Monday, April 11, 2016

Picture This

Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet.
-Vietnamese Proverb

Apparently, yesterday was Siblings’ Day.

(Every day of the calendar is something, by the way. Today is Cheese Fondue Day, and tomorrow is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day (what's up with cheese days??). Last week was Zoo Lovers' Day and April 7th was, not only Tell a Lie Day, but it was also NO HOUSEWORK DAY!! Which really means little to me, as everyday in my house, is No Housework Day.)

But I digress.

I have a bunch of siblings. My kids have a bunch of siblings. A lot of people have siblings. Some have more and some have fewer, but having siblings is not very rare, except maybe in China.

I live in Israel. My siblings don’t. We have not all been together at the same place and same time for very many years; mostly this is my fault because I don’t like to travel.

My kids’ siblings, though, all live in Israel, baruch HaShem, which is one reason why I left my siblings and came to live in Israel in the first place; though I came before my kids had siblings, I wanted to make sure that their future siblings would be in Israel, unlike mine.

A few weeks ago, my youngest child, G, had an ערב שורשים, (a family tree evening) at her school, where each student was required to find out as much as possible about their families and their place of origin, and their histories.

Having done the same sort of project three years previously, my kid didn’t have much work to do. However, I decided to dig around a bit and was able to uncover the dates of death of my paternal grandparents, something I never knew. I actually discovered quite a lot of information thanks to the work of my cousins and Facebook (Cousins’ Day, by the way, is July 24).

Many family pictures had already been scanned from the previous work, and I barely looked through the pages before we headed out – armed with a large pan of lasagna (my kid told her teacher it was our traditional family food….) – to the school in Yerucham, a half hour drive south of Beer Sheva, to enjoy the evening.

As we entered the school, a wall, hung with various family portraits, was the first exhibit we saw. The kids had taken scanned pictures from the projects, blown them up and hung them in a kind of rogues gallery.
The second portrait in the row was a copy of a picture of my paternal grandmother with one of my older cousins taken in the 1950s.
Baba Rose and oldest Granddaughter
A couple of pictures later were my maternal grandparents in the 40s

Baba Rifka and Zeida Meir

and then my parents wedding picture from 1948.

Mom and Dad
At the end of the row was a picture of me and my siblings taken in 1973, the time of my brother’s Bar Mitzvah.

It took me a long time to stop staring at that wall.

My grandparents – עליהם השלום, may their memories be blessed, all born in Eastern Europe at a time when the State of Israel was barely a dream, and from towns and villages long destroyed – never visited Israel, probably never even considered visiting Israel. Yet, here were their pictures hung on a wall somewhere in the middle of the Israeli desert. 

My own parents were married about six months after the birth of the Modern State of Israel. At that time, the War of Independence was still raging, and Israel's survival was anything but assured, Yet, here was their wedding picture, in the hallway of a school, in a town in Israel, which hadn't even been a plan on paper in September 1948. 

I stared and stared and stared at their likenesses, and wondered what they would have thought of their picture on this wall, in this place, so very far - in both time and place - from everything they knew. 

I know what I was thinking. I was thinking of the miracle that after so many generations, after so much persecution, we are finally back home. I was thinking of the honor and privilege and blessing I had been given; that,of all the members and generations or my family, it was I who brought those pictures back home where they belong.

I stared at the picture of my siblings also. The first thing I thought was 'hey!! we weren't as funny-looking as I remember!". Then I thought "we, unlike the previous generations, were all born into a world where the State of Israel existed". (Then I thought "No, we were as funny-looking as I remember.")

The point is that my siblings and I have never experienced not having Israel around. It's hard to imagine such a world. What did everyone hate? Oh. Right. The Jews....

My siblings' kids are slowly leaving the Old Country and making their way home to Israel. Of my mother's (may she be well and healthy till 120!) 29 descendants (four children, twenty grandchildren, and five great-grands), fifteen live in Israel. Not bad for a family who, for a few years anyway, had only one representative here.

One sibling comes to visit her descendants fairly often. Another is visiting here right now visiting his. The third hasn't quite made it in a while, but I'm waiting patiently.

Yesterday was Siblings Day. I propose that by next Siblings Day, we should all get together. In Yerucham.

Oh, and by the way, according to Judaism, all Jews are considered brothes and sisters. I hope the bakery in Yerucham can handle it.

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