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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 – Israel – CCXLVII. The Ma’abarot Stage (23 of 26)

What was the composition of the ma’abara?  What follows are some examples only.  I could not possibly describe all the captivating characters that shared the ma’abara with us.

The majority were Polish; therefore, I am starting with them.

Jews had lived in Poland for centuries; statutory religious tolerance allowed them to enjoy a life free of persecution.  WWII put an end to that when Nazi Germany occupied Poland. The holocaust that ensued took the life of 90% of Polish Jews, or about 3 million.  The communist regime that followed was hostile to all religions.  Finally, Poland in 1946-47 allowed free Jewish immigration to Israel.  Not surprisingly therefore, many came to Israel; we resented their presence and the fact that they received preferential treatment from the authorities (at least that is how we perceived it).

The Polish Jews that shared our life in Bat Yam had been in a hell we could not begin to understand.  They envied us for not going through the same ordeal.  This translated itself in asking us many questions about our personal lives, but not volunteering much about their own lives.

Today I can finally see the light.  They wanted to know what it is to live under normal conditions and, accordingly, peppered us with questions.  They could not reciprocate for the suffering they had gone through cannot be put into words.  Is there a language that can describe how it is to live under the shadow of death for many years?

I do not want to leave the reader with the impression that there was open hostility, such was not the case.  Ultimately, we were all on the same boat and relations were amicable.

   * * *

There were some Egyptian families, and, of course, we befriended them.  Not far from our unit was a young couple with two young children. I no longer remember their name except that the name of that lady was Farfoura.  On warm summer nights we sat outside and talked.  The husband (I’ll call him Benny) had started working in a bank when the Suez Canal Crisis erupted.  Unlike other Egyptians, he did not tell us that he had held a managerial position, he had potential, but when he left, he was doing clerical work.  Finally, we had met an unassuming Egyptian!  Farfoura had other family in the Ma’abara; thus, whenever possible we all got together and reminisced about the good old days.  Needless to say, Turkish coffee, konafah, and baklawah made the rounds.

Very quickly, Benny secured a position in a bank.  He was lucky for he had managed to secure a permanent post.  The drawback was that he worked the second shift, from 4:00 PM to Midnight.  In effect, he audited the work completed during the day.  Quickly, the bank realized that they could make better use of this capable employee, and he got a day job.  As for the auditing position, he recommended another Egyptian who was single and didn’t mind working evenings.

Then there was that old Egyptian couple who only spoke Arabic.  They made it clear that they were never going to learn Hebrew; they were too old to learn a new language; Arabic was more than enough, thank you very much!  They conducted their daily life as if they were still in Egypt.  They had children who were established in Israel and were therefore in a position to help them.  They often joined us whether we invited them or not!  Normally, we wouldn’t have minded them except that they were a bit on the vulgar side.

How they managed to get in Ma’abarat Bat Yam, I do not know.  I suspect, their children must have pulled some strings.

They gained our sympathy when the husband became sick.  Whenever possible we went with them to Kuppat Holim to translate.  We got a chance to meet their daughter when her dad became quite ill and was hospitalized.  The doctors were very concerned; but he managed to pull through.  “It was not my time,” he told us when he came back home.

* * *

These two had come from what was then Yugoslavia.  The father was blind; his son had lost his two legs during the war, and walked on two wooden legs using two canes.  There was nobody else in this family; all had been killed during the war.  Yet, they managed to be cheerful!  They received social assistance from the Soukhnout; and the son was learning a trade so that he could eventually support himself.

They often came to dad’s store and Nessim befriended them.  They always paid cash (no credit) and did not seem to lack for money.  What was their secret?

Periodically, the son took his father on the bus, and brought him back at the end of the day.  Did the old man have a job?

My father found out the nature of that man’s occupation.  He was a panhandler!  His son took him to his usual spot in the Carmel market, and brought him back at the end of the day.  So how remunerative that was?  Very!  He was blind, he had a good spot, and people were therefore generous towards him.

When dad asked him about his day, he would reply that “business” was good, or less so.  Friday, before Shabbat, business was invariably good; people tended to be more generous before that holy day.  What I remember is how casual that man was about his “occupation.”

He didn’t “work” every day.  Three or four days were sufficient to generate enough income to live on!

These therefore were some of the people I shared my life with during that unusual period of my life.  And what a fascinating time that was.

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