|I||Planning for Retirement||7|
|II||Retire or Fire||8|
|III||The Opportunities are Numerous||10|
|IV||Still more Prospects||17|
|V||Just to fill in the Time||18|
|VI||Zaka is not a fun Activity||40|
|VII||Enosh – Mental Rehabilitation Through Computing||50|
|VIII||Ghost Writing Biographies||53|
|IX||Not to Forget my own biography||56|
|X||Locating Missing (Dead) Persons||61|
|XI||Honoring the First 120 who gave their Lives to Establish Hadera||65|
|XII||Hadera’s First Settlers – One Large Family||67|
|XIII||Helping Serious University Students||68|
|XIV||Walking for the Sport of it||69|
|XV||Learning, Studying & Lecturing||72|
|XVI||Authoring & Publishing so why not Cooking?||73|
|XVII||On being a Census Taker||76|
|XVIII||As Age Advances we still take our Chances||78|
|XIX||My lucky Break||90|
|XX||Why do Oldsters Dwell on Trivial Details?||93|
|XXI||I Actually Fell Asleep before the Examination had Begun||95|
|XXII||The Oldsters Diet||104|
|XXIII||Making life Easy for Myself||109|
|XXIV||Dabbling in the Kitchen||110|
|XXV||Reflections on Long Life||111|
How I cope with liberation from the “Work Force”
By Shmuel Shimshoni
Spills, Drills, Thrills, Bills, Ills, Pills and Wills are the transitions
that man experiences throughout a normal lifetime.
As depicted by Richard J. Needham.
This narrative is mainly true but most of the names used in this account are fictitious in order to prevent discomfiture to those who I revere, respect and love. Though those involved may recognize themselves, this policy is being applied to prevent others who were not party to these events from identifying the actual participants. I fervently hope I succeeded in preventing undue embarrassment to those I hold in high esteem, but mostly through no fault of their own, were party to the events herein described.
Fear not but be vigilant.
If you’ve never experienced failure you missed a wonderful chance to improve. But if you never make an effort you’ll never succeed.
Each transition, as life progresses, is accompanied by personal trepidation. As one leaves the lifestyle that he finally got used to and even may feel comfortable with, comes along a new and different stage in his development. At this new junction he is once again a novice and must learn a complete set of new and more complex rules to adhere to.
Each stage is not necessarily of the same quality as the prior one was or the following one will be. With each promotion to the next stage he faces challenges that aid in his development. In order to proceed he must overcome obstacles that he will find in his way. His experiences will definitely vary, as will his supporters change, as he determines innovative tactics towards adapting to his newfound situation.
According to the theory of James Tackaberry McCay, with who I was personally involved in my distant past, but in my own words, with each promotion to a more advanced level the individual is gripped by a firm measure of “Fear”. This is not a fictitious fear, but a mental fear that is very real, due to the inner violence that seizes him. An outer violence, that might be real or may be imagined based upon the inputs to his real or imagined situation because he is no longer protected by what had been the security blanket that he left behind upon departure from his previously comfortable cocoon. He is now in a new and more threatening environment. The feedback that emanates from his new situation is mostly negative, causing him to feel dreadful because he is now on unfamiliar turf and feels threatened. Mr. McCay refers to this situation as an information overload that fosters fear, leading to an inner violence and compels him to generate a mental defense”.
He further describes individual development of an individual as a “Succession of rebirths”. At each new stage in development the individual finds himself in a state we can term, infancy. With the passing of time and his adaptation to the situation wherein he finds himself, his maturity proceeds towards the childhood level. From there, as he becomes more adept at adapting to a higher plane in this stage of development he reaches a period of adolescence, while preening himself towards achieving maturity.
However once dynamic maturity at a subsequent level is achieved one cannot remain stagnant. The velocity of his progress thrusts him to the next progressive level. For instance when he reaches the twenties of his lifetime he becomes involved in development towards a higher more stringent standard. Life is no longer a game. Whether he wishes to or not, if he is a normal human being this period in his lifetime obligates him to become productive in the work force as a prerequisite to his taking a wife, raising a family and facing the reality of responsibilities. If he doesn’t, he’s in serious trouble because he is, in reality beginning to learn new skills that were never part of his previous education. He now finds himself as an infant in a new stage in life. He must learn how to relate to the reality of living with a wife, who she herself is not yet adept at cohabiting with a man. At the same time he is obliged to provide for his wife’s needs in addition to his own. He has finally reached a new childhood stage. By the time he’s organized this part of his life and thinks that he is an experienced husband and is approaching the adolescent stage of this level he finds that his family is growing and he must further mature, because being a father and caring for a baby is definitely not child’s play.
After one has spent the best years of his life working, worrying, and striving to make ends meet, while trying to satisfy the growing need of a budding family, some kind of natural disaster may show up in the guise of a pain, limiting the bread-winner’s ability to put in as many hours of overtime that he used to do. This is when serious worries kick in and in addition to a reduced income he also must cover additional medical expenses. He is not only tormented by his reduced capacity to provide, but he also has grown children, who are constantly demanding more and more. As well, his wife also requires medical treatments as she ages. This is a new development in man’s life and he finds himself in the infancy stage of the next level. He has never experience such a situation and if he hasn’t preplanned for it by investing in health insurance he has a lot to learn about how to cope. He may be hospitalized, Heaven forbid, but the children are grown and must be married off. It’s far from the end of the world and a way will have to be found to overcome this unexpected situation. However the frustration that accompanies this childhood stage is one that requires nerves of steel and superhuman efforts. Eventually the adolescent stage is reached and some semblance of normalcy takes over within the household.
With the last of the children married and frequent visits of the grandchildren a new glow of maturity takes over.
The aging couple is still holding onto their waning health, but at the expense of doctor’s visits, examinations and swallowing bitter pills on a daily schedule.
At last, the age when one is forced to leave the work force approaches and retirement is imminent. This is when a dread clouds the mind of the man who has worked nearly every day of his adult life. Even if he thinks he has it all figured out he finds himself in a panic. What is he going to do with himself the day after he’s retired? Has he really been looking forward to this day? Did he prepare for the life as a retiree? Is he going to suddenly change his biological clock to “Sleep in”? Spend his waking hours “Sitting in the park”? “Bothering his wife by “Hanging around the kitchen”? Pass the time by “Dozing off before the television all day”?
All or even some of these thoughts can sometimes have a debilitating effect on the human mind, especially if no preparation or preplanning was considered.
It is pitiful to see some retirees who sit on benches beside the public thoroughfare staring out at the traffic, while waiting for some passerby to stop to talk with them, even though they really have little to talk about, because their main life experience has been spent on a monotonous production line in some factory.
Or is it going to do something more constructive, like “Taking a long awaited trip”? “Read a book” that has been waiting for him to find some free time for that pleasure? Or maybe “Volunteer at some worthwhile institution”? Join a “Golden-agers’ club”? Or maybe settle into becoming “occupied with a hobby”? Or even studying for a degree at a university? He might even write a journal of what it’s like to join the retirement club.
The transformation or some call it graduation from being a laborer, to becoming a retiree, is probably the most drastic step in development of the human being. That shock is most felt by the male of the species because the change at this junction for a woman is not as harsh as for a man. By leaving a daytime job she just has that much more time to run her household during daylight hours that she’s been doing all along during the evening and night time. Now she has more leisurely time to hone her skills to a finer level, resulting in perfecting the results of her relaxed efforts. They may be through a more thorough job of examining clothing that requires more meticulous mending, baking fancier cookies, more creative meals, and still allowing time for perusing hobbies that have been left on the back burner for ever so long.
She might probably return to playing with the doll house that gathered dust in the attic since she was six years of age. Don’t laugh, because I know a number of women, including my own dear wife, who have done just that. They even formed a club where they meet regularly and work at producing miniature furnishings and accessories with which to furnish their dollhouses.
This is also the time when she broadens her outside activities such as volunteering her time and abilities to help others. All this may be a determining factor in her outliving men.
At this juncture we should be getting back to the main subject, coping with liberation from the work force, retirement.
There are ever so many opportunities opened to those approaching retirement age. One must be aware of what is available and take advantage of those offers as they become available.
The number and scope of activities that are available to retirees is virtually unlimited. The activities should be suitable and depends upon ones personal interests, physical and mental health and attitude.
Some of the pathways that each activity may follow can be quite direct, while others will deviate from the straight and narrow as they progress. Some will merge with other paths, while others will abruptly cease to exist. Others may run parallel to a central trail and others might have its ups and downs. Some might begin on a high elevation gradually dropping when others may curve away from the center of the main action. We will find that some roadways begin in a smooth level, broad track and gradually narrow down to nearly nothing as it dips out of the total picture. Then there are some courses that might not be evident till somewhere in the future when they will bring us towards a special junction in life.
If you are adventurous in this part of your life you must be prepared for the unexpected. Just keep going and you’ll never know what greets you around the next bend.
However one must realize that numerous activities may be undertaken simultaneously. Well not really all at the same time, but we alternate between them. Some are ongoing for long periods of time while others are short-lived. But they continuously keep us occupied. The important thing about all these activities is that we do what we wish to when we want to, and nobody forces us to do anything, unless you are married and spend too much time around the house. But that’s another story altogether.
Planning for Retirement
I had a few ideas about what I would have liked to do after retirement, but was limited by the time spent at work to actually plan for a life of retirement.
My first wish was to join with a quorum for early morning daily prayers without having to rush out before the session officially ended, in order to get to work on time.
Next was the wish to eat daily meals with my dear wife, except for some evening meals during all those years that passed ever so slowly.
It was great to have the weekly Sabbaths and Festivals, when we were able to partake of our meals together, free of pressure, and not to a strict schedule.
One of my preparations towards retirement was to assemble a rudimentary press and simple sewing table to accommodate a hobby that I acquired, bookbinding. Binding books requires very little equipment and even less material.
Among other things I had wished to do, was to spend some quality time every day, studying with other retirees, and not late at night, when I would usually drowse off halfway through the session, succumbing to what I call sleptomania (surreptitiously stealing a little nap).
I had a few other thing lined up, such as writing a biography that began as far back in history as I was able to identify some of my ancestors. My grandfather’s grandmother’s grandfather had been born in the year 1759. Nothing much more than his father’s name, date of death and place of burial is known prior to that date. But that was a good beginning [so far] an eleven generation family tree to keep me occupied for a few years of intensive research. Of course a lot of the information was already available when my uncle D. put together a huge chart that took up the major part of a wall in his home before the personal computer became popular in private homes. Keeping abreast of the constantly budding new twigs from all the expanding branches is a never ending task. And so the family grows with added marriages and births. But the sad termination of family members must also be recorded in order to keep up-to-date.
On a personal level, having known my great-grandmother for about twenty-seven years, and presently enjoying the company of my great-grandchildren, I have the singularly special status as having the pleasure of living through seven generations.
Retire of Fire
One of the most bizarre experiences in life, when one is still young and robust, is to be offered a choice of “Retire early, or you may be fired”. That’s the way it went.
About five and a half years prior to my official retirement age I was called to the manpower office of the Military Industries, where I’d been employed. This was the first time I had been invited to this office since the day I began my job some ten years earlier. I had no idea what this sudden summons meant, but complied readily. It happened to be on a Thursday. Offering me a seat and without beating around the bush the director asked, “How would you like to go on early retirement”? Taken so much by surprise I stammered, “I’d like to think about it over the weekend”.
What was my most serious concern? Without me taking care of the ancient production equipment in the factory the whole department will probably fold! Doesn’t management realize that? Who can take my place without some indoctrination and instruction, how would the plant keep on running? Nobody knows the proven little tricks that I’ve developed, in order to keep the production norm, so far above the projected standards! These were the mental messages that flashed through my mind, while I contemplated whether to accept the proposal.
This was on a Thursday morning when I was told, “Take your time, but let me know by Sunday.” Over the weekend I found myself rationalizing, “One way or another the department is destined to fold. Why not now, rather than in another five and a half years”?
I’d made up my mind, even though I realized that I wasn’t really prepared for the drastic change it would mean to my family as well as to myself. My Sunday morning visit to the manpower office was short. To the director’s “Did you decide yet”? My reply was a well known quotation from Psalms (71:9), “Al tishichainy l’ait zikna” [Don’t cast me out, when I am old when my strength wanes, don’t forsake me”]. With that, I indicated that I agree to early retirement. I may as well depart while; at sixty I might yet still find suitable employment till actual retirement age”.
It still took a few months for bureaucracy to catch up with the decision but when it finally did I was emotionally better prepared for the change.
The first part of the company’s preparation for my retirement was arranging for a thorough physical examination, just as had been in preparation for my acceptance some eleven years earlier. I was not the only employee being retired at that time. They had a group of us pre-retirees attend a series of lectures wherein we were advised about how to readapt ourselves to a life of retirement. They still had to calculate what financial package we were each to receive upon release, including severance pay and a monthly pension till age sixty-five, when the pension fund would take over paying out of the fund that I’d invested in on a monthly basis. The Military industries would continue depositing funds into the National Insurance “old age” fund on my behalf. In all it was not a simple matter of, “Good bye”!
My retirement became factual on the eve of Pessach, the festival celebrating, “from servitude to freedom”; while not yet having fully reached the age of sixty. The terms including severance pay and a monthly pension were fair; as was the continued contribution by the company into my official pension funds. Their relationship towards me since then and still ongoing is pleasant, with annual gifts in honor of approaching festive seasons.
During the first couple of weeks of attempting to readjust myself a more leisurely life I had considered to indulge myself with any number of activities, when one morning following the early morning prayers I was approached by a board member of the local burial society who proposed, “We need you on our staff at the Hevra Kadisha”!
Meanwhile other opportunities were opening up for retirees or those approaching retirement age to prepare for that inevitable stage in life. A stage we all look foreword to, but with trepidation. What is one to do with his time? As soon as I became liberated from the work force I had a choice to make. I could study, volunteer or seek employment. With the “income tax free” pension income being far below the normal wage I received while being employed seeking a supplementary job seemed to be my best choice.
Beside which, no matter how much I would apply myself to being a perfect retiree, nobody ever earned “overtime” pay from that effort.
The Opportunities are Numerous
As I mentioned earlier, not all the opportunities came up at the same time, nor were they in conflict one with another. I found it possible to be active in several projects without disrupting my participation in others.
“ESHEL” is an organization whose concern for those who are either retired already or close to that transition in life is very real. They invest in projects that would give purpose to those of us who reach that milestone. Interesting opportunities were offered by the local “Association for the Elderly” in cooperation with ESHEL and the welfare department of our local City Hall.
One such program that I signed up for was a highly subsidized course of study to learn community television production. S., who had been with the welfare department of the city, a long time friend, suggested that I take advantage of a new course. Easily convinced I signed up and learned all about television program production. After filling in the application form I found myself facing S. and his assistant G. for an interview. Before I knew it, I was accepted, paid my highly subsidized fee, and begun attending four hour fortnightly evening sessions. I, who could hardly find the right station on a radio, was now operating a professional video camera.
During the intense course where we studied all the steps in TV production, including: story research, plotting, interviewing, script writing, planning filming sessions, staging, lighting, audio recording, logging, editing scripts, and the principals of editing video shots towards developing a finished product. At the beginning I didn’t feel comfortable handling the camera, and usually chose assistant roles. I finally earned a certificate of completion and a place in the team. The highly subsidized fee was reasonable. However there was a stipulation. We each agreed to produce television shows for a period of two years on a volunteer basis for the community television network. That course took place in 1995. I took advantage of that opportunity while still being employed full time.
The sessions were frequent enough, but not too burdensome and the subject matter very interesting. The study and practice sessions were held during the evening hours. We were introduced to an art medium that was entirely new to many of us. It covered all aspects of professional TV production and we produced short video clips that were incorporated into monthly half hour magazines that were actually broadcast to the public via cable TV. All the materials and equipment were supplied by the association. The city helped with finances and allowed us the use of space to use as our meeting hall and studio. Well into the course we formed teams, each with our own agenda, but cooperating towards producing the monthly magazines for many years. Even though I am no longer associated with it the program is still going strong and becoming more experienced professionally.
Some of us remained after termination of the agreed upon two years. Others left some time afterwards, while some of the original graduates from the first course are still actively producing TV shows. I left for other interests after some eight years, but more of that later.
Besides being very interesting, being involved with TV as an art/media subject was also challenging, when we had to piece together various shots into a complete audio-visual story having the pictures coincide with sound and background music. All within a time limit in order to make deadlines for scheduled showings.
In addition, it was an opportunity to meet interesting people who willingly revealed to us intriguing aspects of their private lives that ended up as compelling video shows.
After three and half years with over a dozen interesting short films produced our team took a challenge and from producing four minute shows we successfully went for a ”7 minute & 19 second” story about Dr. Hillel Yoffe, a real hero to the pioneers of Hadera. A hospital in Hadera bears his name. We located two of his grand-daughters who were most cooperative with us in its production. They were great interviewees and had much to tell about their grandfather.
Other items, concerned the local sewage treatment plant, the problem involved with those who dump garbage on the sand dunes of Hadera, and those who steal commercial quantities of sand from the beach. It was not little children who bring home tons of sand in their shoes, or even a plastic pail full. This thievery was accomplished with bulldozers and trucks.
The first time that I seriously handled the camera on my own, was when I was asked to film the transplanting of several carob trees scheduled to be uprooted from a construction site for transplanting at a different location. I made a lot of serious errors, but was able to save enough nice material to edit a delightful three and a half minute show. How did such an opportunity come my way? During one of our Thursday night meetings I was approached to be prepared with my equipment to film the uprooting and transplanting of some carob trees from a new construction site to a new park, “Tomorrow morning”! At this late hour it was hardly possible for me to gather the camera, a tripod and a fully charged battery. But I didn’t succeed in recruiting any other members of our team in that short time. The event was a one time occurrence, and was scheduled for early next morning. I showed up at the site on time, but had no idea what or how to preplan my project. Following a brief interview by the city hall representative of the local Nature Preserve Committee I followed my own audio senses to where a large bulldozer was clearing away some earth around a full grown carob tree. As soon as the tractor operator went on to the next tree, a trencher went to work, digging a deep narrow trench around the tree, basically cutting all the roots that had spread in all four direction from the main trunk’s root. The bulldozer then returned to cut out an incline on one side enabling it to grip the tree from the underside. After some good bit of expended energy had partially uprooted the tree a worker descended into the pit to saw through more of the stubborn roots. The tractor tried again, and with much effort the tree was lifted up on the dozer blade ready for transport to a new location where it was carefully transplanted into a pre-prepared pit with utmost care.
During the editing of my story I inserted a few shots of some goats from a herd that were, until then peacefully grazing among the trees, seeming to complain about the removal of their shade trees that seemed to add a bit of humor into my finished video story. Not bad for a beginner doing his first one-man-project.
Because of my background, I was encouraged to organize production of TV films on religious subjects. One outstanding show was about the dedication of a new Sefer Torah (Torah scroll), then another one about Sifrut Stam, those scribes who write Sifrai torah by hand using a feather to apply special ink onto parchment made from animal skins.
One show that I wanted to do very much to do, and finally did, was about the parchment manufacturing plant in Kibbutz Bet Rimon..
Two of us traveled to the kibbutz in the north where a facility had been established where parchment used by scribes who write Torahs, Tephilin Megilot and Mezuzot was being processed. The procedure involves washing and cleaning the hides of sheep and goats within huge washing machines. With each phase of the preparation one must declare that the end-product will be suitable for carrying out a commandment. In the next step each wet skin is stretch out on a frame where the residual fat is scraped off. After it has been thoroughly dried, removed from the stretching frame, then trimmed down, it is passed through a mechanical sander smoothing it down to a workable thickness. The parchment is then cut into the sizes required for their end-use; large rectangle shapes for writing Torahs and large Megilot; smaller rectangles for smaller Megilot; squares of various sizes for Mezuzot, and long narrow strips for writing Tephilin.
