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 – Israel – CCLXIX. A Permanent Job (7 of 12)

Kadouri was another immigrant that came from Iraq.

In 1951, 110,000 Iraqi Jews were evacuated in operation Ezra and Nehemiah.

According to Kadouri, overnight, practically all Jews were expelled.  They more than left their possessions behind, they left their whole lives.  Imagine being in your beautiful home one day, and finding yourself in a tent a few days later!  How can you recover from such a shock?  It takes years; and the unfairness of it all is a wound that never completely heals.

Kadouri’s story is a long one; these are the highlights.

In Iraq, he was a successful businessman.  He had a well-appointed apartment, beautiful furniture, a commercial building, and his business.  When he left, he remitted the keys of his apartment, business, and building to a government official.  He also turned over to the government all the documentation they would need to locate his assets; they were now the property of the state!

Kadouri never said much about his early years in Israel; no doubt those were memories that he preferred to leave undisturbed.  But he did talk of his success in business.

He first opened – with the help of the soukhnout – a grocery store in the ma’abara.  But Kadouri was too good a businessman to be content with that.  In time he came to own a grocery store in the heart of Tel Aviv!

Life was good for a while; but then disaster struck.  The concept of having all what you need under one roof arrived in Israel.  A supermarket opened not too far from his store!  It was obviously a death sentence for his business.  The only good news was that he was able to sell his concern to a party that needed the location.

By then, Kadouri had neither the drive nor the youth to start a new venture.  When an employment opportunity presented itself at IAI, he took it.  But his heart was never in it.  He used to tell me that he never had patience for paperwork; he left his employees to handle it.  But now, like it or not, he had to accept this reversal of fortune.

His favorite expression:  “It’s not easy to be Jewish!”  I concur.

*  *  *

Solomon was another Egyptian, and he shared his time between Records and Accounting.  In Egypt he worked for Cicurel (a well-known Jewish department store).  He was an able accountant, indeed the assistant of the Bash Kateb (Chief Accountant).

While officially, he was hired in Records, he spent a lot of his time in Accounting.  So why not consider him as an employee of Accounting and pay him accordingly?

Solomon has learned his accounting through experience, but the Histadrut required him to pass certain exams.  So Solomon learned accounting and passed his exams at level A, then B, then C.  But to get any position in Accounting you needed level D at least. This was a more difficult exam, and Solomon was unable to pass it.  Ironically, he assisted another Egyptian, Leon, who worked as an accountant in Egypt and had managed to pass his level D exams.  Leon considered Solomon as a more capable accountant than he was; he pleaded his case; but failed to change the mindset of the Histadrut.

Solomon helped us when we had difficult problems; for example:  a set of cards that has been “messed up” beyond hope because somebody had understood that items such as nuts, bolts, and screws for aircraft A, could also be used for aircraft B.  And everything ended up on one card!  It required patience to go back to the original documents and reconstruct the cards.  Sometimes, it was easier to go to the store and count the actual stock.  And speaking of stocktaking, Solomon was indispensable when an official stocktaking was carried out in a given section.

More than once, there was a tug of war between Records and Accounting for the services of Solomon.  Ben continually had to remind Accounting that officially Solomon was one of his employees.  But managers at Accounting had more clout; and the law of the strongest unfortunately prevailed.

Solomon was aptly named; he was as wise as his biblical counterpart.  If you sought him for a problem, you were sure to get good advice.  Ben called him the philosopher, and often benefited from his “philosophy” whether it was work related or a private matter.

*  *  *

Trudy was a holocaust survivor.  She was Hungarian, and she suffered the fate of many holocaust Jews.  She survived the camp, but found herself caught in the horror of communist Hungary.  Not surprisingly therefore she was affected both physically and emotionally.  And that particularly manifested itself in one sphere:  Her faith.

Whether we wanted to hear it or not, Trudy didn’t hesitate to tell us what she thought of the Almighty:  “If there really was a God, would He have allowed the horror of the holocaust?”

For reasons that I understood later on, many of her tirades were addressed to me.  I listened politely and didn’t say anything; but I was often tempted to ask her:  “Am I the representative of the Creator?”  Of course, she couldn’t address God since for her He didn’t exist!

As I have mentioned so often, my faith is second nature and it shows.  Hence in a roundabout way, what she did made sense.  But it took me many years to clue in.

Otherwise, Trudy was a pleasant and interesting person.  She must have been a beauty at one time, but alas the years and the hardships have taken their toll.  And this brings us to her next complaint.  Her husband liked to introduce variety in his life, and he did so by purchasing the services of certain professional ladies!

*  *  *

Dawud was an Iraqi immigrant who befriended me largely to be able to discuss Um Kalsum!  The first Friday of the month I was sure to see him.  Why?  Because on the first Thursday of every month Um Kalsum gave her famous concert.

Dawud installed himself by the radio with an ample supply of liquor.  Between the golden voice of one of the greatest diva of our time, and the effect of the liquor, Dawud approached nirvana!

On Friday he had to share that experience with somebody; and who better than an Egyptian who at least came from the same country.

I appreciated Um Kalsum, but never listened to a full concert.  Dawud saw that as heresy at the beginning, but eventually came to terms with my sacrilegious attitude.  At any rate, like it or not, the concert was reported to me blow by blow!

*  *  *

The Bene Israel is a Jewish community that has existed in India for many centuries.  They claim that their forefathers have arrived in India before the destruction of the second temple.  Many immigrated to Israel after 1948.  They were considered as a separate Jewish sect and had problems being accepted by the Israeli religious authorities.  In general, at the onset, they had a difficult life in Israel.

One of the storekeepers I dealt with, Penkar, was a Bene Israel.  Penkar was a learned and very interesting individual.  In time we became good friends.  One area of common interest were books, more specifically, English books.  Being from India, English was one of his native languages together with Hindu.  He also knew another language; when you add Hebrew, Penkar spoke four languages.

On a regular basis, I used to visit a street merchant that only sold second-hand English books.  He was located in a little nook on Allenby (a major street in downtown Tel Aviv).  In time, I accumulated quite a collection of English books.  Penkar, on a regular basis, borrowed some of those books.

When the time came to leave for Canada, I had accumulated over 100 books; and they were all in a big suitcase.

I offered all my books to Penkar; an offer that was accepted with great gratitude.  And so he came to my home one day with a friend and took the suitcase with him.

Did it hurt to give my books away?  Not at all.  They were in good hands with Penkar; as for me, they had greatly improved my English and provided me with a vocabulary that was greatly admired in Canada.

*  *  *

During my years at Records, we moved to different locations.  At a certain point two managers were our neighbors:  Victor and Peter.  They spoke excellent English; and they took great pride in that and communicated mainly in that language.  Peter came as a small child to England, and Victor after leaving Egypt lived there for a few years.  Now I am asking you what is so special about speaking a language you’ve been exposed to for many years!  And that wasn’t the only thing curious about them.

They were so full of themselves you would have thought that the earth would stop rotating on its axis if it wasn’t for them!

Peter was friendly with managers, but barely acknowledged the existence of an insignificant being like me!  Nevertheless, I warmly greeted him every day despite the mumbling I received for my efforts.

Victor was friendlier; he even used the odd Arabic expression to indicate that there was a measure of equality between us.  We had both come from the same place.

And yet I liked them for the simple reason that they amused me!  They added color to my daily life.

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