Friday, December 7, 2012

Four Generations

Not every day there is an opportunity to have four generations under one roof.
I was lucky in the last month to be surrounded by my son, some of my grandchildren and many of my great-grandchildren.
When one of my grandsons visited me, he wanted to go out into the yard with the little one and saw how neglected it is. Whereupon he organized, as a surprise for my upcoming 89th birthday, a whole bunch of them. On a Friday morning at 9.00 o'clock in the morning, some 20 people of all ages turned up, and hoed and collected all garbage that had accumulated since I could no longer cope with it by myself. They cleared up the yard that surrounds my flat and at lunchtime ordered Pizza. I joined them and together we consumed the Birthday cake.
A mere couple of weeks later, my grandson, who is a leader of a Hiking Youth Group, asked to tell them my life story as he has heard from me at previous occasions. They were ten of them and 15 years old. I agreed and we fixed a date.
I then got a request by my 13 year old great-grandson from Beer Sheva if he could join.  After a couple of days he asked if could bring a friend along. I agreed. In the end fife of them made arrangement to come to Jerusalem by bus to Jerusalem, my son would pick them up at the bus station. So I had a houseful of different ages.
To begin with I tried to explain the relationship between a great-grandmother and her great-grandson. For him and his mates it really was part of their school assignment, to find out about their family roots.
Before we started a boy with an I Pad took a picture of four generations, me, my son Danny, my grandson Matan and my great-grandson Nadav.
With the power point projection I shared with the whole bunch of children my story, and often told them when I was your age, that is what happened to me.
They all listened with great attention. They returned home and were glad to have had the opportunity to be with me, to hear my story.
For me it made the day and I am pleased, that the present generation takes an interest in what happened a long time ago.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Encounter with the Other

In preparation to meet with an Inter-faith group
 from the USA I prepared the following
 which I would like to share with you. 

When did I first encounter the other?
At home, where I was born, in Glogau in Silesia.  In school I was the only Jewish girl in my class in a Catholic school.
In Germany we did not live in Ghettos. Lutherans Catholic and Jews lived in the same neighborhood, door to door, had their shops in the same vicinity.
All told the Jews were only 0.8 % of the total population within Germany.

All this changed when the Nazis came to power. Total segregation followed.

With one of the Kinder-transports I came, aged 15, to England. There we were considered not only as refugee children, but as foreigner, when war broke out as Enemy Alien.  There we were allowed to work as an agricultural worker or domestic help in restricted arias, all within a strange surrounding.

My father perished in 1943 in Theresienstadt and my mother 1944 in Auschwitz.

May 1945 as soon as the war in Europe was over, I came to Palestine.
From the beginning I encountered the other, be it Jews from other countries or the local Arab population, who lived in nearby villages. I participated in the war of independence. Later I lived in mixed Arab and Jewish towns like Akko, Haifa and Jerusalem.

1960 studied to become a Tourist guide, which included intensive Inter-religious Studies, with Prof. Flusser and others. That is when I joined the IIA Israel Interfaith Association, which was founded many years earlier, and was led at the time by Dr. Falk and Michael Krupp.

My children joined the Scouts and eventually I became a Scout master and founded and led a group in one of our developing cities. Summer camps were a joint Jewish and Arab adventure. 1971 we also invited German scouts to join us for an international and inter-faith Scout Jamboree.

 In the 70' and 80' I studied Sociology and Education at the Haifa University which was opened especially in the north of the country, to facilitate Arabs to study near home.

1988 was invited for a lecture tour in Germany and spoke in schools, Universities and communities in many different towns, and did this annually for 20 Years. My hosts were mainly Pastors or teachers of religion.
1989 presented a paper "Who will be the voice in the Future" at the Scholars conference in the USA.

1995 when I was widowed, moved to Jerusalem and carried on with Inter-faith work.

Lea Green from the States gave a workshop "Compassionate Listening" in Jerusalem for Israelis and Palestinians. The second one took place in Bethlehem. The third one had to be divided because of the Intifada, but we did meet in Tantur for a one day session, I participated at all of them and kept in touch with Lea. On my initiating, she also held similar workshops in Germany.

