew word for “sun”, “HAMA”. Over the years I have met many roses and foxes and both very young and very elderly boys and girls. I have seen and felt how that special bond between humans and animals has often been the “bridge over troubled waters” through space and meteor storms to a safer and more secure place inside. A beloved animal companion can often help children of all ages cross those bridges they would never dare cross alone.

And should our “seeing soul dogs and cats” of HAMA decide it is safe to lead them over the bridge to the other side, these lost children may well discover that they have “refound” their families and friends waiting for them on the other side, ready to reconnect in a new and more positive relationship based on mutual trust and care. I never imagined then, nearly 17 years ago, how a simple “child’s” story about a lost boy, a leery fox and an elusive star, almost gone but always there, would have come to shape HAMA’s future and my own in such a profound and lasting way!