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 – CCXXXI. The Ma’abarot Stage (7 of 26)

Uncle Maurice

As already mentioned, Maurice, because of family problems, at 16, embarked with friends on a sail boat, went to Palestine, and settled there. This happened at the end of the 1920s, thus, when we arrived, he had been in the country for some 30 years; and hadn`t seen his family for decades.

It is difficult to overstate his joy and the range of emotions the siblings went through.  Since uncle Joseph and aunt Angéle had also come to Israel, the surviving members of the family (nonna Hélène passed away in 1956 and nonno Zaki in 1946) were for the first time in so many years finally reunited.

You rely on many sources to piece a story together. What were the early years like for Maurice?  We got enough details in Egypt to know that his life was difficult and that he worked very hard.  Despite all that, Maurice never wanted to come back to Egypt.  No doubt it was a matter of pride, coming back would be admitting defeat.  But this wasn’t the only reason.  He told us that he felt there wasn’t much of a future for him in Egypt.  That he was happy living among Jews.  Finally, that he had married, had a good job, and was well supported by his in-laws.  The part that was missed and that I heard many years later was the romantic angle.

In 1996 I revisited Israel for the second time.  By then uncle Maurice had passed away at the young age of 65.  I went to visit his widow, aunt Souma (her real Hebrew name is Sima, but we always referred to her by her nickname of Souma).  On that day, we spend hours talking and reminiscing about our early days in Israel. Eventually, I asked her how Maurice and she met.  The tale of that romance completes the story of the life of Maurice before we came to Israel.  I can now go back and start at the beginning.

Finding work was never a problem; demand for eager workers far exceeded supply.  At the beginning, Maurice did some casual work.  Eventually, he got lucky; he secured a position with Eged.  Eged was and still is the biggest bus company in Israel.  It is the “Greyhound” of Israel.  The difference with Greyhound is that it is both an intercity and intracity (in some cities) bus company.

So what was his work there?  He was in charge of receiving and expediting, across the country, parcels entrusted to Eged.  This was not a cushy office job; heavy lifting was often involved; and at all times he had to keep his wits about to make sure the parcels went where they were meant to go.  Clients raised Cain if an error happened; inevitably, there were foul-ups, and Maurice often found himself in the eye of the storm.

Regarding accommodations, Maurice got room and board with an Egyptian family who had been in Palestine for many years.  They spoke a lively Egyptian Arabic; and cooked all the Egyptians dishes he loved.  Their molokhea based on a bone soup was apparently sublime.  But Maurice`s interest soon turned to other matters.

This family had a daughter named Sima, but invariably she was called by her nickname of Souma.  She could not have been older than 14 when Maurice joined the family as a boarder.  Maurice could not have missed the fact that she was a comely young girl with an enchanting personality.  She was also as clever as they come, and clearly expressed her mind in two languages:  Hebrew (she was a sabra born and bred in Palestine) and Arabic (which she acquired from her parents who freely moved between the two languages).  And, as if all that wasn’t enough, she could keep house and cook most of the complex Egyptian dishes.  If you were in Maurice’s shoes, what would you have done?  He approached her parents; of course, such a development did not catch them by surprise, and they gave their blessings.  Souma who had a crush on my uncle readily consented.  The only thing left to do was to wait until she reached the legal age of 16.

And so at the tender age of 16, Souma married.  Four children (2 boys and 2 girls) followed in quick succession:  Itzhak (Isaac), Shlomo (Solomon), Lea, and Levana.  Souma would later say that at a tender age she found herself feeding and changing diapers non-stop!  She would have gone berserk was it not that her parents and siblings were there to help at all times.

It is with tears in her eyes that aunt Souma related to me these past events.  By then uncle Maurice had passed away.  Lea had died of cancer at a young age.  Her grandson (Lea’s son) had just divorced and was sharing custody of his little boy with his ex-wife.  He told me how difficult life had become under these trying circumstances.  Finally, Itzhak had emigrated to the U.S.; and his mother rarely saw him.

How Souma concluded her story should be a wake-up call to all of us.  What she said was that she once wanted money; now she had more money than she knew what to do with, but no longer had peace of mind.

Comments are closed.