With the Israeli Interfaith Association we visited Chan- Junis and Nablus and met in Jerusalem. Michael Krupp still publishes the three- Faith- Calendar each year.

Soon after that the Interfaith Encounter was founded by Dr. Jehuda Stolov. Many different groups were started all over the country.

December 2001 we started a women's group, led by Elana Rozenman. We had regular monthly meetings, in spite of the Intifada and an occasional joined outing to meet other groups.
When my grandson in 2002 fell during the fighting in J`enin, women from all Faith visited me.

2003 Father Shoufani from Nazareth together with a Muslim Journalist Nasir Ma'dali and a Jewish woman decided to pay a joined Inter-faith visit to Auschwitz. We had several preparatory meeting beforehand including a visit to Yad Vashem.
The visit was an outstanding experience for all of the 250 participants. There is a DVD available about this trip.

 Elana founded "Trust" which I co-founded with her. It is run in a similar way, trying to help people to overcome prejudices and to trust each other.  A few months ago we had a 10 year anniversary.
I belong to several other groups, meeting of Jews, Christian's incl. Armenians and Muslim, where we introduce and study different aspects of each other's Faith.

To "Encounter with the Other", you have to get up and do so. You have to be willing to explain yourself, without trying to convince the "Other" that your way is the only right way.
By encountering the other face to face, on an equal level can you get to know each other.

         As an old saying goes,"Many Roads led to Rome". 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The summer is over

The summer is over and so are our Jewish autumn feasts. Between one and the other I managed, like so many other old women, to fall and break the hip bone. It needed to be operated on and was for 10 days in hospital. With the greatest of devotion my son Danny looked after me. Not only in hospital feeding me and seeing to all my needs. He also prepared the house for the new situation. Working his way through the bureaucracy and using the internet to find out step after step, which office does what and when. When he took me out of hospital everything was ready, including a wheelchair and a daily help. That made the recovery much easier and better. I still have to learn how to walk but I am on the way. Already a couple of groups came to my house to listen to The Story of a Jewish family - my family.
Slowly I am getting back to mo my old routine, but slightly more restricted. Quite a few people missed me and I have had many visitors. I have to get used to a slower pace. But to be honest I am still fighting to keep as much of my in-dependency as is possible. Sometimes in small portions, such trying to get dress at least the upper part, or being part of the decision making process, or what and when I would like to eat. 
Even so I am restricted in my leg movements, I can still use my brain. It is so easy to fall into the trap of being served. But then comes the question "Who am I?" And as long as I can, I hope to be able to conduct my life as best as I can and remain a useful person within my locality, help others where I can and accept help when and where needed. All this is part of growing old. This my present motto. I hope I can live up to it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I feel blessed

Having contact with the following generations, gives me the feeling of continuity and belonging. The inter-generation relationship is not self understood. It needs to be developed and worked at. Recently I participated at an inter-generation drama workshop.
We were eight holocaust survivors and eight young people doing their alternative army service. The two groups were strangers to each other. We had to get to know each other, by talking with each other. Half way through the season, the drama counselor announced that we will give four performances at the local community center. The counselor had written the script according to what we had learned one from the other during our weekly sessions. In the end the performance was in pairs or mixed groups showing the inter-generation relationship. My part was about sharing my computer skill and dancing with my partner and my stroller. The performance was enjoyed by the audience as well as by the actors.

Last week I was lucky to be part of a spontaneous birthday celebration of the grandfather with a family who usually invite me for the Shabbat meal. The grandchildren dressed up and mimicked their grandfather's behavior towards them on his birthday. There was a lot of humor, laughter.  Plain enjoyment was had by all.

This week, the extended family gathered at Chavat Eyal, the animal farm in Kibbutz Ramat Rachel for the fourth birthday of one of my many great-grandchildren. My granddaughter had roped in aunts and uncles as well as the child's grandparents (my daughter and son in law) in order to perform for the children the story from a children's book about the arrival of a new edition to the family. They were all dressed up as animals and came to inspect that funny new creature, until the birthday child dressed up as a lion explained to them that that was his new brother. It was a gorgeous and funny performance. There was more laughter than acting.
It is always a treat for me to be with the ever growing extended four generation family that I am blessed with.
My son Danny makes sure to take me wherever I would like to be. He just packs my stroller into his jeep and heaves me in. Without him I would miss out on a lot of fun.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Springtime is coming to a close.

