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 – LIV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Paternal Family (7 of 9)

Everything looked rosy at this point. With a little bit of luck, my grandmother would soon be able to bounce Angele’s children on her knees. But there was a fly in the ointment. In Jewish families, the young lady was given veto power. And therein lay the problem. Some families overrode that right. But the Ezris were too European to do so.

The first prospective aris (fiance) was a moneyed man who owned his own villa. He was a widower and had no children. He was just “touching” forty. He was vetoed down by Angele. Too old.

The next interested parties were either too short, or too tall; bald, or beginning to bald; were meeting all physical criteria but had some annoying habits.

And then one day it happened. He was very interested and she liked him. He took her to some interesting places: El Rihani Comedy Show; Ezbekiah Dine and Show Garden; numerous restaurants and coffee houses; and American and French movies. As we say in this part of the world, he wined and dined her.

When it was determined that the planets were properly aligned, he took her to meet his father (his mother had died years ago). Big mistake! She didn’t like his dad at all!

Angele wanted to end it all, however, the clan pressured her. There were many discussions, and some ugly scenes, with Angele. Unfailingly, it ended in tears and histrionics.

The young man went to my dad’s business to plead his case. On another occasion, uncle Joseph joined them and, in the presence of the brothers, this young lad swore on the Torah that he would make sure his father would not be part of the young couple’s life. He would visit him alone from time to time. Except for the day of the wedding, Angele would never see him again.

All to no avail.

Time went by. The semsara was no longer in the picture. She had obviously determined that Angele’s case was hopeless. Angele was now 25, then 27, then the danger zone of the thirties was reached. It seemed that my aunt was destined to remain an old maid.

But as long as we are alive, the well of hope never dries. Tante Angele was destined to marry, and marry well. However, the setting would no longer be Egypt.

In 1956, the second exodus started. The two brothers were going in different directions. Nessim was going to Italy to wait for a visa to immigrate to Australia; Joseph was going to make a short stop in Italy, and from there, he was going to take the first ship to Israel. Joseph was accompanied by his wife, his two small children, and Angele.

Early on, it became painfully obvious that Israel was not Egypt; supporting a relative was no easy matter. Welfare Egyptian style was no longer possible in this new land.

Exactly what transpired between Joseph and Angele, I do not know. My guess is that he told his sister that she would have to work and support herself.

Now, uncle Joseph has many qualities, but diplomacy was not one of them! Therefore, I have no doubt that he made himself very clear. But Angele has never worked a day in her life; now what?

Israel at the time had a gender imbalance, more men than women. A man (young or old) who wanted to marry found himself at a distinct disadvantage. Thus, the idea of a suitable match for aunt Angele was resurrected.

For a number of reasons, a hatouna (marriage) was now a distinct possibility. First, because of the above mentioned dearth of marriageable women, finding the right person would prove easier than in Egypt. Second, a dowry was not required in Israel. Third, Angele was by now in her early forties, therefore, a much wiser person than the one who turned down so many suitors. Finally, and most important, she had her back to the wall.

Enter Manny. He was originally from Yugoslavia. He was a widower with grown-up children and he was looking for a wife. He was a catch: decent, and of European descent. He was a partner in a moshav and was well-to-do. A moshav is a collective farm run by a number of farmers, and they are all partners; you can make a very good living, and Manny did.

Angele liked him and wedding bells finally rang for her.

Time went by. We were now living in Israel, having failed to obtain an immigration visa for Australia.

This scene, while not particularly dramatic is, nevertheless, etched in my memory.

I was sitting on the veranda with Manny and Angele. The soft night was slowly descending, and the crickets had started their symphony. I was surrounded by farmland which produced the food which fed the Jewish people who had returned after thousand of years to their ancestral land.

At a certain point, Angele and Manny went in to bring coffee, tea, and pastries. Thus I had time to ponder over the strange twists life can take. I was on vacation, and had dedicated a few days to visit my aunt and new uncle on their moshav. I was well received, actually spoiled. I could have spend my time in an expensive resort, and would not have had half as much pleasure. Above all, I got to know Manny and thereafter could say unequivocally that he was a real gentleman, the kind you no longer encounter these days. The extent to which my aunt has changed was a revelation to me. She was now a necotcherra (good housewife) woman. And she had full control over her home.

It is now 1980. Manny had sold his share in the moshav and retired. He now has time to travel, and Angele and Manny has come to Canada to visit us (Robert and myself).

I am now married with two children. I live in a beautiful apartment that include a large balcony; when standing on the balcony, you’re greeted by a breathtaking vista. Manny can’t get over the view, and how quiet Canada is.

In 1992, after an absence of 28 years, I went back to Israel for a visit. I stayed in Angele’s home in Bat Yam. Manny had passed away a few years ago. My aunt was still grieving over this wonderful man.

In 1995, Robert in turn went to Israel for a visit. During his stay, aunt Angele became ill and was hospitalized. A few days later, she passed away.

“From what did she die?” Robert asked the doctors. The doctors had no definitive diagnosis. One doctor surmised that she was very weak. She no longer had anything left in her. Knowing my aunt, I concur with this tentative diagnosis.

She was 80.

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