Those that require lines to be impressed on them are further processed till the end marketable product is ready for sale.
The video then went on to explain what materials are employed in making the special black ink used by scribes and the writing implements that can be thin reeds or feathers but not of metal.
I had to pad it out, with other information, so that it should not be a private advertising project. At first I wanted to work it around my good friend A. who had recently completed a course as a Sofer Stam. It began and with a Bar-Mitzvah boy at the Torah, and ended with my kissing a Mezuzah that I’d been asked to affix on the door stile to our TV studio.
When it came to record the workings of the Sofer himself, he suddenly relented, and asked that his face not be shown for personal reasons. So I had to film his work, from the wrist down. This had a great effect in deciding how to project the importance of the work and not the Sofer himself. That was not an unsurpassable problem. For every predicament there’s a solution. Just like in electricity, if there’s a minus, there’s got to be a plus. It was one of my favorite successes.
An interesting opportunity presented itself while I was intimately involved in closing up a show at the editing studio while passing by an open doorway I spied a young man who I hadn’t yet met before. Something made me stop to enter into a conversation with him about his project. He was working on a full length video of the Holy Temple, produced in the Hebrew language. During our short discussion I offered to help him with an English translation if and when he would consider it necessary to reach a wider audience. We exchanged phone numbers and I continued on my way towards the project that was being edited with material that I’d been involved with.
A couple of months passed before I received a call asking if my offer to translate the Holy temple show still stands. Within a couple of days I was supplied with a copy of the show and prompted to have titles translated into English as soon as possible. I felt honored to be working on such a worthwhile project and got right down to it. Eventually he succeeded in marketing his videos to a wide international audience.
At another opportunity three of us attended the ceremony where the scribe of a Torah scroll, that had been entirely written by hand, was about to complete writing the final paragraph. Each and every one of the 304.805 letters must be individually inscribed by hand; written, filled-in and embellished with tags where necessary, otherwise the torah is not ritually fit to be used for public reading. During this ceremony many participants wish to be party to the inscription of at least one letter, and many pay high stakes for the privilege. One of the six hundred and thirteen commandments enumerated in the Torah obliges each Jew to write a Torah scroll. By participating in the writing of a torah, even by inscribing only one of the letters, [tradition holds that there are 600,000 letters but that is only achieved by considering which letters are formed by a composition of basic letters]. Other commentators hold that the spaces between letters have special significance and may be considered to be letters as well. Every individual who has inscribed even one letter in the Torah has in essence performed the commandment of writing a Torah scroll. His participation is considered as if he actually wrote a Torah.
In preparation for this concluding step in completing the scroll the scribe outlines the letters of the final paragraph and those who pay for the privilege only have to take the inked feather in his hand and fill in a letter, usually one that matches the first letter of his name. This ceremony can take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, depending upon how the ceremony is conducted.
The moneys pledged are usually donated to the synagogue, either where the ceremony is being held or to the one where it is to be installed after a festive, musically accompanied parade, while traffic is rerouted by local police.
As the new Torah approaches its destination the other Torah Scrolls are removed from the synagogue and brought out to greet and welcome the newcomer, while still outside on the public thoroughfare, then all the Sefarim are brought into the synagogue together, the old and the new with singing and dancing. All this is followed by a sumptuous festive meal for all who attend. Words of wisdom are recited by the attending Rabbis as well, to round off a joyous occasion.
On another occasion we paid a visit to a health club where post-operative heart patients are put through a strength rebuilding regimen. This was on a “mans’ only day”. Here we filmed patients in various stages of vigorous rehabilitation. All was done under strict supervision of exercise trainers with a doctor in attendance. The gym is fully equipped with a full array of exercise machines that include a stationary treadmill for walking at adjustable speeds and for running exercises. Also included, are apparatus for stationary rowing, bicycling, muscle building and weight lifting. The program is individually adapted to the needs of each individual under strict supervision of the attendant doctor. And the workouts are not easy, as was evident by the sweat-soaked towels that were frequently passed over foreheads and bare shoulders of the participants in the program. The participants, interviews were enthusiastic about regaining their health to a level even greater than had been their “norm” prior to their heart-rending experience.
At one of our weekly meetings I was approached and told to prepare foe a filming session that was to be my project, but on the very next morning. What was the plan for the show? There was no plan. “Just get the equipment and make sure the batteries are charged”! The only information I could get was, “It’s a fashion show in Pardess Hanna. I’d never filmed a fashion show and, being a strict adherent to the principles of modesty, had no idea how to go about recording such a program. When we drove through town and turned in to the Geriatric Center I still didn’t get the message. It took a bit more time for me to realize that the models were going to be some of the Golden age female residents of the center.
The huge meeting hall was already quite crowded when we arrived and I had to wrangle my way into a strategic position from whence to film the show to best advantage.
As the program took place during the eight days of Hanukah, following the band’s opening number the master of ceremonies introduced the head of the local council who took his place before the large candelabra where he lit the prescribed number of candles to commemorate the great miracle of Hanukah that had taken place some 2600 years ago That was when a quantity of pure olive oil that would have sufficed for one day was found, that burned for eight days till a fresh supply oil could be obtained.
The M.C. then introduced members of the judges’ panel followed by a musical introduction to the main event. One at a time, each model was introduced as she appeared on the raised walk-way. She slowly made her way towards the judges’ table. Once there she would stop pivot, show her stuff, curtsy and return to the starting point. This went on for well over an hour, and I captured it all on video tape.
The judges conferred and decided upon a winner, based upon poise, bearing and showmanship. They also chose a second runner-up and a third prize recipient. During all this time the ecstatic throng showed appreciation with plenty of applaud, cat-calls and whistling, adding that many more decibels to those produced by the band.
The winner, an 80’s plus woman was interviewed by commercial television crews who were also in attendance and received national notoriety in the prime time national newscast that evening. For a story that had no story plan it turned out quite well.
I must have collaborated in production of dozens of shows. These were a sampling of the short videos that kept me interestingly occupied for a number of years, during which time I enjoyed learning and honing up on an interesting art media.
Still more Prospects
During the period of time when I was involved in producing TV shows another opportunity had come up. The local museum was organizing a course wherein one could learn to be a volunteer there and I was one of the fortunate, invited to join.
“Why not?” It sounded interesting and would only add to the possibilities of what to do during my upcoming retirement, that I thought would take place in a few more years. The sessions wouldn’t interfere with my existing schedule so, along with about another twenty people, I signed up. The subject matter was interesting and added a lot to my knowledge. We were introduced to the activity that goes on behind the scenes in a museum. Study material included gathering, categorizing and organizing materials and information; preparing exhibits, researching information about practical tools of yesteryear and their uses.
Some volunteers with a proven aptitude went for refurbishing and maintaining ancient items into pristine condition. Others became involved in record keeping and organizing early manuscripts and photos that were made available to the museum for safekeeping. These are continually being sought for perusal and research by those wishing to research past family history through the letters they had written.
I was called in on some occasions, as a volunteer guide, when a small group of English speakers came to visit the museum, where I was on my own to explain whatever had to be described pertaining to the history of our city.
My special interest, though, was geared towards clearing up details about Hadera’s early settlers who had died and their place of interment was unknown, while several dozen gravesites were not properly identified. My experience with the Hevra Kadisha was very much an aid in this venture. That gave me a rich background towards a very special project that I had taken upon myself to carry out.
Oh! How did the Hevra Kadisha become part of this narrative?
Just to fill in the Time
Why do the mourners become so emotional – while the deceased, gets carried away?
We hadn’t been aware that this house visit by our Rabbi and his wife was not merely a social visit. Rabbi O. z”l was a member of the governing board of the Hevra Kadisha and he came over hoping to convince my wife that their offer of employment was in all seriousness. The conversation was polite but to the point. The burial society needed a new man with my religious and moral credentials and that he had no intensions in failing his mission to recruit me for the Hevra Kadisha. Eventually my wife sort of agreed, but with one stipulation. I had to assure her that when I exit through the gates of the grave yard I leave all the stories behind, and not bring home any reports from the field. I agreed to give the job a month’s trial and promised not to bring home anything from the field. That was not so easy, but I kept my promise.
The very next morning I showed up for work got all the paperwork done and reported to the cemetery.
My first few days were spent gathering up dried-out wreaths and bouquets of flowers, sweeping and cleaning the paths between innumerable rows of graves. From time to time I was called upon to assist with various chores. The work was not hard, but the palms of my hands were toughening up with busting blisters and hardening calluses from continuous handling of the heavy brush used in sweeping up debris. These sores were on different areas of my hands that had not been used in my previous job, as a mechanical and automation maintenance technician. But it was a necessary treatment to toughen up my hands for what was yet to become a daily task, digging holes in the hard ground.
That’s how I found myself making a living in the cemetery. After five and a half years with the Hevra Kadisha in Hadera I managed to get out of there, alive.
Before it became publicly known in town that I was working in the Hevra Kadisha, during hours that I had not usually been seen by people in the city, inquired what I was doing for a living. Not wishing to shock them, with too direct a reply, I told them, “I work in the last place that a person wishes to be, in this world, yet they’re dying to get there”. After a moment of reflection on my words, most people understood what I was getting at.
Memories of the first few days in the cemetery are still fresh in my mind even though many years have elapsed since then.
During my second day on the job in the field, the senior worker, Y. z”l, who was officially the manager of the field crew, told the other fellows, “Just watch, Shmuel won’t be able to stand up to the revolting job that we cemetery worker do, he’ll be out of here in a week!” Then he called me over to help with, just about the spookiest jobs of all. Y. carefully observed my reaction, as we performed the most gruesomely repulsive task of all, burying, what we termed, discarded spare parts, a collection of body parts that are removed during operations at the hospital. Each and every bit of bone and flesh is collected and saved for proper burial by the Hevra Kadisha. I passed his test with flying colors (not showing any pallor) and gained his full respect. He hadn’t realized that as a soldier I had been trained as a medic.
I was quickly integrated into all functions of an undertaker; from preparation and bathing the deceased for interment, through grave digging and performing the religious service itself.
Most people might consider it to be a morbid task but there were aspects to the occupation that proved to be satisfying. The work is not only physically taxing but comprises a spiritual approach, as one develops empathy towards the survivors of absolute separation from their loved-ones. One, and probably the most important tasks is personal advice to the mourners; both prior to and following actual interment of their next-of-kin. The shock must be absorbed and it is part of the undertaker’s mission to reinforce the will of the survivors to carry on with life by remembering the happy times when they were together with their nearest and dearest.
Within a few days of my beginning to work in the field, while cleaning up, I moved a large corrugated sheet of iron from the walkway, and surprised a snake who was napping there. He made for one of the holes in the stone fence, where he could hide. But I had different plans for him. I didn’t want him scaring any visitor to cemetery, so I battered him to death, and then flung the meter and a half long snake over the fence. He landed in the deep stubble of weeds, bordering the neighboring orchard.
When I returned to the shop to refasten the brush that had worked its way off the handle, the boys naturally asked what happened? When I told them about my encounter with a long snake, they asked, “Why didn’t you call us to see it? Where is it?” I told them that I’d flung it over the fence, so that mourning visitors wouldn’t come across it. Besides, which, I added, “I didn’t want you guys to tell me that I’d have to dig a long, narrow grave for it.”
But like a mentioned earlier, not all is morose. One develops a counterbalance to the basics of the job, an example of which follows.
At another time, while cleaning up the cemetery, I came upon a mysterious cluster of nut shells beside one of the monuments, and felt to myself, “What kind of people come to a cemetery, to sit and eat pecans?” I found piles of nut shells in different parts of the cemetery from time to time but never mentioned it to anybody. Then back in the city I found out what it was all about. I spied a crow, picking up a nut and while flying over the road-side curb. He did a “dive-bombing” run, dropping the nut to the ground, hoping that it would hit the edge of the stone, and crack open, so that he could get to the meat. Those dumb birds are not so stupid, after all. And that cleared up the mystery of the “Nut shells at the grave-side.”
The entire field crew got along very well, and in a short while, I knew exactly what was expected of me, and was never found to flinch from even the most nauseating of duties.
However dealing with live people could sometimes be the most difficult of all tasks. Some of their wishes were nearly impossible to contend with, due to the very demanding schedules set for us. Each person imagines that his problem is the most urgent in the world. Under extreme pressure they don’t realize that others have problems as serious as theirs. And at such time, when the exacting sequence of preparations, for a number of consecutive funerals are in progress; considering preset time-tables, off the cuff changes are intolerable. However each family must be made to feel that their every wish is being carried out on an exclusive basis.
During one funereal, a brother of the deceased suffered a heart attack. We quickly notified the Magen David Adom dispatcher who quickly sent an ambulance. Till they arrived, his sister, who was a qualified nurse, administered to him. The medical crew arrived and took over the treatment, while the funereal rites of the deceased continued. The very next day, the brother succumbed to his heart attack, died, was duly buried. But was interred in the kibbutz where he had lived.
Members of the executive management of the burial society, who sit in an air-conditioned office, have no idea under what difficult conditions the field staff has to operate under. Not only physically, but also psychologically, challenged by newly orphaned families, who gawk at how we deal with the remains of their beloved; deceased mothers and fathers, who have raised and nurtured them since birth, having been literally stripped of all their earthly links are now being buried by a bunch of strangers.
Some family members who have been known to be most disrespectful to their parents during their lifetime suddenly put on a show of respect for the deceased. They may include dope addicts, and criminals; who humiliated their relatives by spending part of their lifetime incarcerated in prisons. Now that it’s too late to be of any use they suddenly try to prove to the world, how much they really love their parents. These are the ones who rant and rave about the disrespect that the Hevra Kadisha workers show, when they respectfully lay his/her remains to their final rest. And there may be upwards of fifty such extreme cases every year.
The pay for such work, in Hadera hardly reciprocated the mental and physical efforts that the workers had to contend with. The only thing that kept them working at it, was the knowledge that it was a task that must be performed, and only by a limited type of individual capable or willing to doing it. Besides, It is one of the foremost Mitzvoth, (commandments) is to be benevolent towards one who will never be able to reciprocate. Neither winter storms, nor summer heat are allowed to interfere with strict schedules.
The Gabbai (beadle) of our Synagogue lost his mother, and being a personal friend of his, I was given the opportunity of conducting the funereal service for her. This was my first such venture, and I was somewhat apprehensive, but I got through it all right.
When I ended the ritual, her surviving widower, approached me and thanked me by announcing, “That was such a nice funereal!” It felt very odd, to have such an expression associated with an interment.
One day, a man brought over a small carton. His wife had just had a double amputation, and he wished to have her legs interred into the grave that they had purchased many years before, to await her death.
It was a hot day, and the grave was deep, but that’s what the job is basically all about. I dug, buried the two legs, replaced the freshly excavated earth, and the marble slab.
On the very next day, I was instructed to remove the top slab, and then hollow out the grave once again. She had died over night, and would be rejoining her legs within hours. That day was another scorcher, but the soil was softer now, than it had been on the previous day.
One Tisha b’Av I was instructed to prepare a grave that already had a monument built over it. The day was hot and humid. The earth was hard like steel. The space was very limited, and the time was short. I was also told that At 12:00 I would have to change my clothing, bring the body around to the deceased’s house. “The funereal begins there, at 12:30, and you’re going to take care of the ceremony!”
After a couple of hours of some of the most difficult digging that I ever encountered, I was called to the pay-phone. H., sitting in the “air-conditioned” office told me that there was an error. Theoretically, the graves are allotted on such a basis, where no man is buried between two women; and no woman occupies the grave between two men. According to this rule, the presumption, in the office, was that I was excavating the wrong side of the double tomb. The grave on the other side of the double monument was the one that had to be prepared.
With no choice, but to correct the error, I got to work on the adjoining grave site, shoveling the excavated earth back into the first grave. Making slow headway, but still according to schedule. My clothes were soaking down to my ankles from perspiration already, and it being “Tisha b’Av” (a fast day), made it no easier.
When Y. showed-up to check on my progress, he nearly took a fit. “What are you digging there for? It’s the wrong side!!!” That’s when I really began feeling the pressure. “Make up your mind, I yelled back”, the first time that I raised my voice in my year and a half on the job.
Communicating with the office, once more, finally cleared up problem of the location. It was back to the first side again. Somebody had erred when allotting the grave-sites, or when engraving their names on the monuments, many years ago! And a cubic meter and a half of earth had to be excavated once again. This time H. closed the office, wearing open sandals, and came out to help with the digging. He got himself all dirty, not having prepared proper work clothes.
As the assigned time was approaching, I told H. to get cleaned up and to make the trip to Bet Eliezer. And to take his time allowing me enough leeway to get the job finished up.
Just as H. returned with the departed, and the mourners, in tow I managed to get into clean clothes, but my non-stop perspiration very soon had me soaked again.
When I got home, I was in such a weak state that I just had to take a sip of water. That was it! I just couldn’t stop drinking, and drinking, and drinking. That was one outstanding Tisha b’Av (day of fasting) that stands out in my mind. It was the second time since I reached the age of thirteen that I drank water on Tisha b’Av. Lots of water. I just couldn’t stop dinking no matter how much I tried. The only time prior to that was when I was in the army, in the year 1956. We were instructed to eat and drink, in preparation for military action, and that was on a Tisha b’Av as well.
There had been other times that are never forgotten. On a Friday, I had been instructed to prepare a gravesite in section Number 18. When the grave was completed, relatives came around to examine the site. Only then, was I advised that the deceased was a Kohen, and that they wished his plot to be alongside the roadway, so that family would be able to visit close to the grave. A Kohen, (a member of the priestly tribe is not allowed to become impure by being in the vicinity of the dead. The mourners keep their distance by visiting their deceased while standing at a distance on the roadway). The site that I’d prepared was only three plots away from the road, but they were insistent, and with the okay of H. in the office, who had to correct all his records. I was given the OK. to begin work on the new plot. Being next to the line of fir trees, the ground was hard like iron. I finally got it to standard dimensions, when the call came through, that the deceased was “extremely” large as well as very “tall”.
That meant removing the standard concrete slabs; and enlarging and lengthening the grave then relining it with “extra large heavy” concrete slabs. But that’s life in the cemetery.
Later on when I actually saw the size of the deceased, I realized that my joke about “two trips”, was not really humorous. Here, In this case, I even dug two graves for this one, and even at that, it was still a tight fit. On this job, I was given a sizable tip, and I earned every grush of it.
One day, while performing Tahara, (the purification rites), I sensed some pulsation in the body, that was on the table. Excited, that this one was till alive, I remarked, about it to A., who was working with me. Upon examination, he revealed to me, that under the arm of the deceased was a slight bulge, the pulse, was only a “pacemaker”, that was still sending out signals.
On one occasion, one of the monument contractors was completing a job, just as the mourners were on their way from the entrance to observe the “Shloshim” formalities held on the thirtieth day after interment, when I noticed something amiss. The deceased was a man, and not a woman, but the monument builder had erroneously engraved “bat” (daughter of).
When I brought it to his attention, he naturally became very agitated about such a blunder. Then, thinking fast, I suggested that he fill in one leg of the “Tav” making it into a “Resh”, thereby resulting in a word reading “bar” an alternative term for “son of”.