Springtime is coming to a close and summer is pushing in. It was an intensive period for me. Starting with Tu Beshwat - the New Year of the trees, I was asking where the family will meet for Pesach. Purim came along and was soon followed by every body's spring cleaning efforts, sometimes cleaning their own while dirtying the neighbor's windows from below.
In honor of my great-grandsons Barmizva, my grandson, a doctor living in Beer- Sheva, was trekking of several days all the way to Jerusalem. Somewhere on the halfway trek he was met by some more of my grandchildren with their children. My son took me along to meet up with them. It was a gorgeous day in the mountains of Judea, 4 generations being together. The love for our country gets into everybody's heart through their feet.
For Erev Seder Pesach the close family got together and Danny as always, took me along. For lunch the next I joined with the Zuckerman family with loads of children mingling around and a very festive religious atmosphere where everybody joined in the conversation about the exodus of the children of Israel from the slavery in Egypt.

Within a few days Yom Hashoa followed. Tuesday morning I got a phone call from the neighborhood Television station if I was prepared for them to come and interview me. They came along almost immediately and with cameramen and all. That was  for two whole hours. They wanted to know everything. That same day, the eve of Yom Hashoa I appeared on television for all of 4 minutes. 
Throughout the year I was involved in researching together with Dr. Judith Reifen the founding of Youth Aliyah by Recha Freier. 1932 a group of Jewish youngsters turned to her to help them find work for them. Nobody wanted to employ them because they were Jewish. 80 years ago Recha had a dream, a vision, if it was only possible to send these and other youngsters to Palestine to work half day in a Kibbutz and study the other half day. Due to her unrelenting efforts Youth Aliyah was established and several thousand of youngster's life could be saved.
At this year's ceremony in the Judean hills by the Fire Scroll, arranged annually by Bnai Brith and KKL-the Jewish National Fund, Recha Freier and Josef Indig, then a young youth leader in Yugoslavian, were honored. Their descendents were presented with the "Jewish Rescuers Citation" on behave of Bnai Brith and the committee to recognize the Heroism of Jews who rescued Fellow Jews before and during the Shoa.
Prior to the start of the ceremony I gave a talk to a bunch of soldiers from the Border Police. At the ceremony were several speakers and I was one of them. I represented the thousands who were thus saved.
Danny took me home for a short break and a Police car picked me up the give a talk at their Traffic Police Headquarters somewhere in the Judean Dessert.
The following week was Memorial Day for our fallen soldiers followed by Independence Day. The Border Police has for some years been looking after several Shoa survivors and invites us to their ceremonies. This time I was given the honor to light up the memorial torch as a survivor and in memory of my grandson Eyal Yoel who fell ten years ago during the battle in Jenin.
The following day, Independence Day I stayed home and watched on Television, other people enjoy themselves. I saw the Youth Bible Contest, the giving out of the annual Israel Price for outstanding efforts in different fields and some more.  That was much easier for me.
Now I am back to my weekly routine, or almost. For everyday something new crops up. I have to keep checking my calendar to make sure I don't forget what it is that I had planned to do and if there is time to fit something unexpected in.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Past und Future.

How fortunate I am, that I have a past as well as a future, ancestors and descendents.

I have long family tree to look back upon, and three generation that come after me. The past helps to shape the present and the present shapes the future. I know where I come from and can see where the generations that follow me are going too. That gives me a feeling of permanence, of belonging and of continuation. It is a "people" that I feel I belong too. That same "people" has a way of continuing long after the single individual has gone. As an individual I live but a limited time – from birth till death, but the people that I belong to, have lived long before me and will continue to live long after I am gone.

Throughout life I weave into one group or another, contributing from myself as best as I can. It may be from my accumulated knowledge, or it may be from my thoughts and inspiration, as they say in German "Weltanschauung". My doing leaves an in-print in others, the same way that others leave an in-print in me. The world is made for us to live in. Only in a mutual give and take can we exist.

