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 – CXCVII. Our Daily Life (6 of 19)

Within walking distance from la Veloce, was a hotel called “Il Torinesi.” It had many rooms, and it had been taken over by the HIAS for the benefit of the Egyptian refugees.

How can one describe Le Torinesi (as it was affectionately called by its Egyptian guests)? Except at night, this hotel was like a madhouse! Long before you got there you could hear the din. The lounge was always filled with people who were talking, gesticulating, yelling, and above all laughing a lot.

The conversation was in a juicy Arabic, “Egyptian French,” Spanish, Greek, German, English, Italian, and Ladino. As previously mentioned, many Egyptians send their children to foreign schools. Thus, some Egyptian spoke the classical Italian, Italian as it should be spoken; leaving Italians, when they heard it, totally astounded. Some German tourists who lunched at La Veloce were told by us that some Egyptians speak a better German than the Germans! They didn’t seem to believe us; so, we send them to Le Torinesi where they met “Egyptian-speaking-Germans!” They made sure to come back to tell us that we were right! Of course we were right! Flora explained to me that this was their way of apologizing for disbelieving us in the first place, for Germans are very polite.

What did the owners and staff of the hotel thought of all that? We never did find out. They were very discreet, for they were making a fortune; they only told us how much they liked Egyptians. For being so nice towards them, Egyptians reciprocated by teaching them some Arabic; and some facetious souls taught them words that should not be uttered in polite company. Eventually, when these terms were explained to them, they countered that Italian has a gutter-like aspect just as rich as Arabic! And they returned the favor by teaching the teachers!

Many topics were discussed by these Egyptian refugees, but two stand out.

What did you do when you lived in Egypt? Now Egyptians are prone to exaggeration. You rarely heard of somebody that held a lowly position; most either held an executive position or had a successful business!

These grand declarations were usually received with skepticism by the audience. A known Italian proverb was often heard: “se non é vero é ben trovato!” [If it’s not true, it’s well found! The meaning here is that it (the exaggerated story) is a good one, even if it happened to be untrue].

But sometimes, that person didn’t get away with murder; another Egyptian that knew him would let the cat out of the bag. A fictional example follows.

Naggar: “Why are you saying that you were a manager in the ‘Fine Stationery Company?’ You were just a storekeeper there!”

Salim: “You’re talking of the far past. I advanced in the company; who knows how far I would have gone if it wasn’t for this sorry situation. And what about the business you owned, Naggar, you sold small tools, nails, and screws, and made a pittance!”

Both would then go looking for people who knew them, and who could support their claims.

It was all done in good humor, without rancor; for shortly thereafter the antagonists would be talking and laughing as if nothing happened. (There were exceptions, though, and in such cases other Egyptians stepped in and reestablished the peace).

But this was the past. What about the future? “Where are you going?” was a burning question. Long discussions would ensue about the merit of their respective destinations.

The lucky ones were going to places like Canada, Australia, and America. There was little to discuss here, except to tell them how lucky they were.

Many were going to South America; many countries there were willing to accept immigrants and their visa requirements were not as onerous as the aforementioned countries. There, Brazil stood out; it didn’t have the stability of, say, Australia, but some Egyptians who had gone there (before The Second Exodus) have done well. Argentina, was another promising country, except that it was reputed for its antisemitism. Uruguay was another country that was very interested in the Egyptian refugees. Why? I have no idea, but quite a few Egyptians were indeed going there.

In time, these people left, and were replaced by new ones. I believe this went on for a long while, during which Il Torinesi remained a haven for Egyptian Jews during their stay in Genoa.

No doubt there were other hotels in Genoa that served the same purpose. As well, that was true for other port cities; I have already described the hotel that catered to Egyptians in Livorno.

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