With a bit of quick thinking, I saved not only his day, but his reputation, as well. The family could have demanded that he replace the whole headstone, properly engraved. And he would have had to comply./
A sudden pall of silence fell upon a group of us, when, at a Torah installation function, in Hadera, when one of the local guys, trying to be funny in the company of his pals, asked me, “Shmuel, tell me; when my time comes, after 120, will you take good care of me?” Without having ever given any thought such a question, I silently, looked him over for a couple of seconds, sort of sizing him up (while trying to prepare the right kind of reply; and considering his girth told him,
“Asher, if you don’t go on some kind of diet soon; it may have to be two trips!”
As promised, I didn’t share this event with my dear wife even though it didn’t take place within the confines of the cemetery. I didn’t think she would appreciate it.
After some months into the job I overheard my wife telling a friend of hers about an entertaining story that happened at the cemetery. “An amusing thing happened where Shmuel works. “Oh didn’t you know? He works in the cemetery”. She than continued, “Our older son, M. wishing to get the keys for our car from his father (me) who was at work at the time, had a friend drive him to the cemetery. Once there he asked one of the field workers where he could find his father and was told, “He’s preparing a gravesite in section 14. Just follow the signs.” While seeking Shmuel he wandered among the monuments loudly calling out, “Dad! Dad!” But Shmuel was deep in concentration, while digging, inside a grave Some visitors probably felt a deep empathy towards this youth wandering through the cemetery calling for is father, who they surmised was probably among those who had ‘G-d forbid, been interred. They were in for a genuine surprise, as his father who had heard himself being paged stood up from within a freshly dug grave. He was visible only from chest high, but replied, “M, I’m over here, in row sixteen”. The few visitors who had sympathized for him were positively startled to find that they erred in their first conception of the situation. Here was a young man looking for his live father, not mourning his loss.”
Personally, I never did realize that the episode was good story material but that was a sign that my wife did appreciate a good story from the cemetery.
That’s when I realized, the ice had been broken, and a good story or two about the gravity of humor in the graveyard, once in a while, wouldn’t be out of place.
Not all my time with the Hevra Kadisha was spent in the field. From time to time I was called upon to replace the clerk when he was absent from the office. The task there was entirely different. I had once been assigned to represent the organization when meetings were held at the city hall concerning the function of the burial society within the committee responsible for measures to be taken in the event of a local serious disaster. My duty was to report on the preparedness of the burial society to handle what might be an overwhelming number of deaths. As part of this duty I was urged to attend a course that would groom me for the responsibility of administrating a central depot for processing identification and interment of corpses that might result from a local disaster. The initial voluntary course was carried out by a combination of experts from the “Military search and rescue” team along with a “Criminal Identification” unit of the Police department.
Following about two years, of working in the field, and everything that’s associated with life in the cemetery I got a call from the office. The Rabbi’s voice notified me, “H. is leaving the office to do a month’s military service. We need you to fill in for him till he returns from the army.”
The very next morning, I showed up for a short course on running the office, and everything that it entailed. After a couple of days, I was on my own, with the general manager in the inner office for a few hours each day. It was very helpful that Rabbi D. M. z”l was around to ease me into the job. Three times a week he stayed on till 11:00, but the other days were very short, with him leaving at 9:00 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays. Here I was alone most of the time, running a business that I’d hardly been properly introduced into. Normal procedures included receiving the public, filling in cards, making entries in three different ledgers, selling plots, banking, collecting funds, issuing receipts, notifying the field crew about impending funerals, getting the male or female Tahara [purification] teams organized, when necessary to prepare men or women for interment; and even handling the “free loan fund”. An important part of my duties included advising newly grief-stricken families in the fine points of customs and laws involved in mourning.
I caught on very quickly, and already began streamlining the office system. The last couple of hours of each day were usually very quiet as the pressure petered out. I wrote out some collection letters to a lot of debtors, who had not been contacted, when their checks were returned from their respective banks. Rabbi M. had automatically considered them bad debts”, till to his surprise; I succeeded in collecting from quite a few of them.
I studied the records, during these quiet hours, and after examining a number of the old cards I found that much of the information had not been entered into the computer data bank properly. For instance, there were a few cases where the letters Tzadi and Dalat, can become confused, when scribbled, they way they are, in the common cursive script. So records of some couples were separated, to opposite ends of the alpha-bet. I began a comprehensive and systematic check on each and every, of the thousands of cards, noting cross-indexing from the cards to the ledgers, and correcting entries into the computer data-bank, as well.
By the time H. returned to the office, Rabbi M. realized that I was, clearing up a lot of serious problems, and ordered me to stay in the office. Outside of a few days, here and there, I became part of the office staff till the date that I became 65, and went into full retirement, walking away from the Hevra Kadisha on my own two feet.
One morning, the phone rang in the office, and O., one of the monument builders, told me that his neighbor had just come to him with the sad news that his wife died, and would we begin the procedures for her funeral. “Certainly,” I replied, “But he must obtain the mandatory Ministry of Health “burial permit”, as soon as possible.” I contacted the field crew, giving them instructions to prepare her gravesite that had been reserved in her name. They immediately got out the equipment and set to work. Meanwhile, the purification staff was notified of the impending need for their services. The entries were noted in the register and the computer, the work-order was duly filled out, and all that remained, was for the permit to reach my hands, so that we could proceed. A couple more phone calls and I was advised that, since the husband was so agitated, a hospital social worker was assigned, to help him with arrangements to take delivery of her remains.
When they approached the hospital office for the burial permit, the clerk had no record of a Mrs. So & So, having died; but maybe the notification had not yet reached her office, so they were directed to the department, where she had been admitted. A quick search for her body fond her sitting at the table in the dining area, heartily tucking in a breakfast.
As soon as I was duly notified of the fact that, “She’s still alive!” I exclaimed, “Blessed is He who brings the dead to life,” then proceeded with the reversal of all the preparations that had been performed up till then, making erasures and corrections to the files, as well as letting the crew know that there was a cancellation, and the grave should be refilled. The Tahara staff were also canceled off the standby status.
It seems that Mr. So & So had brought his wife to the hospital the night before, and returned home alone. While asleep, he dreamed, she had died there, in the hospital. When he awoke, the event that he dreamt about was so vivid, that he immediately approached his neighbor, Mr. O., to assist him in organizing a funeral for his wife.
So, the grave was filled in, and the stone slab replaced, of course. But when a few months had passed and she did die, the field crew accepted the fact with some reluctance. They fell to the task, suspecting another dream. However, this time it was for real.
Following is a classical episode I shall never forget. That was the kind of event that became emotionally part of me as I became personally involved in it.
One day a call came through to the Hadera Hevra Kadisha office, asking if I could locate the grave of Yaacov Israel Aidelvine, who had definitely been buried in Hadera in the year 1892, the second male to be buried in Hadera’s “old” cemetery. The caller was his grandson, Yaacov of Haifa, who had been trying to get this information for many years already. I had just finished going over all the cards in the files, and had no recollection of such a name. Following a quick computer search my reply was negative.
A few months later, the same request came through once again, and again my reply was, “No, I can’t find such a name in our files.”
Then several months later, the same caller asked for the burial place of his grandfather, the same Mr. Aidelvine. This time I was not under any pressure and since I have some free time offered to pay more attention to his quest. I asked him if he would mind answering a few questions, and maybe I could help him. He was very cooperative when I asked him for some background information, such as did he have any children, what were their names, and other brothers or sisters, etc.
He told me that his mother, this Aidelvine’s daughter, Rachel, had married a Tzvi Shrogarotzki, his, parents. When his mother died, she’d been interred in Hadera Somehow a spark lit up, and I promised that I’d call him back soon.
A year prior to that, I’d written an article, called “The Last Word”, published in the City Lights supplement of the Jerusalem Post. In it I stressed the brief, but poignant messages that were engraved upon some of the tombstones in Hadera’s cemetery. A photo of one of them accompanied my article. It depicted a plaque that was added to the monument of a woman, who had died at age 52, Her name was Rachel Shrogarotzki, the daughter of Yaacov Israel. The additional plaque read, “Since her father, Yaacov Israel Aidelvine, who was buried in this cemetery, but his were-abouts are not known, let this plaque be in his memory”. But her father’s name had been entered on her card in the files as Yaacov Israel AidelZON.
Now I was getting hot. Some more shuffling of cards, and I came across the card of a woman, Batya, who had died a long time ago, but some time after Mr. Aidelvine. On her card were written the exact location of her grave. In addition, was also noted, that to her left was buried, So and So, and to her right was the grave of “Israel AidelMAN”. Another search in a different direction, and I came upon a card that read, Israel AidelMAN (The father-in-law of Shrogarotzki).
I was certain that I had found the grave of his grandfather. However I still wished to visit the cemetery first, and scout out the area before giving him the last 1% assurance. This was giving me some real satisfaction now, and I was excited about the whole affair. I felt like a detective, putting together facts, that were dormant for nearly a hundred years, yet, here they were, showing life.
Paying a visit to the site, and after locating the tombstone of Mrs. Batya S. I found that the grave to her right had a poured concrete base, with no identifying plaque on it. When I told Yaacov, later on, he asked if I’d be willing to meet with him at the site, on a Friday, in a few days. I most certainly wanted to, and told him so.
Friday at 10:00 AM, Yaacov and his sister, Sarah, and her husband showed up at the appointed place. When I showed them photo-copies of all the cards, and the various entries concerning this grave, they became very emotional about the fact that NOW they knew where their grandfather was buried. Immediately, they set about having a proper tombstone erected.
Till this moment, more that 75 years later, and the search had been unrelenting, to find his tomb, and to reestablish a proper grave marker. I felt elated, to have been so personally involved in the mission, for this family of pioneers, who never gave up their quest to honor their grandfather. A man, they had never known. It seems that with the advent of the First World War, having such an effect on the Middle East, and the economical situation being so feeble, this family left Hadera to sit out the depression in Egypt. Following the end of that war, they returned, to find that the Arabs in the area, had carted away a lot of the tombstones, from Hadera’s graveyard; along with the that of Yaacov Israel Aidelvine’s.
Within days a new monument had been erected and Yaacov Israel Eidelvine’s final resting place was properly identified and marked by his grandchildren.
Concerning other unidentified graves I suspect, that in the early days, of the establishment of the community in Hadera, the new immigrants, who had arrived from Russia were used to the long cold winters, that made it mandatory to bury their dead in graves that had to be dug to a depth of two meters, Otherwise a shallow grave would not allow the body to decay, due to the deep frost, and the long winters, so prevalent there.
In later times, the next generation, realized that graves in Israel needn’t be so deep, the norm today, being 1.2 meters.
So when a, presumably vacant spot was spotted, among the graves, because of the lacking of proper markings, a shallow excavation was made to bury a subsequent body.
Hence there seem to be fewer graves than recorded deaths, on the one hand; and on the other hand, there are plots, that are dubiously being regarded as unidentified graves, without knowing for sure if they really are really occupied Not having reached the level of an older grave, (according to my suspicions), a second level of burial might have been performed, over the earlier one.
What made me suspect this kind of situation was that some sixty deceased are not accounted for. Neither are some few dozen unmarked graves identified. Therefore I deduced that might have been what had happened during the early years of the settlement..
About a week after the Aidelvine case was solved I received a letter in the mail thanking me profusely for my patience and help, in doing what I did for them. Accompanying the letter was a check for 180 Sheqels. Now, that’s too much to be considered a tip, so with that sum, I did what should have been done many years before.
There’s a grave in the “old” cemetery, containing six pieces of soap, made by the Nazis, (May their memory be blotted out with that of Amalek), from the fat of Jews that they had murdered. These pieces of soap were brought to Hadera to be buried, but have never had an identifying marker on their grave. The grave is just recorded on a card in the office and in the computer data base.
This money went to one of my friends, Amnon Gamliel, who builds monuments, to prepare and install such a plaque. However, I also had him add a couple of lines to memorialize the Kesselmans of Wolcza-Dolna, my father-in-law’s immediate family, who had been murdered by the Nazis collaborators in Galitzia, as well, and who’s final resting places are not known.
The administrators usually kept exacting records, but there had been a serious breach during the period of the First World War during 1914 and up to the early 1920’s.
In 1993 I submitted an article to the City Lights section of the weekend Jerusalem Post where I unjustly accused a woman of neglecting to erect a monument on her father’s grave. She was but six years of age when her father died, and only came to The Land of Israel seventeen years after he was buried. At the time of her Aliyah though, a very elaborate tombstone marked his last resting place, due to circumstances that were unknown to me when I wrote that piece. The gravestone had been dismantled and carried away by neighboring thieves who probably utilized the material in constructing their own homes.
Between that time in April 1993 and August 1994, when a follow-up article was published in City Light, I became enlightened regarding the disappearance of that tombstone (along with dozens of others during that period), but the stigma committed in the previous article still remained, by not retracting my original accusation, and by not publicly begging forgiveness from this woman’s children.
Only when Sarah, the daughter of Rachel Shrogrodski, of blessed memory, read the Hebrew translation of that article, did she correct my misdirected perception of why the grave was bare of an identifying monument for so many years. I hereby thank her for setting the story straight, with the following narrative, translated from her letter, as she wrote on 23/04/2006:
When my grandfather died a beautiful monument was erected upon his grave by my [other] grandfather Shrogrodski who was [also] his brother-in-law, his wife Hanna Rachel Shrogrodski had been from the house of Aidelvine and was a sister of my grandfather Yaacov Israel Aidelvine.
When my mother arrived in Hadera in 1909 she used to visit her father’s grave often. During the First World War my father was sought after by the Turks. He was on their list as a member of Nili and was obliged to flee to Egypt in order to save his life from the Turks. Accompanied by another friend (his name is not known to me), they both rode horse back all night to Yaffo, where, in the harbor a ship bound for Alexandria on the morrow was anchored. The captain agreed to give them passage after they paid him a hefty fee and they were both directed to the coal hold. Next morning a contingent of Turks boarded the ship to seek them out, however they were so blackened by coal dust that they were not identified, and their lives were spared. My mother did not know till after the end of the war if my father was alive or if the Turks actually took his life.
After the war my father returned and saw that nothing workable remained of the farmstead. It would have to be completely rehabilitated, and since he had found a good position during his sojourn in Egypt, father asked mother to accompany him with the children for a few years in order to accumulate some money, before returning, to enable him to get the farm and orchard going again.
During this twelve year period that the family resided in Egypt, the local Arabs pulled nightly raids whereby they stole monuments from the cemetery in order to build themselves homes in their villages. My mother was not here and had no idea what was happening in the graveyard. Upon our return from Egypt in 1935 the first thing my mother did was to visit my grandfather’s gravesite. She was shocked when she found that the monument was missing and wished to erect a new stone immediately, however that was not so simple, as the Hevra Kadisha [burial society] management was not easily convinced of the exact location of the Aidelvine grave. Other monuments had been ransacked as well and the gravesites having been uniformly marked by indistinguishable concrete bases, was impossible for them to determine with certainty the site of grandfather’s grave. The Hevra Kadisha staff searched and tried to seek out, but found no record of the name Aidelvine at all…. Due to the situation during those times when scribes wrote using Yiddish spelling and using feather quills dipped into inkwells, accidentally connecting two letters “Yod” of the name Aidelvine together resulting in the mane Aidelman, even though everybody knew that there was never an Aidelman in Hadera. Subsequently, permission was not granted to mother to erect a stone upon the grave, because of the inconclusive fact that they were not certain that the site pointed out by my mother was correct even according to the book.
And that is the reason that no monument was erected upon the gravesite of her father during all those years.[ From 1935 till 1994].
My mother’s constant request was that we should locate the exact spot, and erect a monument on the grave of our grandfather. That in fact had been her last will, therefore we unrelentingly continued, during all those years, to seek the aid of the Hevra Kadisha, even though there was nobody to speak to there… till I and my husband decided by ourselves to, at least, place a plaque on mother’s monument, and in that way to always perpetuate the memory of my grandfather.
Sarah continues her letter by adding:
Till you arrived and observed that plaque, and with great consideration and perception understood that you must solve the problem, with thanks to the Almighty and to you, that you really succeeded in solving the problem, that all those before you didn’t bother to delve into, in spite of all the requests emanating from our mother and ourselves during the many years that have passed.
You originally wrote that my mother didn’t worry about her father’s final resting place – that is not correct – and you have a responsibility to correct that assumption.
Therefore, I hope that this explanation will serve to correct that misleading assumption that overtook me emotionally, and again I beg Rachel’s forgiveness, as well as that of her children who deserve a better perception of their mother and her many and prolonged efforts to right a wrong.
Not all the work in the Hevra Kadisha puts such a strain on their emotions, such as the time a work order had been transmitted to the hearse driver, that a body, for which we already had a burial permit, was to be removed from her home and delivered to the cemetery. He immediately made his way to the address indicated. A few minutes later he called to apprise us of the situation. Subsequently he returned empty-handed. The corpse was, to his expert estimation, at least three hundred kilos, and he couldn’t possibly handle it by himself. Therefore he picked up a colleague to help when Yaacov and A. finally completed their mission, A. remarked, “This was really a TWO TRIP body
Early one Friday morning, when I got to the office there was a full scale conference engaging H., Rabbi M., and a complete stranger. He was a huge man with a big bushy black beard, who’d just arrived from Jerusalem, where he lived with his family. This Shabbat he was going to remain in Hadera at his father’s home; and for a few more days as well. At least till he got this problem solved. I was invited to join the discussion. Rabbi M., knowing my nature, intimated that this was the kind of project that I always dreamt of getting involved in.
The man had a very weird narrative. His sister, who was still unmarried, wished to succeed in finding her “Mr. Right”, and with her mother sought the blessing of a cabalist. He was very discouraging so they paid a visit to another cabalist, a younger man, who had developed an exceptional reputation for success in such matters. After his preliminary fact gathering reception, he requested of the girl to step outside, and continued to speak with their mother. Though no mention of the fact had been made, he revealed that a younger daughter, while still a child, had died tragically, and had been buried. But that no monument marking her grave had ever been erected. “After a gravestone would be built, they were welcome to return to him in order to pursue the matter of a husband for her daughter”.
The brother of these sisters was now standing before us. Here in the office of the Hevra Kadisha in Hadera, seeking reliable information concerning the exact location of his little sister’s grave, so that they could fulfill the prerequisite; to erect a monument for her.
This would enable the family to succeed in their quest, seeking a suitable husband for his aging sister. This was a bizarre, but intriguing incident, indeed; and one that arouses motivation to solve a very strange, but serious dilemma, as we shall soon see.
When I pulled the card of his little deceased sister, and showed it to him, he became severely agitated. Written on the card, in the space for the name of the departed, along side of her first name, Batya, was the name of his still living sister. We immediately, made corrections on the card, and in the computer data-bank, promising to correct any other records, as well. But now began the more difficult part of the search. Trying to dig up, long buried, facts that had never been known to the people working in the office of the Hevra Kadisha.
In those early years, when many new immigrants were hardly managing to get enough food on the table, erecting a tombstone was just about the last thing that was on anybody’s mind. This is evidenced, by the dozens of graves of that era that had not been favored with any kind of stone, at all.
In this case, no member of their family even attended the funereal of the five year old girl, who had been crushed by a public transport bus in front of their house, in Givat Olga. Not even the father had the courage to be present in the cemetery, and so, had no idea where she had been buried. In fact he had never made any attempt to visit her gravesite.
It was up to us, in the Hevra Kadisha office, about forty-seven years later, to assemble whatever information we had inherited from previous staff, who had never foreseen what quests might come our way. For some unfathomable reason they were meticulous in recording certain bits of information on the cards, but were not very exacting, when it came to marking the precise grave-sites in the field, especially when it concerned small children. Many were just recorded as having been assigned to a grave in the “children’s’ row”.