The body time of the individual is limited, but his spirit lives on.

What you make of life is up to you. You have to give it substance and meaning. Giving purpose to your life is up to you. What has happened, has happened, how you cope under different circumstances is up to you.

Feeling is not really remembered, but your interpretation of them is what you remember. You may have had traumatic experiences. How you handle it, how you interpret it or how you shape your life after that experience that is entirely up to you.

Your own wellbeing is only as good as you make it under different circumstances, often difficult ones. Life goes on.

As one of my ancestors said, "The wind and the waves are there, but the steering wheel that will take you to a save harbor, is in your hands".

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It is about time to say something.

The year 2011 has come to an end. So what? What has changed? Well, I am a year older. But what does that mean to me? Just that I carry on as best as I can under the changing circumstances. I am slower these days and still think that I can do as much as before, which of course is not possible, in spite of the fact that I do have help with my household scores, shopping and taking me out on my daily walk. My son Danny assists me wherever and whenever he can.

I still participate wherever I can, especially if it is nearby and I can get there without having to bother somebody to take me along. Within the last few months I had an exhibition of some of my paintings, took part in a small show of an inter-generational drama group, still write articles about growing old and was the moderator for a book presentation. Andrea von Treuenfeld collected interviews from 16 women who told her their tale, my story is also included. The title of the book: "In Deutschland eine Juedin, eine Jeckete in Israel."

At a special occasion of the tenth anniversary of inter-religious women encounters I was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for my dedicated service in this field.

Chanukah some youngsters from the religious Scouts come to my house to light the candles with me and another night I spend with my grandchildren and 13 of my great-grandchildren, number 14 is on the way.

I wish all my readers that their wishes for the coming year 2012 should be fulfilled. I hope to see some of you when you visit Israel this coming year and hear from others.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It is always good to have good friends

My grandson Matan, the eldest son of my son Danny is going to be married. Apart from the close family, the invited guests were mainly ex-soldier friends and fellow students of the couple.

The bride's family, live in the far north of the country. Near there is where the wedding is going to take place.

Not a catered affair but it was to be an all night joyful get together of young people under the stars. The brothers and friends and their uncle prepared the grounds days beforehand, brought straw mats, mattresses, pillows and low tables for the wedding feast. Lighting and all the necessary trimmings were being taken care of by them.

My son, his wife and her mother and sister who arrived specially for this joyous occasion from the States will spend the night after the wedding in a hotel nearby, in Miilia, a Christian Arab Village.

What about me? I need my bed and my bathroom for my personal comfort. We cast around for somebody to accompany me, drive me there and back to Jerusalem, most of those asked being engaged otherwise.

While mentioning my needs to a couple of friends from Austria, a schoolteacher and a school director, who come every year to Jerusalem to volunteer for a couple of weeks in old age homes, they immediately volunteered to do this service for me. They had a rented car and had never been to an Israeli wedding and were free on that day.

Danny printed out the exact route for them. He suggested we leave at 13.00 o'clock to hopefully avoid the traffic jams.

My friends, while driving through the lower and western Galilee, were astonished at the beautiful countryside that so far they had never seen. We stopped at the hotel in Maiilia for a drink under an Olive tree and a change of clothes. From there, with the rest of the family we drove through the village and via an unpaved dirt road the prepared wedding site.

An unusual beautiful view awaited us, to the north the mountains of Lebanon and to the west a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. With that as a backdrop at around 19.00 hours the traditional "Chupa" (Baldachin) ceremony, conducted by the local Rabbi took place. The other grandmother and I, (holding on to Danny's hand) were privileged to stand with the parents under the Chupa. Everything was beautiful orchestrated. After the ceremony the young people danced, dined and wined and a good time was had by all.

For me it was a real pleasure, see all my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren participating at this special occasion and introduce them to my friends, who kept taking photos and taking it all in as a very unusual and special treat for them.

The all night feast was at its heights, but for us it was getting late. We quietly said good bye and in the dark night carefully navigated our way home, arriving well after midnight in Jerusalem.

