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 – Italy – CXCIII. Our Daily Life (2 of 19)


Shortly after coming back from Milano, I had to travel to Livorno to complete some formalities; and this paper-work concerned me only. Why did the Livorno bureaucracy needed me? Why only me, and no other Ezris? Why couldn’t it be done at a distance, rather than having to travel all the way there? I no longer remember; I believe that even back then, there were no rational answers to these questions!

But no matter, I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit the city of origin of the Ezri family.

Before describing my visit, I will briefly talk about this fabled (for the Ezris!) city.

Sadly, Livorno suffered severe damage during WWII. This, however, was not evident during my brief sojourn there. The men and women had rebuilt their city along with their lives in the years following the war. And there was pride over their accomplishments, a pride that permeated the very air they breathed.

The bombs that rained over Livorno, destroyed practically all of its records. You could go at any time, and claim anything that benefited you. Examples: “I was never married to this woman, and, therefore, owes her no alimony!” “My taxes were all paid out!” But it is in Egypt that this situation was exploited to the nth degree.

I already told you that there were many apatrides (stateless) Egyptians. Some went to request a passport from, say, the Greek embassy; they claimed that they had a Greek ancestry, and they proffered documents of doubtless authenticity; or they brought their Greek “aunt” (probably a Greek neighbor). It rarely worked, even if the bribe was substantial.

But with Italy, many claimed that they were of Italian origin, and that their family was originally from Livorno! If you applied enough grease to the bureaucratic machinery, and if there were any loopholes available to the officials, they would write back to Italy stating that so and so was in effect Italian. The proof? Alas, since he originated from Livorno, the official documentation had gone up in smoke! Given enough time, this person may become the proud owner of an Italian passport!

Is it any wonder then that for a long time an Italian from Livorno was regarded with suspicion?

Livorno is a commercial and industrial center. As well, it is one of the most important ports of Italy. Its tourist revenue is derived from the thousands of cruise-ship passengers who disembark there, and are transported by fleets of buses to many destinations; for example, Rome and Florence. Livorno itself, is not the focus of these visits, and it is a pity for it has so much to offer to tourists.

Livorno has been twinned with Bat Yam, a city where I lived for 7 years.

Jews have lived in Livorno for some 500 years. And for some time, it (Livorno’s Jewry) was one of the most prominent in Italy because of the wealth, education, and political rights of the community.

When I arrived in Livorno, the sun welcomed me and stayed with me during my whole visit. The weather was mild during the day and cold at night.

I was supposed to stay there for two days but, you guessed it, my visit was longer. And the two days stretched into five. Mind you, it would have been even longer had my father not ordered me to come back to Genoa. My argument that I was there for “good” reasons held no water. In truth, the official business that brought me into this city was over after two days. The rest was supposedly a chance to reconnect with my past history! Really, it was a vacation. But no matter, my stay there proved unforgettable. I still cherish it to the present day.

The HIAS had rented a large hotel in Livorno for the many refugees that were waiting to immigrate to other destinations. One of those people was the daughter of uncle Daniel, Beba. I knew Beba well, for she lived, with her son Maurice in her father’s home. Therefore, during my summer vacations, I spent months with Beba and Maurice (who was a child at the time).

Beba managed to get me free room and board at that hotel; I even a got a daily allowance for transportation and incidentals! By why would the HIAS agree to foot my bill? I didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. Indeed, I lived in Genoa, and my reason for being in Livorno was totally unrelated to immigration. I don’t know how it happened, but let me take a blind guess anyway.

First of all, while Beba is not shy, I am sure she marshalled some help from other Egyptians. They approached the HIAS, and described the “difficult” circumstances that forced me to be in Livorno for a few days. The HIAS, no doubt, is run by people who can differentiate between fact and fiction! That said, there is a need to be practical, and at times look the other way. They no doubt learned early in the game that arguing with Egyptians is akin to filling a bucket with a hole at the bottom! It’s an endless task. Egyptians are long-winded and their arguments can consume a lot of their (the HIAS) precious time.

There must have been a “confidentiality” aspect to the whole transaction, for neither Beba nor the other Egyptians who presented my case said anything; they only responded with broad smiles and winks.

As for the HIAS, the lady that paid me the allowance “due” at the end of my stay asked if I needed anything else; discussed our family future intentions; and wished me good luck. The conversation was conducted in a mix of Italian, French, English, and sign language!

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