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 – CCXXX. The Ma’abarot Stage (6 of 26)

Having been allowed to take very little money when we left Egypt, we were downright destitute.  You may remember that the Jewish Community helped us in Italy; but here it was obviously not possible for this young state to provide financial help on top of providing us with free housing.  Although we had two main items of expenditures (food and transportation to and from Tel Aviv) we needed money and fast.  The solution was to find work, any work.  Dad was too old to do the hard work that was available to immigrants.  That left Robert and I.

Early in this memoirs I told you that a construction site foreman came knocking on our door looking for willing workers; I also described my father’s reaction; he raised Cain at the mere suggestion that, Robert, a 16-year-old, was going to work in construction.  Robert overrode all objections and went to work.  At any rate, all opposition died out a week later when he brought home an envelope stuffed with cash!  Let’s just say that that first money earned in Israel was a life saver.

What about me?  I intended to go to the Lishkat Ha’avoda (Employment Office)  as soon as possible.  But, I never got that chance.  The employers came looking for me!

First, I was informed that a potatoes farmer needed help.  And so it was that at 6:00 AM on a cold morning I found myself staring at an empty field; I was not alone, a few other workers were milling around.  Time went by, but there was no sign of the owner.  I no longer remember after all those years what exactly happened nor does it matter, for I didn’t remain unemployed for long.

There was a construction foreman (not the one that employed Robert) that was on my case.  He needed workers and felt that I could fit the bill.  I couldn’t convince him that I was not built for construction work.  He assured me that I would be employed as a po’al  pachout (a worker with no specialty) and the work would not be very hard; just hand tools and nails to other workers, convey messages, and other necessary basic work.

And so I yielded.  The work was indeed within my capabilities, and I would have made a go of it were it not for the fact that I was not fast enough.  The workers were waiting forever for the requested items, it was faster for them to go fetch what they needed themselves!  After lunch, the foreman, handed me my pay and said, “tilekh tikneh soukariot!”  (Go buy candies!).  We both had a good laugh; and I bid goodbye to my short career in the construction industry.

But not to worry.  My future would in the citrus fruits industry.  There were a lot of pardesim (citrus groves; singular: pardes) in our area.  This was the harvest season and there was great demand for workers to harvest the fruits.

I still had concerns as to whether I could do physical work.  Finally, a foreman was astute enough to mention to me that the work need not be very hard.  Every worker was expected to fill a quota to get his full pay; if I filled less than my quota, I would simply earn less money.  (Actually this was a non-starter in the eyes of the union; you had to fill a given quota, no more and no less; but everybody looked the other way to accommodate me!).

The first day on the job went quite well.  I filled almost a full quota, however, I finished hours after the other workers had filled their quota and gone home!

On the second day, while trying to harvest the oranges on the top branches, my ladder tipped and I fell to the ground.  I did not hurt myself, but I proclaimed right here and there that I would only harvest the lower branches.  The foreman agreed, but of, course, since I was harvesting the low hanging fruits, my quota would be increased accordingly.

Within days, the harvest of lemons started.  These trees were shorter than oranges and grapefruits and I asked to work on them.  The quota would be higher; also I would have to contend with another problem, sharp thorns.  Despite these drawbacks, I agreed.

One day, I discovered an unusual lemon tree; its fruits were sweet lemons.  Sweet lemons were common in Egypt; but in Israel they have never heard of them.  How that tree happened to be there, nobody knew.  The owner was not interested in the fruits, and, at my request, harvested the whole thing, put it in his truck, and delivered it at my home.  Dad was over the moon for he loved sweet lemons despite the fact that they have a bitter aftertaste.

Before long, I succeeded in completing my quota and earning a full pay.  Inevitably, however, I was the last (except for the owner and foreman) worker to leave the orchard!

A fringe benefit of the job was that you could eat as many fruits as you wanted.  It was not only all you could eat, it was also all you could carry.  I took home all the oranges, grapefruits, and lemons I could lug.  I made plenty of juice mixing the three together, the taste was simply divine.

While these were not easy times, they had a magic quality that cannot be put into words.

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