We cleared off the large conference table, in the back room, and began laying out the dozens of cards, that I had to pull from their various places in the cabinet drawers, each one having been filed according to the Alpha-Beth.
Dates were the most meticulous data on the cards. However names, about who was buried to the right and to the left of each grave were noted, as well, in those days. Sometimes even a notation about who was buried at the head or feet of a grave was recorded on the card. It sounds very exacting, doesn’t it? But when studying several dozen cards, and finding that up to three children were marked, as being buried “to the right of ” “Yardena”, for instance; how close could each one be, to his/her neighbor? They were not all, 2 month old infants either.
With a couple of hours spent, literally going in circles around the “house of cards” that we formed, it was time to visit the cemetery, and dig into the matter, to examine the situation, on location.
A couple of days later, with their father, present, his first visit, ever, to the site; we began to try and figure out where his daughter’s grave could be, in what was termed, “the children’s row”.
Meanwhile, with the aid of a cellular phone, the family kept in close touch with the cabalist, and reported all our efforts, in locating the exact gravesite. In a couple of days he personally came to Old Cemetery in Hadera, to where the site was being sought. His wanderings around the area brought about a decision, by him. “This is the spot”! He announced.
In my opinion, it was comparatively quite a distance from my approximation of her grave, so we went out with spades, and did a bit of physical research. The spot that he had marked out was dug up first, and a very small grave was found, probably suitable for a 3 month old, definitely not a five year old girl. A few more sites were unearthed, without definite results. And with me, such a challenge must bring definite results, or the case is not closed.
I went back to the drawing board, and prepared as close an approximation of the area as I could with the available data, on a large sheet of paper. Armed with the map, we finally met with the cabalist, who came again. This time a small truck was parked close-by, with building materials and tools, in order to finish up the business, once and for all.
I had never met him, nor had he ever had any communication with me, before that time. He looked over the area once again and reestablished his earlier declaration, “Here it is!” Then he approached me directly, and asked, “What’s troubling you?”
I had no idea that my emotional dissatisfaction with his decision was obvious to anybody but myself. But, pulling my “map” out of my shirt pocket, I related to him, that according to the recorded data, it didn’t seem possible for that to be the grave of the 5 year old girl, Batya, of our quest.
He asked to see the map that I had meticulously prepared, and wandered away, between the monuments, to the south; then meandered about, amongst the graves in the west. In a few minutes, he returned, handing me back the map, he announced to the assemblage, “Like I said, at first. This is the place. Build a monument, but don’t engrave any name or message on it.” And that’s what they did.
A blank piece of marble now rests on the grave site of where the cabalist insisted that the little girl, Batya was buried. I guess the reason for leaving it blank, is possibly due to my skepticism in the matter. I like to think so anyway.
Rabbi M. the general manager of the Hevra Kadisha once arrived at the office just as a couple was leaving and asked, “Why they had been to the office”? When I replied that they had just made arrangements for a funeral. He gave me a surprised look and asked “So why were they laughing on the way out”?
I explained that people usually, from force of habit, have a tendency to say, “See you later”!
When this couple were about to leave the office and just as he had his hand on the door knob, I reminded them “When you leave the Hevra Kadisha please don’t say ‘Be seeing you’.”
The husband turned to thank me for reminding him, but when he turned around to face the door, automatically blurted out, “Be seeing you”! That brought out an embarrassing peal of laughter from both of them. That was just as they met you at the doorway on your way in.
A usually jolly Yemenite who was active in the citrus industry Y. Z”L who was a constant visitor to out neighbor, and a close acquaintance of mine, came to the office of the Hevra Kadisha with a problem. Y. was an eight year old pupil in a Yeshiva in Haifa, at the time when his father had died. At his age, he was not allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Time passed by and he was never made aware of his father’s exact gravesite. He was told, however that it was in the same row as that, where his mother was buried. And his mother’s grave was marked by a prominent monument.
In this row, which was a short one, we were able to account for every grave, except for one. And that one was recorded as the last one in the row, and was marked, in the ledger, as “Yemenite”. A quick visit to the locale, and sure enough, it was simple to establish that there was an unmarked, but definite, grave besides the one being occupied by Mr. So & So.
Yaacov still wished to be really certain, now; not only of where his father was buried, but who he really was. In order to try and assist him in this matter, which is not really within the scope of Hevra Kadisha operations, I wrote to the Colonial Office of the British Empire, requesting information on the late Mr. “***”, who had arrived in Palestine in the year 192*, from Aden, and took up residence in Hadera, died, and was buried there, etc. The reply was that they retained no records of anything or anybody from that era, except for what might pertain to personnel that would affect their pension.
Through connections in Jerusalem, however, Y. was able to firmly establish exactly what he wanted, about his father. He had a monument erected on the site. Within a short time, Yaacov became ill, and died. He himself is now buried in Hadera.
He managed to complete a life-long wish to locate his father’s grave and make certain that it would be identified with a proper monument. In that he succeeded.
After a couple of years of not having proper lunch breaks, when working in the Hevra Kadisha office, and it not being practical to take off, during mid-day to return home for lunch, we decided that I’d put together a kit and prepare lunch on a hot-plate, every day. The Hevra Kadisha covered all costs, including the materials that were mainly vegetables from the market, just around the corner. Around ten o’clock every morning, I’d head for the back room and cut up a few vegetables, a bit of seasoning, some water, and get a soup going. By mid day, it was the kind of soup that nobody can resist. Often I’d cut up a fresh salad, open a can of tuna, and H. would join me for a lunch, if it was quiet in the office, otherwise we took turns.
As the date of my retirement was approaching, the management was in a bit of a tizzy. The field manager, Y. A. z”l had suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized, they were unsuccessful in finding a replacement for the vacancy that would result from my going free, and expressed the hope, that I’d agree to remain for another six months. To that, I wrote a reply. I’d be willing to stay on, for exactly six months more, with no pay; but on condition that the workers be compensated for their work, with REAL pay hikes.
My proposition was turned down,” Don’t tell us what to pay the employees!”
However, I prepared a going away party, inviting all the employees, the management, and the volunteers. Only a few of the board members showed up. It was a shame, because I had a speech prepared, that they should have been present for.
Eventually some action was taken to pay the workers much more realistic wages.
Then, while I was doing some research in Zichron Yaacov’s cemetery, an emergency call came through from Rabbi M., H. was going into Miluim for a month. Would I agree to do him a favor, and take over the office? It was now a “ONE and a HALF” man job. The son of one of the members of the board, was hired to replace me, and would be in attendance till mid day, but his being physically handicapped, made it impossible for him to perform many important duties.
I agreed, but not for full time, and got a big thanks. I kept records of the hours spent in the office, taking care of banking, errands, visits to the accountant, as well as regular office work and reception of the public, when I was there.
Of course, attending to “end of the month” procedures and preparing the pay were also functions that had to be performed.
When H. returned, Rabbi M. asked me what remuneration I wished, for that period of time.
A couple of years before that, I fancied reserving a burial plot for my wife Sarah, next to the one that we had purchased for her mother, for after 120 years. It happened to be in the distinctively expensive area, but it was that spot that I wanted.
Rabbi M. came back with and what about a place for yourself, after 120? To which I replied, that wherever I would be buried, I’m sure would be fitting. Then he told me that a plot for myself, as an employee in good standing, would be for free, but the spot I had chosen for Sarah would have to cost (at that time) 3,000 Sheqels. Since then the cost of plots in that section are much more costly.
But now that I was being offered remuneration for time spent in the office, I asked, that the 3,000 Sheqel debt on Sarah’s plot, be canceled. No sooner said than done. We now both, have full standing rights, till past 120, and were issued Hevra Kadisha certificates as well.
Meanwhile, H. quit working in the Hevra Kadisha altogether, and in his place, E. was hired. He’d insisted in having me treated, not as a worker, who quit, but as a retiree with benefits. And that makes a difference too, with holiday season gifts, and an annual TU B’shvat fruit package delivered to the door, as well.
While we were celebrating my retirement, I returned the “authorization letter” to the banks and post office, as well as the keys to the Hevra Kadisha facilities, to Rabbi M., who immediately returned the office key to me, with, “I know that you’re involved in doing important research, so please feel free to enter the office at any time.”
And with that, I still had access to all the files, and have made considerable corrections to some of the cards, since having met with the progeny of many of those who have gone through the capable hands of the Hevra Kadisha of Hadera; most of whom shall return, only with the arrival of Moshiach. And we all hope that it will be speedily, and in our day.
When I retired on my 65th birthday the kitchen, in the Hevra Kadisha office, ceased operating.
At age eighty I returned the keys, and if I wish to visit for any bit of research, I do so only during their regular office hours.
Zaka is not a fun Activity
How and why did I choose to be blotting up blood of terrorist victims from the streets?
Any number and type of organizations must be on the alert due to the general situation throughout the world when and if certain kinds of incidents occur. These could be terrorist inflicted, accidental or due to some natural disaster. One of them is a Disaster Planning Committee of the City Hall in Hadera. The committee was made up a wide spectrum of local organizations to prepare for any emergency situation that might come up. Representatives of the Electric Company, trucking industry, food caterers, social workers, storage facilities, Police, Fire and medical services were all expected to have emergency plans that could be integrated at a moment’s notice.
Though the Hevra Kadisha holds an integral position in this committee the Hevra Kadisha director was not personally committed to such activities, so for a number of years, I was elected to attend meetings and seminars in his stead, becoming quite involved in the inner workings of the Hadera a task force. This led to a series of courses, operated by the army and the Police department.
One of the goals was to have a special “disaster team” on hand, should such a catastrophe occur. The main function of its volunteers was to assist in gathering clues to determine positive identification of any victims. We were taught the importance of assuring that no element be overlooked. They realized that volunteers can be relied upon more that those, who are under pressure to prove that during a normal day they do a day’s work.
One such course was spread over nearly one year with some very interesting instruction presented by the best lecturers available on each subject. Those of us who completed the course were presented with a certificate of completion, an ID card and a special pass, bestowing, each of us permission to cross Police lines.
In addition we were each equipped with a personal kit that included a “beeper” to assure that we could be contacted at any time for active duty at any time of the day or night
That led to additional courses that prepared me; along with other volunteers to form a local ZAKA unit of the police. At that time, due to the frequency of terrorist activity ZAKA was making news:
Following is an interview about my participation in ZAKA as published in the weekend magazine.
This had become essential when the country was inundated with frequent suicide bombers causing much mayhem. It was our duty to be at any scene where there might be bodies and parts to be gathered for forensic identification and subsequent burial as an honor to those who had been killed.
This was, and still is, considered to be a holy mission but not one for the timid of heart. I was active in this unit for about fifteen years till I found the physical effort to be too taxing. It entailed a lot of bending and my aging body limited my being active at these scenes.
As part of my participation in the unit I volunteered to record all the activities in monthly reports that included who the participants were at each event, time and distance spent in travel, time involved on the site, and other pertinent information. The travel distance helped to get fuel chits for those who used their private vehicles. That was the only remuneration of any kind that was made. From time to time we held follow-up study sessions and some times with psychologists who were supposed to help clear up our minds from some of the gruesome scenes that were part of our experiences
One night when we had cleaned-up the scene where several people lost their lives after a terrorist had entered a hall during a family celebration and shot up the place. We ended up by midnight with a large black plastic full of parts that were to be buried next day. It was very late into the night and I didn’t have keys to the cemetery gate, I brought it up to the house and stored it on the balcony overnight. My wife caught me removing the bag in the morning and laid down the law, “No more of that stuff in this house”!
Several times each year we all gathered for some social/indoctrination functions where we were further coached with updates on methods and introduction to more up-to-date equipment and how to operate the new tools.
We each one of us was equipped with a personal kit and a beeper so that we’d be on call at any time of the day or night. Some of our calls involved automobile accidents while other calls involved railway accidents or even suicides on the tracks. These were very touchy situations, as we had to work between scheduled train runs.
At one site, where a bus was blown-up and seventeen people were killed I was approached by a reporter from CNN for a personal interview on a live broadcast. Here in Israel it began at 12:00 noon. I was contacted by nephew who happened to be awake in Toronto, Canada at 5:00 am and recognized me on the screen. A cousin of my wife living in New York also reported sighting my interview at the same hour. Following is a copy of the transcript of that interview:
One of the most difficult scenes that I was called to work was a night-time railway suicide that had us playing cat and mouse with speeding trains traveling along the tracks from both directions, while we collected body parts by the beam of a flashlight between their scheduled runs.. It was very hard to discern what we sought from what we didn’t need among the gravel bed of the railway tracks. One member of our team was recuperating from a broken food and came on crutches, but his just holding the flashlight was a great help.
On another occasion Rosie Dimanno, a very much respected reporter from the Toronto Star who was in Israel contacted me for an interview. Knowing that every bit of positive publicity about the function of ZAKA would be beneficial I readily agreed and in a short time a taxi headed toward Hadera bearing the very much read reporter, Rose Dimanno, who interviewed me very professionally while her taxi awaited her for her return to Jerusalem for a very busy schedule. The transcript of her column as it appeared in the Toronto Star appears below, where her well chosen words were eagerly read by supporters of Israel.
After over fourteen years of activity with ZAKA I was, as usual, invited to attend another seminar session where some two hundred members assembled. This time some of the special guests gathered at the head table consisted of a couple of government ministers and top officers of the Police force.
There were the usual pep-talk and “Keep-up-the-good-work” speeches that we were quite used to have heard from time to time.
Then I unexpectedly heard my name called. I was being invited to the front of the auditorium. An introduction, a thank you and presentation of a certificate to attest to my retirement from service with ZAKA. A round of handshaking and I found myself out of a job.
Enosh – Mental Rehabilitation Through Computing
Concurrent with the period of time I was an active member of ZAKA I had also been simultaneously involved in helping to rehabilitate young people who had previously been mental patients through an organization that I had never heard of before. Enosh is run as a club for those who are either embarrassed or still feel awkward in interrelationships with, what are considered to be normal people. They had been treated in mental institutions and are in need a place where they can be comfortable while rehabilitating themselves for life amongst others who may shun relationships with them.
My primary function there was to teach them how to operate computers, proving to each one that they can be successful.
We first had to gather a few donated outdated computers, fix them and set them up along one wall of a meeting room. A couple of times each week I worked with individual club members, guiding them in the simplest way to easily succeed at each session.
After a brief introduction I had a member start the computer, insert a diskette, type out something on the keyboard, check his work on the screen, save his work to disk and shut down the computer then remove personal disk that I’d assigned to him or her.
The next step was for him to restart the computer, insert his diskette and retrieve the data that he’d previously saved. I then encouraged him to add some more data to his previous message save it, and then send it to the printer. Within his first ten minutes at the computer he had a printed record of his own creation as well as a saved version on disk that he could continue editing when he next had a turn at a computer.
As I went on to the next club member he could practice at one of the other vacant computer stations, which most of them did, proving that my efforts were appreciated.
Not all members were attracted to the computer, but chose instead to attend other group activities, such as arts and crafts, music appreciation, cooking, drumming, etc.
Now that those who did show interest had all been introduced to the computer I had them each become more creative, but writing short items. In order to get them started I suggested the subject, and began with, “What was the most memorable surprise of your lifetime”? This usually put them into a positive mood while attempting to formulate their thoughts into a written story format.
At year’s end they published a yearbook that included a collection of essays, poems, and messages that made me proud to have been part of their successes.
Eventually one of my pupils, who had a rich command of the language went on to purchase a new computer for use at home and has been publishing commercially available booklets of poetry.
Eventually I was asked to become a member of the board and we found somebody else to take over the computer sessions.
After some fifteen years I was honored with a plaque presented at a public ceremony recognizing my service to the organization at a public ceremony that took place on the stage of Tel Aviv’s largest theater, the Habima.
I strange feeling came over me at the time. The thought, “Here I am, on the stage in “Habima” and I’m not even being given a chance to sing or dance.” But I did put in my appearance before hundreds of my colleagues where I was awarded a citation for the fifteen years of service
to the organization.
On still another occasion a few of us computer savvy retirees were approached about teaching and guiding members of a golden age club the principles and practice of the computer, mainly based upon the use of games as a therapeutic way to help sharpen and exercise minds of the elderly.
This would require teaching them basic use of the computer so that they would play strategy and memory games. The prescribed games were even supplied by a psychologist who spent a few sessions with our group of volunteers to show us the methods he preferred we use. The computer room was set-up and we took turns on different days of the week with our charges. One of my students had the use of only one arm, having had suffered a stroke. But his mind was sharp, as he proved by advancing through the various levels of difficulty with a game called “Bulldozer”
Another one of my charges, who was also physically handicapped, did very well with some card games that he played successfully against the computer.
Some were limited to memory games, but slowly worked their way up to more challenging levels.
I’m sure that I speak for all my fellow volunteers in the project when I say, as much as these computer sessions were enjoyed by the club members and our attentiveness to their charges were appreciated by staff members, the personal satisfaction of each and every one of us volunteers, was much greater than the sum of all of theirs.
Ghost Writing Biographies
Meanwhile a different opportunity was offered to retirees. This was also sponsored by the local “Association for the Elderly” in cooperation with “ESHEL”, the organization involved in the welfare of the elderly in Israel. This was to be a pilot course, where we would learn how to help those who wished to write their life-stories but didn’t know how to organize their thoughts on paper.
A parallel course was also incorporated in order to teach those who wished to follow the guidelines in producing personal video shows for those who would prefer that media to a printed format. Much of the learning material was attended jointly. I chose the written word.
We were about thirty candidates and a professional writer was hired to teach and guide us in every aspect of the profession. This course was highly subsidized and each of us was to continue writing memoirs for clients that the “Association for the Elderly” assigned to us. All this work was done on a fully volunteer basis.
We studied the fine points of interviewing, organizing, writing, gathering extra materials such as photos, certificates in order to fill out the stories. In many cases we designed family trees for the books.
Working in teams of two, three, four and even five when necessary we produced dozens of interesting books where only the cost of publication was borne by the subject or his family.
From time to time, as the project progressed we switched and changed the make-up of our writing groups, finally settling into teams that seemed to work together with ease.
The promised two years after completion of the course passed very quickly and most of out teams continued writing life stories, but now clients are charged a fee. This helps to cover costs of materials and costly wear and tear of our computers that must be updated every few years. Here again some deep family secrets are revealed and several skeletons have been let out of the closet that would never have seen the light of day. .
In constructing some family trees we are told about some “black sheep” who had been an embarrassment to the family. Though we are told all about them we are sometimes asked to ignore and not make any mention of them. Some of the stories that we’ve been told have during the interview sessions, when some episode was described, have been so emotional, that even we, who are just gathering material, have been touched, sometimes even bringing tears to our own eyes.
We experienced cases where, the ink of our books had hardly managed to dry and the hero of the story managed to fondle his book just days before his demise. This brought him immense satisfaction. Knowing that his time on this earth was limited, he was overjoyed to be able to leave over a tangible legacy for his progeny to know what their roots were.
The members of one team were very much hurt when their client, who had revealed whatever he had wished to, and the story was considered to be complete. Just ready for the printer when he contacted them explaining that his late father had appeared to him in a dream and demanded that he not have the book published. He demanded that all the material be turned over to him without delay, and that all record of the material be deleted from any computer that had been used to write it.
Just the idea that after so much effort names of the authors would not be publicized.
This realization really “knocked the wind out of their sails”. But “the customer is always right”. Even though this was written during the two years’ of voluntary service the lack of recognition was a blow to their self-esteem.
