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Sunday, July 29, 2012


ISRAEL IS FAMILY
Part One


July, 2012
Dear family and Friends:

 It never ceases to amaze me that whenever we are in Israel family-like things happen.  I wrote an article in 1990 titled, “Israel is Family,” and here I am writing about the same idea twenty-two years later.  You can find that old article by looking back in the blog to that year.  Israel and I had a rough start together.  Back in 1969 I ventured to Machon Hayim Greenberg for a year of Ulpan.  Jerusalem was very small city back then and there were not many Americans there.  Growing up in a non-Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, and always feeling like the “Jew” in the crowd, it came as a shock for me to actually go to Israel and suddenly feel like the “American” in the crowd.  But it was a case of adjustment on my part, and once I made it, I began to feel at home in that dusty stone-build ancient city.  Learning Hebrew made all the difference. 
Juca and I lived in Jerusalem for two years.  I traveled back several times over the years and we were lucky enough to spend part of last and this summer back in Jerusalem.  When I step off of the plane at Ben Gurion airport I find the Hebrew signs and announcements welcoming rather than strange.  It is like coming home.  And, Israelis are family.  Not that we like everyone in our family or want to spend time with every family member.  No, there are family members we would rather avoid.  Same with Israelis.  But most are like cousins, and there is certainly a family connection.

Two family-like experiences happened on our last visit.  We decided to travel to Haifa to visit one of Juca’s lifelong, Brazilian, childhood friends.  Michelini (now Michal) was born in Egypt, immigrated to Porto Alegre, Brazil where she and Juca became close friends, and then made Aliyah to Israel.  We were going to spend an afternoon with her in her home in Haifa.  To go, we had to travel to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, a place with its own tempo and rush of people.  Let me tell you, that tempo ain’t no waltz.
I negotiated the tickets and found the gate where we waited for the particular bus that would take us on the 1½ hour ride to the particular station where we would meet Michelini.  A woman approached me at the gate.  She excused herself and asked if she could speak to me in English.  I am never mistaken for an Israeli and took that as a compliment.  She asked me if that was the right gate for the bus going to that particular station in Haifa and I assured her that she was in the right place and that she could sit and wait with us for the 30 minutes until the bus came.  When the bus arrived, I nodded to her to come on board and she followed is on.

When we were about to arrive in Haifa, I called Michelini on the cell phone, spoke to her for a few seconds in Hebrew and gave the phone to Juca.  Juca, of course spoke to her old friend in Portuguese.  When we got off of the bus, that same woman who had asked me about the bus in Jerusalem came up to Juca and spoke to her… in Portuguese.  That was a surprise.  What came next was even more surprising.  It turns out that the woman was born in Egypt, immigrated with her family to Porto Alegre Brazil, later made Aliyah, and was now living in Haifa.  Her story was Michelini’s story, exactly.  As we heard her tell her tale, Michelini approached us on the platform.  The family scene now played itself out as Michelini, Juca, and the woman connected all of the dots and exchanged phone numbers.  What a mix of languages, continents, and family histories.  It was as if long lost sisters had found each other. 

Hey man; like I said, Israel is family.
Ron

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story, Ron. I have a similar story minus the languages and minus Israel, so I'm puzzling over the common denominator, Jewish heritage? Plus thank you for sponsoring a wonderful birthday celebration for Juca. It was very special!

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