roland@equalpartners.ca
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Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLIII. Stories My Grandmother Told Me (5 of 10)

Romeo and Juliet

This (true) story was not told to me. It does not go back to a time before I was born, nor were the people involved strangers. I’ve met Romeo and Juliet (as I facetiously called them because of some vague similarities to the bard’s play) many times.

Stella was a second cousin of my mother. While she lived in Cairo, my mother was, for many years, unaware of her existence.

Fola was looking for a capable seamstress, and a friend recommended Stella. Mom was told that while Stella was amazing at her craft, and had great taste to boot, she was unreliable. If called upon, she may or may not show up. However, once she started a sewing project, she finished it. How long that took was another matter.

Whatever the case, the two met, and Flora discovered that she was a relative.

Stella had come from a desperately poor family. She also suffered from poor health (which presumably accounted for her unreliability).

Being sickly, and with no dowry, she obviously could not be choosy when it came to finding a husband. Indeed, her prospects were non-existent.

Enter Aslan. You could have never mistaken him with the fabled prince of the fairy tales!  He was a tall and burly man; his features were not particularly handsome, but they were strong. I realize today that he was the kind of male who would make many women dissolve in a sea of emotions. As to why he fell in love with Stella, well, this is one of the riddles of life that will never be solved.

Stella looked mousy, very short, and incredibly slight. Aslan could have carried her up with one arm, and, indeed, he did many times.

Aslan was known for his quick temper, and a propensity for violence. He was also reputed as a saye’a (often unemployed). As is often the case, the truth was somewhere in between.

Stella assured us many times that he had never lifted his hand against her. As well, he helped her aging parents any way he could.

He was a superb handyman; no task was too big or challenging for him. He used his talent to make a living; unfortunately, working with your hands was neither prized nor well-paid in the Egypt of the ’40s.

Finally – and this I learned later on – it was whispered that he was a skilled lover. Once the lights went out, Aslan came into his own!

Stella denied all of that. However, when the matter was discussed with other parties “in the know,” there was a lot of tittering! “No wonder Stella is often exhausted,” I would often hear. But, as a child, I didn’t know what they were talking about.

I realize today that Aslan was a frustrated man. What he brought to the job market was not appreciated. In his free time he went to school, and acquired a basic education.

To his credit, he was not willing to accept his fate, and he did something about it.

His next move was made easier by the fact that Stella and Aslan had no children.

He has heard that in Palestine, people like him were sought out. One day, he had a fateful discussion with Stella.

“I will go to Palestine and try to obtain gainful employment. Once I am settled there, you can come and join me.”

And so it was. Aslan, did better than working for somebody else. On short order, he learned Hebrew, opened his own business, and did well. When Israël went to war in 1948, he was a soldier in the Haganah (defense army). Really, the only vaguely related relative in my family who served willingly in the armed forces!

The state of Israël had now come into being. Aslan was doing better than ever. It was now time for Stella to go and rejoin her husband. But, like the lovers in the immortal play, these two were never going to be reunited again.

Stella procrastinated. She was receiving contradictory advice. “Yes, you should go.” “No, you would be very foolish to go. I understand that conditions are hellish in Israël right now.”

Aslan waited, and waited for his beloved to rejoin him. But a young man like him cannot live alone forever. One can also safely assume that a He-Man like him was not ignored by the fair sex. Whatever, the case, Aslan eventually obtained a divorce in- absentia from the Rabbinate (religious authorities), and remarried.

Stella eventually did go to Israël; too late, of course. Did these two meet again? I don’t know. When we went to      Israël, we never tried to locate them. Therefore, my story must end here.

The stories that follow came from two teachers I had in grade school. They were both brothers, but they didn’t resemble each other. Indeed, one was portly, and the other was as thin as a reed.

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