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 – LII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Paternal Family (5 of 9)

Helene cried because she so terribly missed her son. She cried because she never had any money. She cried over the pain brought on by her numerous ailments. Finally, she cried over the unfairness of it all, over the bitter brew she was forced to drink on a daily basis. But a few years before she departed this vale of tears, the sun would once again shine and illuminate her dark world.

Helene never deserved any of that. She had a big heart full of forgiveness and love. Let me tell you a story which for me proved to be a priceless lesson.

Her landlady, Farida, was a cantankerous old woman. From Helene’s kitchen window you could see a court and the back of the house of Farida. There were also stairs to exit the house from the back. This lady, on a regular basis, would stand on the stairs and deliver a soliloquy. The subject matter? All the harm her tenants were inflicting on a helpless old woman. “They damaged the units.” “They were late paying the rent.” “They stole mangoes and other fruits from the garden.” (They did). She also threatened to curse the mischief-makers, and did. Since many of the people were superstitious, they feared her. But not so with nonna Helene.

Often, when she was finished with her monologue, she would call my grandmother and begin a dialogue with her. The subject was the same and Helene would get an earful as to the grief tenants were inflicting on her. She would make sure to slip into the conversation – which was largely one-sided – that the Ezris were not exactly blameless.

Farida had a grandson whom she adored. His name was Rafik and his nickname was Fio. For the rest of his short life, this nickname stuck to him. He was a little demon in his childhood; but later on he matured and eventually went to university to study to be a doctor. There, he joined Jacques, the aforementioned neighbor of my grandmother.

One day, Jacques came back home in tears. There has been a terrible accident; Fio’s car had collided with a speeding car and Fio had been killed instantly.

His parents’ and grandmother’s grief was unimaginable. The screams and sobs could be heard through the building. It got to the point that even though I was no longer a child, I was afraid to go to Rue Tour Sina. I was there, however, to witness a unique scene.

Nonna Helene had already visited the grieving family and passed on her condolences. On this day, however, she was crying hard over the loss of this young life. And so, she went to the court and called Farida, when Farida came out, they simply fell into each others’ arms. There they stayed for the longest time, they never talked, they just cried and comforted each other. Finally, Helene told her: “Rabena yediki el sabr.” (May God give you the patience. Meaning the patience to live through her pain).

On this day, I learned too many lessons to be properly sorted out. Forgiveness, compassion, love, the ability to share other people’s grief, and the basic goodness that exists in most people’s hearts. All of these disparate pieces became a beautiful mosaic that I did (and will) keep in a special place in my heart.

When it looked like, sooner or later, we would all have to leave Egypt, Angele discussed with Nessim the difficulties their old mother would have traveling first to Italy by ship, and then to Israel. Nothing was resolved, for it was a problem too difficult to even contemplate. But nonna Helene always accommodating, died (I believe) early in 1956. She was in her late seventies.

When we departed from Egypt at the end of 1956, we left my grandmother in her native country. She was born in Egypt, lived there all her life, and there she went to sleep for the last time.

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