Somewhere during the half year course five of us formed a team and we were assigned a project. The elderly lady who was be our subject recognized me from the time she’d been to the Hevra Kadisha to arrange the funeral for her husband. She had been friendly with one of the other team members so she didn’t feel intimidated by five strangers shooting questions at her from all directions. Her story began before the Second World War with pleasant memories of her childhood. She told us of the beginning of the war and ho she ended up in an orphanage, eventually being reunited with her mother. Together they made their way to the land of Israel. When she related that her mother became the Second wife of D.K it sent shivers down my spine because when my wife and I had first come to settle in Hadera we used to visit D.K. and his wife very often, his family name being the same as my wife’s maiden mane. Sure enough, Mrs. K. had been her mother. Already we felt like kinsmen.
Progress with the story, throughout all the steps that we took in bringing it towards becoming a published soft covered book was closely monitored by our teacher who guided us trough every step, though we actually did the work. We worked closely with the graphic editor and the printer till completion of the project, every step of the way.
When the box of books were finally delivered to our subject she invited all of us to a feast that her daughter, a professional caterer prepared for us along with our spouses.
After that project we were on our own and went on to switch and change group formations from time to time. Sometimes working in pairs at other times teams of five, depending on the size and scope of the project.
One book took five of us over a year to produce. It was about the history of how a neighborhood was established. A great many number of interviews had to be performed and much research in the museum took up a lot of time. We included a section in the book whereby each of the founders was introduced along with his personal history, photo and comments on his part in establishing the borough. A comprehensive list of every trade or craft that was practiced there was meticulously described, as were the tradesmen and craftsmen who moved from established areas to found the new district.
When this book was finally printed and during a fabulous gala evening celebration books were distributed to each resident. This had been a voluntary job on our part, but was highly valued by all and great for our individual self esteem as well accepted authors.
Another memorable book that we wrote concerned the story of a man who has already left this world for a more accommodating one since his book was published. In his early years life in Karkuk Iraq he enjoyed leaving home each morning with a tray suspended by a strap from the back of his neck, with various nick-knacks and hawking them during his daily wanderings around the city. But he was a wily kid. Not wishing to be harassed by the police, he approached the chief of the force offering him a partnership in his peddling venture. Probably to humor the kid, he agreed, getting his small share of the profits each week. No policeman ever bothered him.
Life was a lark till Israel became an entity. Then began the trails and tribulations, his being Jewish and thus, recognized as a Zionist. This was not a local game with local police. He was now considered a traitor to the state and the hassle was with the army.
During one of his attempts to escape with a few others in an ancient truck by traversing the cruel desert their vehicle broke down and they were captured. Following a couple of years of brutality in an Iraqi prison he was finally released, stripped of all his earthly belongings, nationality and anything else besides his memories he was unceremoniously exiled to Israel.
Once he arrived by plane he was quick to become active in Israel in any number of voluntary activities earning numerous awards including a citation from the president.
One woman who had some newfound ideas about weigh loss dietetics asked me to help her format a book on the subject. It was based on daily use of ground linseed. She paid me for the effort and when several years had passed and she came up with a newer theory based upon cooked wheat she returned for me to do her next book as well. These were done in Hebrew to her satisfaction.
But books were not only written for strangers. We, each of us utilized the training and experience that we had accumulated and wrote our own life-story.
Not to Forget my own Biography
I began writing an autobiography of the first sixty-five years of my life. On the title page I wrote the following:
The greater part of the 120 years of my life,
Was spent seeking the values of life in this world.
The grandest part of those 120 years of my life
Is to be spent savoring the essence of those values
Living as if in the next world while on this world.
That book I call “My life began even before…” was completed in 1996. However, since all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are Hebrew-literate, and as my experience with word processing improved and having acquired a scanner I improved that book, translating it into Hebrew and embellished it with photos, and other memorabilia, completing that issue in 2001. I printed twenty-five copies and distributed them to my descendants.
From time to time some of my grandchildren call me for information when preparing their “Roots project” as part of their school curriculum. That is when I remind them to read their copy of my life story. So they eventually get to peruse the book that’s been gathering cob-webs on their bookshelf.
That book is now on my website: http://www.freewebs.com/shimsar/index.htm for anybody who wishes to know more about my life till retirement.
At the age of seventy I realized that quite a bit more life experiences had been piling up again so I authored a follow-up to my autobiography completed in 2007. It’s written in Hebrew and the translation of the title is “My life, as at 18, Continues” at a velocity of – from 0 to 365.25 solar days per year.
Since then, as my age progresses my pursuit of activity is more tranquil. Oh! I’m busy but not seeking to catch the world by the tail. However I still remember some of the other endeavors that prevented me from becoming rusty.
Eventually I was advised that I was chosen to be honored at a ceremony, as one of twelve inhabitants of our city were, to be awarded a Volunteer Recognition Certificate for the year 2002 .
That brought in many letters of congratulations and local magazine interviews.
Other partners in our ghost-writing group have also written their own autobiographies as well as stories about their spouses’ roots and experiences.
Right after becoming a retiree I had a few personal projects that kept me occupied. One of them found me studying a batch of letters that had been found after my father-in-law passed away.
No one in his family knew about them while he was alive. Nearly all of them were written by his brother who had remained in Europe after he left to settle in the United States. It was not easy to understand their contents, having been handwritten in a Galician Yiddish script. The collection is comprised of seventeen letters and was kept in chronological order.
It took me some two weeks to decipher and translate their contents into English. In going over their contents my wife suddenly realized why they had lived as paupers when she was a child in New York. Her father was constantly being milked by his brother to help pay the heavy debts he had accrued while building a new creamery and a house in Galicia.
As a follow-up to that project I retranslated the English version into Hebrew and printed out a few trilingual copies for family members, sending one copy to the Yad Vashem memorial organization in Jerusalem.
Somehow or other somebody from the Bar Ilan University library noticed it and sent me a purchase order for a copy. Naturally I printed up and bound another copy for them, but refuse to accept payment for anything related to the holocaust. However I received an official thank you note from the librarian.
Locating Missing (Dead) Persons
During the time that I was occupied in the Hevra Kadisha office management I entered all the pertinent data into a newly acquired computer program that had originally been entered by hand on individual cards, an alphabetical index and a spreadsheet depicting daily activities. During the entire month that the chief clerk was absent for military duty I filled in my slack time by checking the old records against the recently entered data into the computer and found that innumerable entries were incomplete. Some of the deceased exact place of interment was missing, while other entries, basically on the cemetery map, showed gravesites, but lacked information about who was occupying them.
I attempted to track down whatever information I was able to locate by cross-checking pertinent documents. This solved a few problems but many were still unaccounted for. After tracking down some of their living descendents I was able to clear up a few more incomplete entries. Out of the tens of thousands of entries we were still left with about sixty problematic records.
Another one of the projects that occupied me shortly after retirement was to solve those disorders, both for the facts and for the records. That entailed my spending a few days in Zichron Yaacov’s cemetery. Why would I search for the solution in the grave-yard of a distant city? Because that is where many of Hadera’s early settlers were buried.
I’d better explain why so many of those pioneers ended up being buried in Zichron Yaacov. Malaria was a scourge that affected nearly every one of the early pioneers who didn’t realize that the surrounding swamps were hosting the Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria is carried by certain species of the Anopheles mosquito. Though it’s hard to believe that an insect the size of the mosquito can even have salivary glands, it was in these glands that physician Ronald Ross first found traces of the disease, unequivocally proving that mosquitoes were responsible for its transmission. Ross. He also found that only the female anopheline mosquitoes carried the parasite. And developed mathematical models for studying the epidemiology of malaria.. Those who suffered from this ailment were brought to Dr. Hillel Jofffe’s hospital in Zichron Yaacov. Dr. Joffe who had studied ocular medicine in Russia later specialized in treating those suffering from malaria However, among those who did not survive those treatments many were buried in the Zichron Yaacov cemetery.
I figured that if I could identify those Haderaites who were definitely buried in Zichron Yaacov, it would narrow down the unidentified ones interred in the Hadera cemetery. The results were much more that I had anticipated, with over one hundred definite ID’s. I was able to amalgamate all that information along with personal information for most of them that included dates of birth, immigration, death, spouses, ancestors and descendents. As well, I was able record for each one on his or her individual page, their occupations and for most of them, their exact place of interment. This ended up as a booklet that I was able to present to the Khan Museum in Hadera, who appreciated the results of that research, no end.
As soon as I went into actual retirement, I signed up for an additional course. Here I learned how to be an effective volunteer with at the Khan Museum in Hadera; the material was very interesting and gave me insight into the inner workings of such an institute. Thus I also became affiliated with the museum as a volunteer, allowing me unlimited access to the vast bank of documental information stored there. Why was this so important to me?
During the time I spent working in the Hevra Kadisha, I became aware of over 60 graves in the “old” cemetery that had not been identified. It was not known who the interred were. In addition names of some of the deceased were not affiliated with any specific grave. If I could ascertain which of the early Hadera settlers has been buried in the cemetery of Zichron Yaacov, a town not far from Hadera, I could eliminate those names from the “unknown” list of those unidentified Haderaites. Armed with a list of these names, and during a few visits to the office of the Zichron Yaacov burial society I poured over their records and located some missing ones and in which plots they were buried. A few more days of wandering around in the Zichron cemetery with a camera to photograph the existing tombstones, gave me definite proof of over sixty actual photos, and eighty-six names of Hadera residents, who had been buried in Zichron Yaacov’s cemetery. Through further research I located the grand-daughter of one of Hadera’s early history buffs who had meticulously recorded much the same type of material I was after. Fortunately she was a librarian, so she carefully kept these records and made them available to the Hadera museum, to be copied. Through studying theses records I was able to add further information to my list of Haderaites who had been interred in Zichron, now numbering over one hundred.
Why was that quest so important to me? Every definite burial if early Hadera settlers who were in Zichron Yaacov was one less to seek in Hadera’s cemetery.
One may ask, if Hadera had an organized cemetery of its own, why were such an unusually disproportionate number of Hadera’s early settlers buried in the Zichron Yaacov cemetery?
The founders of Hadera hadn’t realized why the greenery was so lush on the tract of their recently purchased land was because the subterranean water table was shallow, as later geological studies proved. That caused very large land tracts to become swamps, where the Enopolus Mosquito bred, spreading Yellow Malaria among the settlers. Many of those who had contracted the deadly malaria had been brought to the hospital of Dr. Hillel Yoffe. His clinic was established in Zichron Yaacov, a few hours’ travel distance from Hadera. Those patients who were too far gone, and didn’t survive his ministrations, especially in winter, when travel was so dangerous, were buried in Zichron Yaacov. Many Haderaites of all ages had succumbed to their illness and were interred there in those first years. That was until the disease was properly recognized, and the swamps were finally drained off. The work took many years and was a very costly project undertaken with the financial help of the Baron Edmond De Rothschild. He brought in laborers from Sudan to dig huge trenches with pick and shovel, northward towards the Hadera River, and southwards towards the Alexander River.
Actual digging of these trenched was delayed for several years because it was believed that transplanting eucalyptus trees would reduce the water, therefore depriving the Enopolus Mosquito of favorable breeding grounds. That attempt to sop up the stagnant water by planting 750,000 eucalyptus trees, imported from Australia gave Hadera a forest but was ineffective in the battle towards eradicating the malaria bearing Enopolus Mosquitoes.
Returning to the Haderaites who were buried in the Zichron Yaacov cemetery; I scanned vital data for each one and fed it into the computerized Brother’s Keeper program. After printing and binding a few copies of the accumulated data I sent copes to several research libraries. One went to the Yad Ben Tzvi Library in Jerusalem where such material is made available to anybody who wishes to research such information. The Zichron Yaacov Founders’ Museum also received one. They both acknowledged and thanked me for the books that I sent them; and the Khan Museum of Hadera, who not only acknowledged receipt of their copy, but highly praised the work done on it. The Municipal library of Hadera received a copy also as well as the burial society of Zichron Yaacov who highly prizes their copies.
Honoring the First 120 who gave their Lives to Establish Hadera
With the approach of the one-hundred and twentieth year celebration since founding the community the Khan Museum of Hadera got the City interested in a special project. The proposal was to honor the first hundred and twenty Haderaites who gave their lives while establishing the city that after one hundred and twenty years numbered over 87,000 inhabitants.
As a result of my research on the subject I was asked to generate a list of existing monuments marking the first hundred and twenty Haderaites who had been interred in the cemeteries of Hadera and Zichron Yaacov. I was called in as a volunteer consultant to identify and list the gravesites of these hundred and twenty settlers An especially crafted plaque made by one of the monument builders who volunteered his services in cutting and engraving one hundred and twenty plaques that were applied to the existing monuments to commemoration the event.. They were affixed to each of these gravestones as a gesture of appreciation for their part in establishing our thriving city.
Several days prior to the actual celebration when those plaques were fastened to their recipients’ monuments students from two schools from within the community visited both cemeteries and cleaned up the area surrounding the graves of those who were to be honored. The immediate vicinity of these graves was cleared of all debris, both in the cemetery of Zichron Yaacov and in Hadera. In preparation for the big day the stones were scraping and washed down with soap and water in preparation for the assigned date of the ceremonies.
On the auspicious anniversary date that the founding of Hadera had established their settlement a crowd of onlookers that included many descendents of those who were to be honored, gathered to witness the ceremony. Teams of municipal workers had attached these plaques to the existing gravestones that had been premarked. Finally, the mayor of Hadera was privileged to affix one such plaque to the headstone of Hadera’s first committee chairman who had been buried in Zichron Yaacov, Menahem Medel Nahumovski z”l.
The entire crown reassembled a couple of hours later at the site of Hadera’s first known burial, the grave of Yaacov Israel Aidelvine, (see page 26) where the mayor of Hadera together with Aidelvine’s descendents affixed a plaque to his gravestone.
Two separate very emotional ceremonies took place on the same day and were well attended by hundreds of descendents of those who were thus honored.
For my part in that emotional project the city mayor sent me a very appreciative letter.
I recorded my findings that should have been published as a memorial book, presenting my results with all the data on a disc to the person in municipality who should have acted on my suggestion. He never followed up by printing it. The individual, to whom it was supplied, has since died and I don’t know if it will ever be published.
However, as far as I’m concerned I feel that I performed more than was expected of me, and it helped keep me active. After all I’m still on retirement and didn’t expect to profit by any of what I did.
Hadera’s First Settlers – One Large Family
While gathering information for Hadera’s 120tth anniversary project, I became involved in still another undertaking. By interviewing surviving grandchildren and great-grandchildren of many of those deceased, in order to glean any further information on the funding fathers of our city, I put together family tree data for each family. I discovered some interrelationships and marriages between these families, and by offering information to some, that was unknown to them till then, I was able to gain their confidence and to garner still more information. This worked its way into forming a huge “Family tree” of nearly all the original settler of Hadera, and how their children wed children of others. Those who have modernized their family names, make it hard to follow them through, though.
Hadera’s history is coming to life with this project. It is a huge scheme and should be a big show, but it’s not the kind of project that takes on flesh overnight. I’m still only gathering bones, and their not all so easy to find.
The Khan Museum is behind me with this project, and is willing to help with any information they have, and it’s a lot, but not all of it is in one file. T’s a matter of gleaning between the lines from among the hundreds of thousands of items that are stored many different formats; written, printed videoed, audio-tapes, photos, etc. But there’s a lot of cooperation, on their part.
Helping Serious University Students
From time to time I’d been approached by a number of people who wishing to further their education towards achieving MA status. Their command of the English language being limited they requested that I translate their theses materials into proper English. Personally, I had never even personally earned even a BA degree, but successfully helped several post graduate students to gain their Master’s degrees
After I’d completed the work for one student /e admitted that even the Hebrew material that he’d supplied to me was “bought”. I wouldn’t have done the translation if I’d been aware earlier that it was not on the level. It still irks me that I had been party to a bogus submission of material for such a lofty honor.
One translation dealt with organ donations and transplants according to the Halacha. It was very well researched, but after working on it for a few days, and finally delivering it, I found several questions that might come up in certain situations.
Walking for the Sport of it
Early into retirement I joined up with a “Walking for Health” project, “Walking for the Sport of it”. Just getting to the push off point was a few kilometers from home but it was nice to walk along with other like minded short winded walkers. The only trouble was that it was organized very close to the rainy season. The result was catastrophic when nearly every meeting date was rained out. Rain-out became drop-out. And that didn’t last very long, because by the time spring rolled around nearly everybody had a different schedule and we never got back to the walking activity the way it was supped to have begun. The only ones I could locate were much younger and agile than I and I didn’t enjoy trying to keep up with their pace. As well, they weren’t happy with my lagging behind.
However as a result of my attendance at one of the walking meetings I was approached with an invitation to join a group involved in “Preventative Therapy”. For awhile I was the only male amongst some twenty or so women. Eventually I convinced another man to join and he enlisted two more men.
We met once a week to enjoy lectures on self improvement mental drills, physical exercises and discussions of various issues about aging gracefully and generally taking care of ourselves. In order to be eligible for financial support of the City we had to form a committee with elected officers, establish a bank account and even organize a monthly news letter containing social data of the members that included monthly birthday greetings, a puzzle, a joke, poetry by the members and other such prattle. In order to open a bank account we had to have a name. That was when the members accepted my suggestion, from among a dozen entries. We registered the club name, “Life as if at 18”.
It was fun club for golden agers. On one occasion when I spied one of our members taking advantage of a scale, she didn’t seem to be very happy with the results. Feeling in a good mood, I loudly suggested, she release her hold on her heavy handbag, to lighten the weight. Then I added, “If you remove your glasses the results should be more real”. I went on with, “Now, if you remove your dentures your weight will drop some more. And if you keep them out for a couple of weeks you’ll drop to normal.”
Once a year we organized a tour, hired a bus and made arrangements to visit several tourist sites stopping for lunch at mid-day. Each participant paid in her or his share to cover costs of transportation, entry fees and for a proper restaurant meal.
On these occasions we visited archaeological sites, and interesting industrial complexes. The glass factory refused our request, on the grounds that the site might be too dangerous for a lot of old ladies to be wandering around.
Once a year we even changed our venue with a meeting at a restaurant for an end-of-season festive meal, where we granted certificates of appreciation to members for their active participation.
I was honored to have held various committee positions during subsequent years. However when city subsidies were curtailed and the matter of a city subsidized meeting hall was declined, some other arrangements had to be made.
That was when Naámat, a womens’ social benefit organization, stepped in to sponsor the club. However Naámat is a feminist organization and I was gently but forcefully resigned from membership and had to hand over the portfolio and cash that I’d been holding for a few years. So here I was being forcefully retired again, but not in disgrace.
Learning, Studying & Lecturing
Even before actual retirement I had been attending sessions on Wednesday evenings, where we studying the Tanach [Bible]. From time to time the venue was shifted to various locations as our hosts changed their schedules. As the leader was a volunteer we were not formally organized and had not much say in the matter.
At times different Rabbis took over lectureship for whatever reason, but as a group the Wednesday evening attendance kept on for more than twenty years. Once, when we were abruptly evacuated due to an emergency meeting at the hall where we had been meeting regularly, we moved out to hold our study session in an open park, across the way.
Tragedy struck when our reverent Rabbi suddenly died and a replacement was sought. Some of the sessions took place in a dance studio, when it was not in use. At other times we held our sittings at various synagogues. Some of our hosts demanded that we chip in to cover the costs of cleaning and electric usage. For many years we were never certain where we’d be meeting for the next lesson, till..
