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According to the Bible, Hagar was the mistress of Abraham and bore him a son who became the ancestor of the Arabs. Mother and son were sent into exile by Abraham's wife Sarah, the mother of the ancestor of the Jews. In choosing to work on this theme in 1948, the year in which Israel was established as an independent state, Lipchitz seems to have wanted to appeal in this work for sympathy for the dispossessed Arabs. In his autobiography Lipchitz wrote that 'the Jews and the Arabs ... should live together as brothers, which they were able to do for many centuries'. The 'Hagar' theme expressed, he said, 'tragedy and suffering with tenderness and hope for the future'.

March 1998