How good it is to have good friends.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting rid of extra baggage

Growing old can become pretty complicated when illness strikes. While recuperating I had to find ways to ease life. My desk and shelves were so cluttered that I could hardly find what I was looking for. Being practically homebound and having help coming in, I used the opportunity to clear up, clear out and throw out, tons of paper and extra baggage.

I had kept handouts from seminars and workshops or international conferences that I had given or attended, there was much background material that I had collected for writing articles or preparing my presentations. Over the last few years I had just made piles of it, left it on my desk, as the shelves were overflowing with files.

My help pulled out pile after pile, I sorted it out and threw away most of it, print outs, old magazines, and what else had accumulated.

When this was done I did the same with my paintings. For the last twenty year I had painted once a week. My walls are adorned by my paintings, others that had been framed to hang in exhibitions, while most of them were just accumulating in a box under the bed. I found an art student (future) who took a great many of them for reuse, as well as half empty tubes of paint, charcoal, and what else I no longer needed.

Slides? Who takes slides today? When many years ago I traveled with a backpack to Asia, Africa or to America and Europe, on my return I gave slid shows in clubs and old age homes as well as to travelers to be. Hundreds of them were standing around neatly stacked and marked, together with the projector and nobody needs or wants them. Out they go. Once upon a time I also had my own darkroom and enlarging apparatus. That too had to go.

Slowly I have more breathing space, but still much more to sort out give away or throw out.

As I shrink with old age, my world shrinks, but my memories, at least the long term memory is still intact. Looking back I enjoy having lived an interesting life.

Sorting out and throwing out what no longer is relevant, is part of the survival tactics. The less baggage you have, the easier it is to survive in old age.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 2011 Life moves on and on

Much has changed since my last writing. I had serious health-problems. After several tests I had to undergo a major operation. Danny my son was wonderful, carted me around to all the tests, was with me before and after my operation, spoke with the doctors and did all the bureaucracy that was necessary, and there was a lot of it. I could not wish for a better caretaker. He encourages me to move on, takes me out, he is available whenever I need him, during the day or during the night.

All this was ten weeks ago.

At the beginning I was so weak that I thought that is the end of it. Luckily a volunteer from Germany, who happened to be a medical trained home-caretaker, came in every morning to get me up, help me to shower and dress my wounds. Slowly I got back onto my feet. I am still weaker than before and have to take things easy.

By now I am back to a number of my previous activities.

My daily routine has change completely. It takes me much more time to get ready in the morning, I need a lot of help with my household scores, but most important I have to get out of the house and take a walk as often as I can, sometimes twice a day and at all weathers. By using a three-wheeler walker I have reached a certain amount of independence. I have several helpers, they are students, their time being limited because of their studies, and I need more than one. So I have to jungle, as to who does what and when. But rather to answer their question "and how are you today", I prefer to asked them what was your lecture about or when is your next exam and in what subject. That way I can participate in their life which is much more interesting than my health problems.

Although I am not moving out of my own flat, but over the last 15 years much un-needed stuff of all sorts has accumulated. Trying to sort that out and to get rid of some of it at least, is no easy task, but easy or not absolutely necessary.

Hundreds of my paintings that have been on exhibitions, but mean more to me than to any stranger, nobody wants or needs them today.

I used to travel around the world taking slides and later showed them in clubs. There are hundreds of them including the projector, all that is obsolete now, and no longer in use by anybody.

Years ago I had my own darkroom, developed and enlarged black and white photos. Who needs this equipment? It is difficult to get rid of all that junk, and junk it is in the eyes of the present generation today?

Although I have parted with many books, they seem to accumulate all be themselves. They need more and more shelf space. Since I still write articles and participate in various activities I need books as reverences. I love my books, but ! ! ! I need more space.

Somehow everything takes time and more time than I can find within the 24 hour that seem to run all by themselves, and time runs faster than I can walk.

There is always something to look forwards to, like my twelve great-grandchildren will soon have an addition or a great clan get-together pick-nick and in a month time the wedding of my grandson, the son of Danny. Life moved on and on.