The department of religious cultural affairs of the city offered us the use, cost free, of a synagogue that was “usually” not in use on Wednesday evenings. We were even supplied with a set of keys. Now with some assurance of a regular venue at our disposal and after enlisting a few more members our numbers grew to more than two dozen steady participants.
One of our number who was most enthusiastic took it upon himself to be responsible for the keys and was always first to arrive. And, of course last to leave. We were also very fortunate to have found a Rabbi who was very much appreciated by all the attendant students. For some years all went according to normal practice, till our “key” man died. Somehow I ended up being the keeper of the keys. This obliged me to arrive early and remain till the last person left. It was now my job to setup the classroom, lay out the books, have a carafe of cold water and a cup on the Rabbi’s table, get the fans or aid conditioner going and to take attendance as the participants arrived. Following the study sessions it’s my responsibility to shut of the air conditioner or the fans, return the books to their respective shelves, assure that no personal effects were inadvertently left behind, close the lights and lock the door and outer gate before heading home. This responsibility curtailed my personal participation at a great number of social and even family events. I still take the mission seriously and feel that it is privilege to serve in that way.
There are times when the Rabbi contacts me, often on short notice, that he would not be able to show up and could I find a substitute. Even a substitute would require sufficient notice in order to prepare a one and a half hour session. But because so many members make the effort to arrive an obligation exists to give them some kind of study material. After one such event, when the yoke fell upon my shoulders, and when I couldn’t find a substitute teacher, with literally nothing of essence prepared, and with no alternative, I picked up the reigns and muddled through for an hour, attempting to conduct the session more, as a discussion period than a teaching experience. The attendees not only didn’t complain but since none left before the session came to an end, it was considered a successful meeting.
Since then I try to always have some material prepared, in case I get that emergency call, “Sorry, buy I can’t make it tonight”. That has happened on several occasions.
That kind of experience gave me the idea to author a book that went into self-publishing that I call “No Alternative”.
Retirement is fat from boring. From Sunday to Thursday mornings I attend an ongoing study session where we learn Talmud and Halacha. For a few years the Rabbi organized our class, so that we take turns on Monday mornings where one of the students takes the lectern and leads the class. The subjects chosen are entirely up to the individual as his turn comes up. With plenty of time to prepare our subject matter, the one hour sessions is usually very interesting, and well attended. With this kind of active participation the time and effort expended in preparation can sometimes be quite time consuming, but the approval of our colleagues makes all the effort worthwhile. My turn usually comes up every six weeks, but we cooperate with each other when some circumstances require a change of schedule between ourselves.
Some of the sessions have sharp cross-discussions when a unique idea is introduced and the lecturer is challenged, as often happens. The sessions are most often conducted in true Talmudic fashion, with “Where did you ever get that idea”? My reply was, “You might not believe it, but that is how So and So quotes one of his obdurate uncompromising contemporary colleagues, even though he is not in full agreement with his conclusions”.
And so the lesson continues till the hour is up.
Authoring & Publishing so why not Cooking?
All along, for many years I’ve been composing short stories and assays on different subjects. Some were figments of my imagination others were based upon some facts that I’d heard or read about. Most, if not all, have been fictionalized with a little embellishment, products of my imagination.
One book recently published, “No Alternative” takes place at a Sabbath retreat where fourteen total strangers are to spend a Shabbat together. The only things they have in common, is; they are all religious Jews and really have no idea who invited them or why they were invited, nor do they know what was expected of them. One of them David, who is by nature timid is contacted, very late on the Friday afternoon, by the organizer by cell phone and told that since he will not be attending. It is up to David to organize and conduct the program. In total shock and nearly ready to disintegrate, he overcomes his dread and proposes a direction for the program. Each one of the participants is to identify himself, who he is and what his occupation is. This not only buys time for David, but gives him self confidence, proving to him that he has superb leadership abilities. The successes that David experienced were all due to the fact that he was given “No Alternative”.
Throughout the Shabbat, each one is prompted to relate some kind of story about an experience that has touched his life. This is where my collection of philosophical essays, humorous anecdotes and short stories are incorporated into one volume as a complete story. A reader of the book should experience lessons in morality, emotion, relationships, judicial procedure, tragedy, philosophy, terror, humor, loyalty and any number of other personality traits. The end result is even more bizarre.
I’m a firm believer that serious messages are not necessarily hidden in dreams, but they are revealed to us during the time we dream. I’ve had some exciting experiences based upon my dreams. One memorable instance was, when I awoke from a dream with the scrumptious taste of roast chicken stuffed with potato seasoned with plenty of fried onion. That was a morsel that had never passed my lips before, but the taste seemed so real that I couldn’t forget it. Then sometime during that week a large advertisement appeared in the Jerusalem Post, proclaiming a contest for foods suitable for Pessach. I immediately remembered that dream about a chicken stuffed with potato and realized that it would meet with the criteria necessary for Pessach.
My daughter N. and I tried out a few recipes and I submitted the results. It was nearly forgotten, until a phone call came through informing me that among four hundred entries two hundred were being considered for inclusion in a new cook-book, “The Taste of Passover”. Of course my submission was included. But what do I want to call it? That was easy to decide, “Dream Chicken”. It was quite a thrill. But it was not the end of the story. Some two weeks later another phone call came from the management of the Sheraton Hotels. My “Dream Chicken” was chosen to be a contestant to be prepared in the kitchen of the King Solomon Hotel (a Hilton hotel at the time) in Jerusalem. I was duly informed of the date and time to join the other nine contestants, vying for the title, champion chef of a meat dish. It was a great honor and an exciting day to be cooking in the hotel kitchen, even though I was not the top winner. So why should I not believe in dreams?
Since having submitted the text of “No Alternative” to the publishers I wrote a few additional stories. A couple of them actually were based upon materials that came to me during my dreams. Some dreams are so vivid and are seared so deep into my memory that if they still haven’t dissipated after a few days my imagination kicks in and I find myself forming a story based upon those dreams.
On one occasion I found myself following the plot of a story that came to me in a dream. After typing up a couple of pages I wasn’t certain how to continue. What direction should I take to get the rest of the story on the road towards completion and yet to make it compelling? Of course I didn’t sit around all day moping about the problem. I just continued with my other projects in my usual manner. However when I awoke next morning I had a solution towards continuing the story line. This happened a few times during the next week and a half. I’d fall asleep wondering how to continue and wake up with a plausible continuation. Forming the narrative was my job. After all I don’t expect my subconscious self to do all the work. Sometime along the way I was granted a conclusive ending to the story. Filling in wide gaps and connecting related episodes was up to me and my attitude but I’d never had a night-time sleep prompt me along the way so vividly before while progressing with a fictitious story. That resulted in “The Firing Squad”.
The same thing happened with another short story that took about two weeks of collaboration between my conscious and subconscious powers to completion.
Two of those subconscious-aided creations became part of a collection of seven short stories that make up my anthology, “Factual Fiction”, published by Trafford Books Singapore.
Right now, I’m writing this nearly-non-fictional chronicle that you now hold in your hands. For this one I’m depending upon my memory and not my imagination. The concluding paragraph has already made its appearance, but a bit of imagination crept into that final part of this tome, not unwillingly but definitely wittingly.
Now don’t you go jumping to conclusions, leave them for the end.
On Being a Census Taker
One period of time that I found to be very interesting took place about one and a half months into my retirement. Having noticed a poster in the post office that looked interesting, I became intrigued with the idea of signing up. The government office responsible for keeping statistics of the country’s residents was looking for canvassers to participate in the upcoming population census. I had never considered doing that kind of thing before but now that I had the free time I completed and tendered an application form.
Some weeks later a reply arrived in the mail accepting my submission, inviting me attend a three day course in preparation for the task. Even though the time spent studying the guidance material was paid for, attendance during the training period did not assure acceptance into the program. The first session familiarized the candidates with structure of the organization and rules to follow. During the second session where instructions on how the forms were to be completed most of the failures were weeded out. The final session covered the practical method of gathering the required information, such as setting out the route for better efficiency.
It was coincidental that at that time my wife took a trip to visit her family in the U. S. A. so I wasn’t tied to any particular schedule at home.
The region I was assigned to was not my home-town, Hadera, but in a newly constructed section of Or Akiva, some ten minutes drive from home. On my first sortie I was met by a supervisor who got me started by supplying me with a basic kit that included an official ID badge, blank forms, and writing implements. I can’t forget the first building of my assigned route. It was a newly built nine story structure where the elevators were not yet operating. According to the instructions we received during the training course, “Always start from the top”. In this case that meant walking up nine flights of stairs, then working my way down, knocking on doors of apartments that were mostly unoccupied. This was not a satisfying beginning but in total my general efforts were profitable.
Most of the apartments in this neighborhood were occupied by newly arrived immigrants from Russia who hadn’t yet learned to communicate in the Hebrew language. My command of Russian was even less. However I had the good fortune to have been assigned to a locality where the residents had a system to save on rental costs. They doubled up, while some even had three family units in one dwelling.
Most often, when I couldn’t communicate with some family head, the elderly parents were able to converse with me in Yiddish, or younger members of the family already spoke Hebrew. That not only made my job easier but also more profitable.
In many cases where more than one family unit lived behind the same door, I was supposed to full out a separate census form for each family unit. And that is exactly what I did, ending up with more completed forms than there were doorways. And the pay was reckoned on the number of completed forms entered into the computer data-base. Some apartment visits netted me three completed forms.
At one private home a ferocious dog would hardly allow me to approach the front gate, as he pranced about while barking loud enough to waken the dead. The first few times that I made my way through the neighborhood I kept my distance, not wishing to become a mangled mass of flesh. But each time I slowed down, then on another pass I stopped to allow him to get used to my presence. Eventually, even though he put on such a ferocious show I opened the gate and made my way to the front door, rang the bell, was welcomed into the house and even offered a glass of water by the resident.
One of the younger Russian folks helped me out immensely by teaching me the Russian term for “Census” so that I could properly announce the purpose of my visit.
Every night when I completed my daily route, I stopped in at the command center to enter the results into the computer and replenished my supply of blank forms.
Within the five weeks that I completed canvassing the area assigned to me, where I met some very interesting people, whom I would probably never had had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
To sum up that experience, it was a very interesting few weeks. Several weeks after completing the project I found a sizable credit to my bank account. It was enough to cover the cost of a new air conditioner, even after some 40% had been deducted for taxes.
As Age Advances we still take our Chances
Life as a retiree is not all is song & dance or fun & enjoyment. As one ages other aspects of living in a mature phase of life, other occurrences ensue. Not all of them are joyous occasions. However one must make the best of them. It’s all a matter of attitude.
Not only do our bones grow brittle, so do some of our old tools. And that is what happened, by coincidence, on my eightieth birthday. But like I said, it’s all a matter of attitude, because the almighty directs and mankind accomplishes His wishes.
We can only perform what has already been ordained by heavenly powers. However the results may sometimes be beyond our control. That is the way of the world. We may think that we are being original in our plans and actions, but that is not the way this world really operates.
Such an adventure like the one I am about to describe follows the laws of nature, definitely governed by Divine Providence.
The ways of the Almighty are not within the realm of our perceptions, however I personally and wholeheartedly believe that whatever experience befell upon me were for the better. The immediate circumstances seemed disastrous, but the outcome proved to be encouraging. It is more than simple optimism, but my firm belief.
Even if every action undertaken by man might have been subject to meticulous planning, the ways of G-d are very much different from ours.
Which one of us is capable of understanding the wishes of the Almighty and how He directs the actions of man on this world?
Who is capable of appreciating the significance of events and happenings that might seem objectionable to us, when the results, unwittingly, actually proved to be beneficial?
At age thirty or forty my attitude would probably have been very different, but as one matures one’s attitude mellows.
Is mankind generously granted the merit to foresee the consequences or potency that would result from specific actions, be they physical, mental or spiritual?
In the full sense of the word, I humbly believe that in this case I was allowed to understand the workings of G-d as the following series of events, as they unfolded, and in their precise order in which they took place, each step leading towards the next. This proves that what might have been originally thought to be, a dreadful incident, actually ended up strengthening my belief that whatever cards I had been dealt, inadvertently led to a positive end result.
It all began when I was injured on the right side of my left hand between my index finger and thumb. This is a very odd position wherein to be injured. How did it happen? I was preparing to run a small electrically operated sharpening stone in order to create a few special spoons for use by family toddlers. I call them “Self-leveling spoons”. I successfully made a sample some years ago, but now with five toddlers under the age of two (one grandson and four great-grandchildren) in the family a demand for a few more became real. The idea behind this spoon is, that no matter to which angle the baby turns the handle the spoon itself remains level and clean delivery of food right into his mouth is assured.
It seems that I was somewhat negligent when fastening the sharpener to the table top and when it started up centrifugal force of an aged stone threw the machine from its footing, flipping over, breaking the stone, with a segment subsequently hitting my hand. That opened a significant wound as a piece of the broken stone went through the skin and broke one of the bones of my left hand. Instinctively I reached over to unplug the cord form the wall plug. But that didn’t stop the wound from bleeding. And it bled quite profusely.
Rushing to the nearest water tap I washed out whatever residual foreign matter might have entered the wound then laid a couple of clean “wet-wipes” over the wound. I then hurried to my desk remembering that in the second drawer down, on the left side I had stored a personal bandage. It had been there for over fifty years, from the time I left the army.
I hastily made my way with it towards the kitchen, handing it to my wife with instructions – how to open the wrapping and how to apply it over the wound. She had just finished a call for a taxi to get me to the emergency ward in the Hillel Jaffa Hospital.
“Tighter! Tighter! Another few wraps and still tighter! Now you can tie it with a double knot”, she followed my instructions perfectly. As I left the house she thoughtfully handed me a towel so as to prevent accidental tripping any blood in the taxi,. As soon as I reached the sidewalk the taxi had arrived. The vehicle had only one vacant seat so my wife stayed behind, and we took off directly to the emergency room. While still on the way I paid the fare and as soon as he stopped, I left his car, entered the hospital and got into line behind a couple who were being admitted for treatment. My turn came quickly and within moments I was greeted by a nurse who removed my blood-soaked bandage, cleaned up the wound and replaced it with a fresh temporary dressing.
She checked my blood-pressure. I don’t remember all the numbers but the systolic measure was 165. After that I was banded with an ID wristband and sent to have my hand x-rayed.
Upon my return to emergency I was directed to the surgery section where my x-ray was already being studied. What I saw was not comforting, an open fracture of the shaft in the metacarpal bone, designated internationally as 815.13. It was a break with one part of the bone jutting out like a splinter.
I was next led to a treatment room where the temporary bandage was removed, the wound that had basically stopped bleeding was cleaned up and preparation for stitching was begun with quite a bit of Novocain type fluid injected in all directions into my hand. The doctor decided that four stitches would be sufficient before he dressed the wound once more.
Due to the nature of the break we entered another room used for applying plaster casts, but the doctor didn’t fashion a full cast. Instead he formed a splint out of plaster encased gauze and when it hardened into the shape he wanted he applied it to my fist and forearm.
The reason for a splint and not a cast was to facilitate treatment of the open wound every so often. With a cast there wouldn’t have been access to the wound.
He fashioned a sling and I was once again moved, this time to a cubicle in the emergency ward where I was presented with a pair of pajamas and a large plastic bag where my shoes and clothing was to be placed. This was a sure sign that I was being admitted into the hospital.
Now my mind began to whirl, admittance into the hospital? I’m not aware of the amount of time I’m expected to stay. I don’t have any personal belongings of basic importance to me. I’m sure to need, I can’t think of any specifics, but there must surely be something. That’s when I phoned my wife to let her know the situation and the few things I’m going to require, especially the spare talit and tephilin that I have in the house, my really top quality ones were locked up in my box at the synagogue.
I then had a peripheral cannula intervenus introduced into my right arm, at the inner part of my elbow to continuously give access to an available vein.
This is the most common method of assuring a ready intravenous access tube. It consists of a short catheter (a few centimeters long) inserted through the skin into a peripheral vein (except all the veins inthe chest or abdomen). It’s usually in the form of a needle within a tube of flexible plastic that comes mounted on a metal trocar. After the tip of the needle is inserted into the vein, Any accessible vein can also be used but the hand and arm veins are most common, with the veins in the leg or foot is used to a much lesser extent.In infants the scalp veins are sometimes used A portion of the catheter is left extending out of the surface of the skin, the hub connection. It can be connected to a syringe or an intravenous infusion line, or capped between treatments. In Hebrew this item is called a “Brannula”.
I was then instructed to get into a wheel-chair to be transported to the orthopedic department, but due to the time of day I requested permission to take ten minutes for afternoon prayers. Permission was duly granted, and I made my way to the hospital chapel, a mere 40 meters from the emergency department.
People were coming and going, as they completed their individual prayers, without attempting to organize a quorum of ten so I also began my supplications.
I somehow sensed that someone was behind me but didn’t pay him any attention till I completed my prayers. Upon turning around I immediately recognized one of the doctors who work in the hospital as one of our regular congregants at the first minian, every morning. To meet this specific doctor, one of over 1.600 hospital staff in this specific place at this preordained time was the first sign that the machinations of Heaven were directing things from above. This meeting was surely not mere coincidence. I asked if he was working in the hospital next morning and when he replied in the affirmative I whipped out the key to my personal compartment in the synagogue and. placing it into his hand asking to bring my tephilin and talit to me in the morning. He agreed without hesitation. That was one problem solved. A phone call to my wife to cancel delivery of my spares took care of that. The spare set that I kept at home for emergencies were not of a superior grade anyway.
As soon as I returned to the emergency ward I was asked to get into a wheelchair and was whisked away through various passageways towards the new building, into an elevator that made the assents to the third floor in mere moments. Upon exiting the elevator, a left turn and an immediate right turn brought us to the Orthopedic “B” ward where I handed over the file folder, I’d been clutching, to the nurse on duty, and found myself being propelled a little further down the hallway till the entrance to room number 6, and was finally wheeled over to the third empty bed, the one next to the window. That was to be my bed for five days if nothing serious developed. Thank Heaven, nothing did.
I was quickly hooked up to an intravenous tube through which my first dose of antibiotics was administered. That took only a bit over five minutes but I still remained connected to the intravenous tube till the nurse returned to disengage it from my “Brannula”. She capped it till my next dose was due, six hours later.
Once I was disconnected I organized my clothing in the personal cabinet that is supplied beside each bed. The cabinet is also equipped with a tray that can be adjusted for height and swiveled around to accommodate the needs of any patient, in any position. It also holds a drawer for the patient’s various personal effects.
Now that use of my left arm was limited by the sling and use of my left hand altogether was next to useless, it being bandaged onto a splint with only my little finger somewhat free, it took some getting used to, maneuvering things around. Movements that I always took for granted.
By now it was mid-afternoon and long after the doctor’s rounds. Even the time for changing the shift of the nursing staff was past. Things were quiet at that time with most of the patients resting before the evening meal was to be served up.
My son M. came to visit on his way home from work he brought along his son R. who studied in the school just opposite the Hospital. He was asked to help fill in a form for the nurses to include particulars, including a list of the medications that I usually take. I remembered some of the names but didn’t remember the dosages of some. But a phone call to my wife helped complete that information.
Meanwhile I was introduced to hospital fare when supper was served. Being perfectly able to get around I opted to eat in the dining-room, furnished with four cloth covered round tables and chairs. A water cooler was readily available at all hours, but at that hour there were no more cups. I was given a tray that contained a container of yogurt, a smaller container of smear-cheese, a couple of slices of bread (not rationed), a bowl of quite good tasting vegetable soup, a plate with half of a tomato and some sliced cucumber, a little container of jam and a piece of honey cake to go with the cup of tea and two apples. The variety should have satisfied even a very picky eater. But eating with only one free hand, even if it is the right one took a bit of adaptation. But nobody rushed me. I quickly realized that I’d have to get used to the idea that simultaneous knife and fork manipulations were not practical for me now.
When my son M. returned later in the evening he brought my wife with a few personal items that included my pills for a couple of days and a pair of slippers. They were more comfortable that the shoes that I couldn’t very well tie with one splinted hand supported by a sling.
When they left after visiting hours were over I wandered around a bit and noticed someone wearing a kippa and as I approached him, to my surprise, he greeted me by name. I didn’t recognize him till we’d been speaking for a few minutes. It then came back to me that more that thirty years had passed since I had last met him. He used to install security locks. We spent a bit of time speaking about mutually interesting subjects. He had been a manual crafts teacher in our youngest son school. Our younger son Y.M. fondly remembered his teacher, when I told him about the pleasurable conversation I had with, Mr. T. when he paid me a visit next day, but was disappointed that he had already been discharged.
At 10:00 o’clock the evening rounds went into full swing and I was again provided with another dose of antibiotics. As soon as that was over I went to the now fully vacant dining-hall and recited the evening prayers. Returning to my bed I slept through the night, awaking, as usual at 5:00 am.
Using the rest room with only one free hand took some getting used to, but nothing is impossible.
The 6:00 o’clock dose of antibiotics was again administered, as well as the early morning blood-pressure and temperature check. All of this data was duly noted on the large chart hanging at the foot of each bed.
I still had plenty of time till my talit & tephilin would get to me so I wandered around the ward till my newfound friend T. showed signs of being awake, and we continued our conversation of the night before for some time. He was discharged later that same day following a stay of nearly ten days.
When I returned to my room I found a plastic bag on my bed containing my religious items along with the key that I’d handed to the doctor the day before. I could now pray properly, and asked permission to descend to the hospital synagogue for half an hour. Permission was readily granted and I retuned on time for breakfast. It was more or less like supper, except that the standard hard-boiled egg was the main item. Instead of a bowl of soup served at supper time, the bowl contained farina, something I never was able to get used to. But with such a variety of foods like vegetables, jam, yoghurt, bread and cake with a cup of tea on the tray there was plenty to tide me over till lunch time.
With the changing of their shift, nurses going off duty make the rounds along with their replacements, explaining what went on during the past shift and discussing any special requirements that should be noted.
Another hour should bring on the doctors’ rounds. They visit each patient; examine the data sheet at the foot of each bed where everything of significance is noted. These include blood-pressure, temperature, dosages of whatever is noted, as are any other significant bit of information that might affect the wellbeing of the patient. Depending upon why the patient is being kept there the doctor questions of the nurses as well as the patient, helping him reach conclusions regarding continuation or changes of treatments, or discharging the patient from the hospital altogether.
I was disappointed when the “palm” expert was not among the group of doctors, as he was the one that was to decide if I required an operation or not. As far as the other doctors were concerned I was not yet a patient with a specific status.
Lunch was a surprise, with a bowl of soup, a slab of beef with potatoes and some mixed vegetables, a cool drink, a couple of slices of bread and an apple. A bit awkward to manage a knife and fork, but, surprisingly, I managed to overcome that problem as well.
A few more hours passed without any indication that my “expert” was going to show up. Meanwhile I was in limbo, being treated well but without a label to my category.
Here I was still awaiting an examination but the expert, who if he decides that I must have an operation, and now it’s Thursday afternoon, will mean that I’ll probably have to fast on that day for at least six to ten hours, if not more. Would he perform a routine operation on a Friday? And if not, it would mean going through with an operation on Sunday, four days after my minor accident.. And that might lengthen my stay in the hospital for a few more that the five days that were originally anticipated. The picture was not very promising with the time approaching 4:00 pm, more that 24 hours since I’d been admitted and still no decision.
Then my wife showed up, not very happy that I still don’t have any idea what might be in store for the next few days, and maybe even into the Sukkot festival. She left the department and made her way towards the old hospital building to attempt a meeting with the chief administrator without a prior appointment. He was gone already but his assistant was in the office and explained that the “palm” expert was the only one who could make the necessary decision, and he was still in the operating theater, as he had been, since early morning. He would do his best to have him visit me and decide what my status would be before he left the premises.
A short while after my wife returned to tell me, quite unenthusiastically, what she had learned, the assistant administrator showed up to assure me that the expert knew about my situation and would surely pay me a visit.
Moments later the expert showed up and notified me that he examined the x-rays and decided that I wouldn’t require an operation. However I’d have to be trussed up with a splint for four weeks. It was a relief to know that I would be spared that hurdle. Now I could look forward towards a discharge by Monday or at the latest, on Tuesday.
If I’d still have to be hospitalized over the Yom Kippur Shabbat in order to receive my doses of intravenous antibiotics according to the preset schedule so be it. So on her next visit; my wife brought me my favorite Machzor and my Kittel.
On Friday morning when I descended to the synagogue for my early morning prayers I saw notice that Yom Kippur services were scheduled to be held, not in the hospital chapel, but in the Yeshiva, just across the road from the hospital. For further information, a phone number was added to the notice. I jotted it down for use later in the day. When I called I was advised that the Kol Nidrrai service would begin shortly after 5:00 pm while the morning services would begin at 7:00 am next morning. That suited me just right and I organized myself accordingly.
Because this day was “Erev Yom Kippur” the meal schedule was advanced by an hour for lunch and an hour and a half for an early “pre-fast” meal.
The supper was quite in line with being a ”pre-fast” feast with a quarter chicken and side dish of pasta being the main part of the supper.
Following a shower that is not easy to accomplish with one splinted hand enwrapped in a plastic bag to try and keep it dry, I changed into regular clothing, donned my white kittel took my talit and machzor in hand and, with full permission, of course, left the ward to make my way to the Yeshiva across the road, in time to be among the first worshipers.
On my way towards the gate I met a man in Hassidic garb making his way towards the hospital with a piece of luggage. He arrived at this late hour in order to be with his young son for the day. His boy had been admitted for some stomach illness. I told him about the minian at the Yeshiva, he thanked me, and later showed up there as well, to join in with the services.
Upon my arrival on the Yeshiva grounds I was greeted by the head Rabbi of the institute who advised me that the opening prayer; the “Kol Nidrai” would be conducted jointly between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic factions, following which, due to the vast differences in the traditions, we would hold separate services for the evening services. When we split off from the joint services, however I noticed that without my participation there would have been only nine Ashkenazi worshipers, not a full minian (quorum). They would have probably requested of one of the Sephardic worshipers to help out, but that would have been at the expense of the traditional melodies that he would be deprived of enjoying. So, my being there at that time was a Heaven sent incident for all involved. And that included me for being the person to complete the minian, affording me a special distinction among my co-minianaires.
Upon my return to the hospital at the conclusion of the evening services, with nothing much to occupy myself I retired early, to be awoken for the scheduled 10:00 pm dose of antibiotics. Sometime during the middle of the night I awoke with a sharp pain at my right elbow, in the vicinity of where the “Brannula” was. I walked over to the nurses’ station and the nurse on duty removed the offending needle, bringing about some relief.
The 6:00 am dose could not be administered because a “Brannula” was now missing, and even though a medic tried in vain to find a vein, I had to wait for a doctor to actually do the job. This delayed my showing up for the Morning Prayer session but my appearance was welcome, when I finally did arrive.
When the Torah was read, the first man to be honored with an Aliyah was, of course a Kohen, as is universally traditional, then my being a Levi, was honored with the second portion, followed by five other men, in order.
When the morning and musaf prayers had been completed, a rest period was called with a time set for continuing with the afternoon Mincha service. I returned to the hospital and received my mid-day dose of antibiotics, still continuing my fast. Because of the morning delay, the off schedule dose was also moved off for some time, and I returned to the Mincha prayers a bit later than had been planned. This session begins with reading a short portion from the Torah and the second Kohen present was called for the honor. My being the only Levite in the quorum gave me the distinction of being called up for the second time on that auspicious day, Yom Kippur. The rest of the day was spent in reading the story of Jonah who had been instrumental in saving the entire sinful city of Ninveh from the ultimate punishment, by sincere repentance from their evil ways.
The Ne’ila, [closing] service was duly preformed till very close to completion, when, just as we had joined forces when beginning the Yom Kippur prayers we Ashkenazim returned to the large study hall to unite with the Sephardic minian. Together, we held the concluding prayers of this most solemn day with the most solemn final passages followed by a blast of the Shofar (ram’s horn) that signaled the end of the fast.
The normal evening payers were recited, followed by our leaving the prayer hall to stand together under the starry sky to bless the renewal of the moon.
I was preparing to return to the hospital for supper, but was invited by the head Rabbi of the Yeshiva to tarry for a few minutes and break my fast with them. That began with a much welcomed drink and cake. Following that, I made my exit and crossed the road, entering the hospital compound and made my way back to the orthopedic ward. The nurses had just begun serving supper. The tray held a bowl of noodle laden chicken soup, a quarter of boiled chicken with pureed potatoes, bread, juice, cake and fruit. That was a meal, just right for the occasion.
During the evening a few friends found the time to pay me a visit. Though the day was not spent doing any strenuous work, fatigue brought on by the fast helped me fall asleep quickly. Of course the 10:00 o’clock dose had to be administered on time.
The next day, Sunday began like many others, with my descending to the synagogue right after my morning dose of antibiotics, where I met a neighbor of our youngest son, who was admitted on account of dehydration due to his not preparing properly for the fast. Following my prayers I returned to the ward and waded through a lot of reading materials that my two friends had brought when they came to visit on Friday. That kept me occupied till breakfast time. That pile of literature kept me occupied till the nurses came marching in to change their shift with the next watch.
With the doctors’ visit came the long awaited good tidings, “Tomorrow (Monday) this young man goes home.” I immediately phoned home to relay the good news and then began packing a few items that I could send home with their next visit. That’s when time began to slow down. The end of that day and the morrow didn’t seem to be moving. When my wife paid her next visit I sent along nearly everything I could so as to keep the final package to a minimum.
Monday began with the same regimen as did every day till then, a dose of antibiotics, early morning prayers, breakfast, trying to relax through the next few hours. The nurses changing their shift, as usual, but this time I said my “Good-byes” to those who would arrive for the night shift and not find me in room 6 anymore. A visit by one of the staff asking what main course I’d prefer for lunch out of a choice of five items. I chose roast beef, but he got it wrong and I was treated to a couple of kabobs with the normal trimmings.
Then I had a sampling of what I would have to experience, getting my socks on with one hand trussed up, and completely useless in that maneuver. But I finally got it right and dressed up for the moment of discharge. But not so fast… It takes time to prepare the discharge documentation.
Right after lunch my son M. showed up and helped get my personal effects ready for the move. I was presented with my discharge documents and asked to return in a couple of weeks for a follow-up examination. I knew that I’d still have a long road ahead of me, with physiotherapy till full recovery. But the experience taught me to never take things for granted. There is no such thing as being too careful.
But still, no matter how much one takes precautions, what has been preordained from above is sure to happen. And though it may seem calamitous from the perspective of man, the outcome is always for the best. So what is a bit of pain or discomfort when the rewards are of such greater value! To complete a quorum of worshipers on such an auspicious day, Yom Kippur, is not an everyday event.
Then again not all medical experiences require hospitalization, like the time I call:
My Lucky Break…
Thrrrunk! Even though it was still dark at the time, somewhat after five in the morning, I suddenly found myself closely examining the dusty pavement. It wasn’t really paved yet, but I was lucky.
This incident occurred within the fifteen or so meters that still had not been properly resurfaced after a maintenance crew working for the city ripped up the sidewalk in order to lay new pipes for whatever reason they saw fit. It might have been new water pipes, electrical conduits or whatever some engineer deemed necessary. But from my vantage point, at ground level, I came to a conclusion that the pavement was in serious need of restoration.
Why didn’t I instinctively extend an arm in an attempt to break my fall? While carrying a heavy load of books against my chest with my palms facing inwards my arms were not free. Oh, the back of my right hand and bottom of my fore-arm were scraped extensively as a result of that sudden encounter with the ground under the weight of over seventy-five kilos of flesh hitting the admixture of pebbles and loose dust. The resulting bleeding wound was a normal consequence of that unexpected stumble. Some stationary object obscured by the loose powdery soil was unnoticeable in the murkiness that permeates the world preceding dawn. However the toe of my shoe found that inconspicuous obstacle that, without warning, floored me on the spot.
Had my arms not been occupied, and had I instinctively extended my arms in an attempt to break my fall, the likelihood was quite significant that, considering my weight and the age of my bones, I might have fractured either the radius or the ulna of a forearm. Or even worse, G-d forbid I might have ended up with a broken wrist.
I guess I must have let loose with a grunt, but at that hour no one was in the vicinity to witness my predicament.
When, after a few seconds, the initial shock wore off I got back onto my feet, retrieved my books and continued on my way. My destination? The synagogue was only about fifty meters ahead.
While reaching into my right hand pants pocket for the ring of keys I felt that the back of my hand was raw and sore. It wasn’t till I unlocked and opened the entrance door, pressed the light switch to illuminate the small vestibule and disarm the alarm did I pay attention to the extent of my injury.
Realizing the source of the damage I turned to the right, towards the washbasin and turned on the tap at full force to wash off any residual foreign matter before attempting to blot off the blood that was still oozing out of the fifteen centimeter long raw abrasion on the back of my forearm and the scrape on the back of my hand.
As much as I consider myself to be cautious, some moment of carelessness will always crop up.
With Friday being my day to lead the daily prayers and realizing that I still had a few chores to complete before I would take my tour of duty at the lectern I didn’t pamper myself for more than a few moments.
One of the early-bird congregants noticed my predicament and offered to help clean up my wounds with a pack of tissues that, he had carried with him by chance.
Following completion of the prayer service, and being fully aware that the medical clinic wouldn’t be open for at least another hour, I returned home. There I applied a temporary dressing to protect my wounds and ate breakfast.
My dear wife was not at all amused by my early morning accident. My left hand was still not fully functional after the fracture I suffered just about eight months before.
With my early appearance at the clinic a smile formed on the lips of the attending nurse as she stripped off my amateurishly applied bandage and kicked off with a question, “Are you another victim of the Hanassi Street development scheme”? Realizing that I was not the sole casualty my typically Jewish reply was, of course with a question, “Are there many other victims of that project as well”?
Further discussion was not necessary, as she liberally washed down the widespread abrasions from above my elbow to the roots of the fingers of my right hand with a liberal splash of iodine, while inquiring if I had recently had a tetanus shot. I responded, “Just a little over half a year ago”.
Having at one time been a medic in the army I analytically observed the meticulous job she was performing while applying all the necessary layers of bandaging materials to my injuries. With instructions about how to continue with the treatment schedule she duly recorded my visit, in her log, and sent me on my way.
I left the treatment center sporting a bandage that might have left onlookers suspecting a much more severe injury than it was actually shielding. The only thing missing was a sling, which would have been entirely unnecessary.
It took about eight visits to finally get rid of the ever decreasing size of the dressings as my visits to the clinic progressed. The scabs disappeared after about two and a half more weeks, but the scars were still with me for some time afterwards.
Why do Oldsters Dwell on Trivial Details?
I can’t really explain why I pay so much attention to these experiences, except that retirees do that. We tend to focus on details now that we are not under pressure to satisfy the demands of others.
Why did we have to satisfy their demands? If we didn’t succeed to satisfy the powers that be in each and every grade in school we would be punished. One punishment might even have been being left behind when the rest of the pupils would be promoted to a more progressive level. Another reprimand would cause us embarrassment before our peers for not being up to par with them.
This pressure continues for up to fifteen years till one becomes a soldier. Here the punishment for falling behind is more severe. Often a reprimand could be an additional tour of guard duty at the expense of well earned sleep or even being deprived of permission to visit home.
When one enters a level of higher education and the assignments are not up to par the results can be much more intense than just not being promoted from kindergarten to grade school, Here repeating a semester in an attempt to catch up can be extremely costly, financially.
If one neglects to satisfy his employer upon entering the work-force the penalty is even more serous. Your job is in jeopardy. No work means no pay. And this goes on for anywhere up to forty years or more. The competition for an improved position with the accompanying increased remuneration can prove to be fierce, frustrating and crucial.
Meanwhile other factors come into play as one takes a wife and raises a family with all the responsibilities that all occur simultaneously with the period where financial pressures are in danger of disparity. How much more can one earn, to cover the increased requirement of a growing family?
Who has time and patience to really appreciate the fine aspects concerning the delicate descriptions of unimportant situations?
Then again, I have a sister who can meticulously describe a common cold, not unlike a boxing-match commentator, blow by blow.
I guess that for the first six and a half decades of one’s lifetime the general attitude of mankind is geared towards wishing to be “there” already. The important thing is to already be at ones destination. The pressures of achievement and being at the finish line are given more importance that the act of getting there. With such an attitude and being nurtured on a diet of impatience and triumph, one hardly enjoys the scenery that accompanies the trip. If only we would have taken the time to glance at the side of the road while making our way towards our goals we would have enjoyed what beauty that the world has to offer. But in order to avoid accidents the driver behind the wheel must keep his eyes between the right and left painted stripes and on the road ahead of him. He may fleetingly glance at any of the mirrors allowing him to observe what is behind or beside him and his speeding vehicle, but G-d forbid, he mustn’t as much as glimpse sideways to observe the splendor of the surrounding fields. He is a driver, not an admirer of the pleasures of creation.
I know what it feels like because I’ve been behind the wheel for nearly forty years. When I quit driving at age seventy and found myself sitting in the “passenger’s” seat I observed a totally different world. I realized that the world is not a black band bordered on the right by a painted yellow line and on the left by a white line. That white line can in some places be a single stripe. It may suddenly change to become a double solid line, and can often become a broken line, that at high speeds looks more like a dotted line.
If the driver dares to remove his gaze from the narrow strip wherein he is traveling he could be putting himself and everybody in his vicinity into jeopardy. While behind the wheel, besides his eyes being glued to the road, he must concentrate. He must consider where he is, at what speed he is being propelled and second-guessing those with which he has no communication, but who are also hell-bent on being at some distant place as quickly as possible.
The many distractions that may disturb the drier’s concentration may be disquieting deliberations by his passengers; amongst themselves, either including him in the discussions or not. He may be distracted by some radio program and even attempt to change stations while traversing some “S” curve on the road. He may hear his cell phone play a tune signaling an incoming call. Or even worse, the driver may be attempting to make an outgoing call while maneuvering his car thru heavy traffic, not much worse than carrying on a serious argument with a fellow passenger.
And yet, a driver cannot afford to be too much at ease. That was my problem. I was beginning to feel too relaxed while driving with a car full of other people.
That was when I decided to stop driving so at 70, I quit cold-turkey.
I Actually Fell Asleep before the Examination had Begun
Not all hospital stays are traumatic. I spent a comfortable night in the local medical center as a result of my feeling too relaxed while behind the wheel while driving. In other words I had a tendency to doze off in the middle of zzzz… That was a few years after I totally quit chauffeuring the family around and quit operating a car completely. At the time I was not aware that my condition was referred to as “Apnea”.
My wife expressed serious concern when she observed that during the nights, I was experiencing breathing cessations of up to seven to eight seconds at a time while sleeping. She urged. No, she actually insisted that I visit my doctor about the phenomena He took the complaint seriously, referring my to visit the ear, nose & throat specialist, who, in turn showed genuine concern about the complaint. Without delay he set the process in motion to have me examined at the sleep disorder clinic.
Within a few weeks I was apprised that a bed would be available at a specific date and I was instructed to appear for a preliminary interview. One thing led to the next and…
The actual story begins as I asked myself:
“What am I doing here in the underground vault of the Hillel Jaffe Medical Center in Hadera? What have I got to do with a sleep disorder lab anyway? Do I suffer from any sleep problems? What am I trying to prove? Why?”
It was mid winter, around the beginning of January 2007 and I was already dead tired, having followed the preliminary instructions of the previous week, to refrain from napping during that day. I really felt the lack of an afternoon snooze. Having arisen at five o’clock this morning, some sixteen hours later I was what one calls awake, but in reality, hardly so. I distinctly remember sitting and attempting to read, not physically active and fighting to keep my eyes open. Time was not moving. The clock was far from showing ten and if I’d watch a TV screen, I’d certainly doze off, but was warned to stay awake so I tried to read, going over the same line for the third time, and nothing registered…
The appointment had been called for eight thirty p.m. I had checked which bus I could count on to get me there in time. Number 76 was the closest one I could depend on and I made it with lots of time to spare. In fact I got there a half hour before the appointed hour. The office was still locked.
Being first among five of us showing up for the test I looked around for a place to sit while waiting for someone to show up. The place was completely deserted; a few scattered ceiling lights dimly illuminated the empty wide hallway. Most of the other lights were out and the whole area seemed to be utterly abandoned. In the distance a light shone through the only doorway that was open. It was a small kitchenette used by staff during their work breaks. Besides the regular refrigerator that serves all those who enjoy this benefit, bestowed upon them by the management, there was also a microwave oven, an electric urn, a sink with hot and cold water taps, a few shelves and a long marble topped counter. No special character to the place, but quite clean. None of these amenities interested me right now. Having been awake and steadily active for most of the past fifteen hours I sought out one of the two chairs that were keeping the small table company in the far corner.
Eventually another invitee to the test peeked through the doorway and upon finding the place occupied entered the room. He pulled out the other chair from under the table, sat down and began perusing the sheaf of documents that he withdrew from an inner pocket of his heavy jacket. It was identical to the twelve page questionnaire I had to fill out “at home.” He was just about to begin filling in the answers, with less that a quarter of an hour to the time they were supposed to be presented. Since he was so intent on completing his assignment we didn’t converse much more than when he had a question about the form, laid out on the table before him.
Voices were heard reverberating along the deserted hallway from the direction of the admissions office. Together we left the kitchenette to join the other two examinees that had meanwhile arrived, accompanied by their friends or family members. As soon as the clock showed the appointed time, eight thirty things began to move, and all went quite smoothly. Each one of us was asked to present the results of our “homework,” and was individually interviewed by the very professional attendant on duty for the night. When my turn came around, nearly every question she asked, with hardly any exception, had already been duly noted and replied to in the completed document that I had handed her but I guessed that’s part of the system. Check and double check!
During the previous interview, a few days previously, I was told, as I guess all the others were, to bring along any personal items I would feel comfortable with, in preparation to spending the whole night there.
Not being certain when the “whole night” would end my kit bag contained my talit and Tephilin along with a pair of pajamas, a small towel and a bit of reading matter to while away the time whilst trying to stay awake. One teenager came with a huge feather-filled quilt packed inside of an over-sized plastic bag. If that was her security blanket, so be it.
Following the short interview I was asked to bring my bag and follow my interviewer across the hallway and into a different section of the complex, through the lab and into a small room, whose door bore the figure 4. This is the “suite” where I was going to spend the night during the examination.
The entire set-up was underground so there were no windows. Against the opposite wall to where the invitingly comfortable looking bed stood, hung an air-conditioning unit. Across from the bed and under the air conditioner a small table and a single chair were located. Between the table and the bed a small cabinet supported a complex communication apparatus. Hanging on the wall over the head of the bed were electronic devices that included a highly sensitive microphone, computer cables and wires of various colors snaking their way into wall imbedded tubing. In the far upper corner a small video camera was located. But that was only the scanning and information gathering end of the operation. At the other end of these cables were the data processing computers, monitors, graph-scribing equipment and recording devices. Big sister was going to be watching me all night.
Now it was someone else’s turn to be interviewed and inducted into the Sleep Disorder Lab, where he or she would be shown to his or her cubicle, to be isolated for the rest of the night, Meanwhile I was left alone in my minuscule cell to await the next step.
While I was on “hold,” till about ten o’clock, when I would be readied for the actual test, I was told that I could watch TV or…, to which I readily declined, explaining that I would then definitely doze off. Instead, and since I’d already showered at home, I read some articles that I’d brought along for just such a purpose, to kill time for the next hour.
It was quite a long time since the problem was evident, in fact a few years have already passed that my dear wife Sarah was concerned about my sleep habits. Not only did she complain about my snoring, lots of people snore at night, especially when everything is so quiet, but her real worry was about the prolonged cessation of my breath long periods of apnea (long breathing pauses).
It took a couple of months to find a slot for me but at long last there I was, accepted as a patient. An appointment date and time were set, and with an authorization to cover the expense from my health care organization we set up a preliminary appointment. The pace picked up with a subsequent follow-up examination, where I happen to find myself right now, not physically fatigued, but very tired.
So actually it was not really a sudden hospitalization. Though it took a long time for me to act on my wife’s legitimate complaint there I was, prepared for whatever results would result from the forthcoming test.
That’s how I was granted an appointment to appear at 20:30 hours on that Sunday night. During the preliminary interview I was handed a sheaf of papers, actually a lengthy questionnaire to complete, as I mentioned earlier. The top sheet gave instructions on how to prepare myself for the actual examination, what to do, what not to do, especially during this past day, and what to bring along for a night’s stay in the Sleep Disorder Lab, where I now find myself. Ridiculous! Not intimidating but that was only the beginning.
At just about ten o’clock the attendant notified me to get myself ready for bed. I changed into pajamas and within a couple of minutes was led to a different tiny cubicle where I was outfitted with an array of varied colored electrodes that were strategically taped to specific places on my forehead and chest, including a sensor within one nostril that probably would serve to pick up sounds, to be recorded and incorporated into the analysis that was to be performed along with all the other data about my sleep habits that were about to be gleaned, throughout the night. Actually that fine-tuned sensor didn’t bother me in the least. All those many cables were plugged into a terminal block and I was directed back to the compartment behind door number 4 where I prepared for a [hopefully] good night’s sleep. I was offered two pillows but used only one. As soon I found a comfortable position, the terminal block was connected to the computer cable and taped to the wall, and the nurse covered me with a blanket. I dozed off almost immediately. Actually I fell asleep even before the examination had begun.
All night, my every physical, and probably, my mental activities, including turning, thrashing, stretching etc. were monitored by the attendant on duty, as well as my breathing and [yes] snoring. She had four other patients to keep tabs on as well. It was a full time job for her, watching five video monitors and a large computer screen along with a whole array of recording equipment, observing our every change, even our involuntary movements. All of our sleeping habits and subconscious cranial behavior were transposed into electronic waves running across the computer monitors at the control console keeping us all under constant observation. In my case some twelve different activities were being tracked simultaneously, including breathing, snoring, blood bearing oxygen saturation, clocking different qualities of sleep periods, light sleep times and deep sleep times, moments of awakening, turning, repositioning from left side to back to right side, pulse, etc. The other patients might have been monitored for different sleep related problems, but I can only report what was related to my case, according to the report I received a couple of weeks later.
Despite the network of wires and cables taped to my head and chest I fell asleep quickly. I felt myself awakening, as usual, a few times during the night, mainly to change position and to turn from side to side. On a couple of occasions I felt one or another of the plaster-held electrodes tug while turning over, but was not aware if they actually became detached or not, till I sensed that the observant attendant, who had been aware of the situation, entered my cubicle and quietly leaned over to gently refasten the connection that either became loose or merely moved from its position.
At 05:45 am I awoke and felt that I had slept soundly all night, except for the couple of times when I drowsily awoke to turn over. The cell, being underground and bare of windows was dark and it was impossible to know that it was after dawn without checking my watch. I didn’t attempt to get up because of my still being connected to the computer cables and wires, taped to the wall.
Though it was dark in the room the attendant must have observed that I was awake and asked via the intercom if I had really finished sleeping. When I replied in the affirmative she came to free me from the maze of cables that had been taped to my body all night. She asked if I had dreamed during the night. I replied, “I might have, but don’t recall at all about what.” During a subsequent discussion she revealed that, though the contents of my dreams were not deciphered, the times that I dreamt were evident.
Duly advised that within a few days I would receive a report of the results by mail, as would my Ear-Nose and Throat specialist who referred me to the Sleep Disorder Lab I was discharged. I caught the next bus to Hadera and managed to make the second Minyan at 7:30, where I was honored to lead the morning Shaharit services.
Nine days later I found the three page results of the complex analysis waiting for me in the mail box. The covering letter advised me to phone the Sleep Disorder Lab for a follow-up conference with the doctor of neurology to discuss the results, and consequent options for treatment for my serious sleep apnea condition.
So, I was not yet finished with the Sleep Disorder Lab. As a matter of fact it was not to be over so quickly. I got to know the bus schedule quite intimately, having had to pay them a few subsequent weekly visits. Members the whole staff were very friendly. At my second visit I was greeted by my first name and made to feel like a well known buddy by all, including the doctors.
I decided to record the whole episode and brought along my camera to take a few photos of the set-up. Having felt that I would have to beg for permission to photograph the lab I was pleasantly surprised with the quick affirmative response. However the head doctor asked why I wished to do so, I replied that I like to record and write about the various interesting events that are part of my life, handing him the first part of my story, he readily accepted those three pages, and seemed quite happy with my idea.
A graph, that accompanied a more detailed report on the test, recorded by the Sleep disorder lab to determine why and to what extent and significance my sleep apnea condition really was, and still is.
Neither I nor had my wife dear Sarah ever realize the actual extent of my problem till the results were in. During six and a half hours of sleep there the lab recorded that my snoring, from a distance of one meter reached an astounding 50 decibels. But more serious than that were that 112 instances of sleep apnea that were recorded, with durations of from 10 to 30 seconds, an average frequency of 18 times an hour causing superfluous body movements accompanied by sleep disturbances and reduction of blood-oxygen levels.
Not being very conversant with some of the medical terms on the report, I searched around the internet for explanations about the various nomenclatures mentioned in the report and was surprised by the volume and clarity of information available to the public. Only then did I realize the gravity of the situation and what general health hazards might be expected as a result of sleep apnea.
As instructed in the covering letter of the report, I contacted the Sleep Disorder Lab again to arrange for a discussion of the results and to find out what steps might be taken to relieve or correct the situation. We agreed upon a time and I had an appointment for eight days hence. I’m usually quite calm but some of the medical terms involved, and with over a week to wait did not afford me much to relax about.
I was given a choice of either some kind of surgical operation (my tonsils and adenoids had already been removed while I was young) or to sleep wearing a Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, probably for the rest of my life, and that’s hoping for an additional forty-five years. That didn’t sound very comfortable, but the neurological expert suggested I give it a try for one week, to which I agreed. Still that was not a definitive means of treatment. A letter from the doctor to my health care organization produced a speedy okay for the trial period. They would cover the expense for loan of the equipment for seven days, and one week later I was introduced to the technician who fitted me with a nose mask that would suit my needs. He taught me how to operate and care for the portable blower unit, supplied with a flexible tube measuring over a meter in length, a mask, head straps and a carrying case. This unit was supposed to supply me with air under more pressure than that which I would normally inhale, and it certainly did.
A week later I returned to the Sleep Lab with the kit, where I was greeted in the usual friendly manner. The technician removed a “smart-card” from the unit, passed it through a scanner slot that transferred data covering my use of it, collected during the week’s trial, directly into the computer. In a few moments the screen showed a series of graphs that compressed six days of my using the equipment while sleeping onto one page of data. During each of my sleep periods the air pressure was changed from time to time, and ranged from 4 cm. to 14 cm. The total results, covering forty-one hours of sleep, or an average of six and a half hours per night (I didn’t use it during the Sabbath to avoid religious problems) and it was found that I could use from four to 10 cm., the experts decided upon 7 cm. of pressure that should be the optimal adjustment for my case. That pressure would assure that I would not suffer any pauses in my breath while sleeping, and would eliminate my tendency to snore.
A referral to my Ear-Nose & throat doctor, who based upon these findings, prescribed my need for a Nasal CPAP kit as necessary for my personal health, in essence recommending approval for financial participation by the health care organization for my purchase of such equipment.
How does the unit work? I’ll try to describe its operation as best as I can, not being so technically familiar with much more than its basic workings. Connected to an electric outlet through a power transformer, the blower unit rests upon a shelf next to my bed. The wire reinforced flexible tube connects onto an outlet of the unit and three power buttons protrude from the top of the unit, the center one being the main on/off switch. It is easy to find in the dark, being illuminated by an internal soft blue light. The other end of the flexible tube connects onto a swivel connector of the nose mask. After donning the mask and actually being prepared to sleep, I connect the flexible hose to the mask and two or three breaths activate the blower that continues to supply compressed air all through the sleep cycle. Normally, within some thirty seconds of removing the mask, when no air is inhaled through it, the unit ceases to operate. However, because of my stringent practice of the commandments that prohibits even causing operation and/or cessation of electrical equipment on the Sabbath and festivals, I requested of the technician to disable the automatic function, allowing the blower to continue working till I would manually shut it off. That allows me to use the unit seven nights during the week, as the air flows continuously from before the onset of the Holy day, so that my two or three breaths do not initiate the blower to start since it is already in operation. I failed to mention that both inhalation and exhaling is performed only through the nose, my mouth being kept closed throughout the treatment. That alone helps cut out the snoring
I have the unit calibrated for 7 cm. of pressure. It took a bit of getting used to, but I’ve learned to live with it. I had better, because with such an investment I want to live long and get my money’s worth.
The whole matter began because Sarah couldn’t sleep well listening for my irregular breathing. For a few weeks into the treatment she didn’t sleep well because though, very subdued, the tempo of the air pump disturbed her. By now she’s used to it also.
Hard as it is to believe, but it’s true! Even though the first month and a half passed with quite a bit of discomfort, now the only thing that bothers me is, due to the extra rush of air running through my mouth, I find that my mouth becomes dry several times through the night, so I have to sip a bit of water. Though this happens about four to six times during the night, I find it unbelievable that during the daytime I don’t feel the need to nap as I used to. Even with those few disturbances throughout the night the total quality of my night’s sleep is so much better than it has been for many years.
When updating to a newer model CPAP I made sure to have the new one fitted with a humidifier, to prevent the dry mouth problem.
Not every hospital stay has to be a traumatic experience. Actually I found this one at the Sleep Disorder Lab to be an interesting and relaxing adventure.
The Oldsters Diet
As oldsters, we are urged to eat
Bland soups, crackers and lean meat.
Nourishing, but lacking flavor,
Hardly what we really favor.
So why not allow us a tasty dish?
When that’s our simple wish?
Must we change our eating mode?
To ease an undertaker’s load?
But going back to the time when shortly after I actually retired, I found out about a club for “elderly walkers for health”. This was a city, sports funded program. Naturally I attended a few sessions, till it petered out. But I learned a few important things about walking techniques that make it easier to do such a simple thing, as walking properly and to best advantage health wise.
With the approach of each festival I was asked to “lecture” and discuss the special features about each event.
One time with the approach of the Pessach festival I was asked to explain to members of the club what the significance of the sale of Chametz was all about. After my short lecture, I signed up nearly all the members to allow me to sell their Chametz. Not only that but I was asked to address three more club chapters on the same subject. Then a different group asked me for a lecture on the Hagada. There is no dearth of things to do when one is a retiree.
A month later, before Shavuot, I was asked to lecture about the Shavuot festival for WIZO members in Hadera that was well acknowledged. For that lecture, I decided not to make any mention about the most popular subject, food, especially cheese. I spoke about Bikurim, the responsibility of the farmer to bring the first fruits to the Holy Temple and make a specific declaration on the festival of Shavuot.
Some years ago, I attended a meeting as a member of the executive of the 5Towns AACI, in Pardess Hanna, where a couple of us discussed the formation of a computer club. We had a few sessions, but it was not what it should have been, and petered out after a few months.
Then, I was asked to work with the executive board, and became even more involved as a member at large. Mainly acting as the local AACI representative in Hadera, being one of the five towns in our area proving that there are any number of functions that can be taken care of, without holding title as an organization executive member.
One of my calls concerned investigation about why a Mr. Silcoff z”l, who was residing in Or Akiva, without electricity. I finally found his apartment. It was within an unbelievable slum at the Northern extremities of the town.
Sure enough, here was an elderly man, a former Montrealer who had once been a furrier, on downtown St. James Street. He occupied an unbelievably small apartment, with a single gas burner. Here he’d cook up a bit of water if he wished to. In one corner stood a non-operating refrigerator (because of the lack of electricity); a kerosene lantern to serve as his only illumination at night; without any of the basic amenities of even simple living. My visit happened to It was during mid winter, as well.
When I asked him why he was subsisting under such primitive conditions, he replied, “I’m not going to pay the electrical bill twice! They claim that I owe them. I know that I paid them. And that’s it.” Asked if he had all the paid invoices, he produced a whole stack of them from within a small suitcase that was stored behind an old easy chair. They seemed to jive with his claim, but after a certain date they came to an end. “Naturally,” he replied. “If I don’t use power, they can’t bill me.” Under the circumstances of his neighborhood, one invoice might have, not reached his mailbox, or even might have removed by some mischievous kid. Who knows?
In addition, his pension cheques stopped arriving from Canada, upon his returned from Montreal where he’d been on a family visit. (The postman might have returned it, after he found that it was not retrieved from his mailbox). So upon receipt of a returned check, they might have stopped sending subsequent ones. Regarding that I wrote, on his behalf, to the Quebec Pension office, explaining the circumstances under which he was living, and “blaming” it upon the cessation of his Pension cheques. That was the last I heard about Mr. Silcoff untill…
A couple of years later, I received a letter from Canada Welfare, asking for information on a Mr. Henry Silcoff. When he died? What was the cause? Who covered the cost of his funeral? I was surprised that I was contacted about this subject. I imagine, it was because I once wrote to them, on his behalf.
Anyway, I remembered that he’d lived in Or Akiva, so I phoned the Hevra Kadisha, there, and requested the information required by the Canadian Government. The girl in their office replied that they have no such person on their files. My second request was, could she check in the local “voter’s list” to see if he’s listed as being a resident of Or Akiva. Sure, she can do that, but again her reply was, “Negative! His name doesn’t appear there.
Well if he didn’t live in Or Akiva lately, maybe he moved, so I approached the Bureau of Internal Affairs for their help in locating his last known address, and, if he was still alive. After explaining the reason for my request, I was supplied with a certificate showing his exact last address, in Or Akiva, and the date that he had died. They also told me that he had left a widow, and I was supplied with a certificate showing that too.
When I returned home, I called the Hevra Kadisha office in Or Akiva again, this time after I supplied them with a date of death, the girl in the office acknowledged that I was correct. He died and was buried in Or Akiva. Next, I asked, “Who were his survivors?” She didn’t know. So I made an appointment to visit their office, next morning.
When I got there, and requested to see the records of the deceased. Mr. Silcoff, I found that the only record was a copy of the report to the National Insurance Institute, who pays the Hevra Kadisha, on a per case basis, for their burial services. I did notice, however that a burial permit, issued by the Bureau of Health was evident in the file folder. Asking If I could examine it or a moment, I found that he had died in a home for the aged, in Petach Tiqva. She obliged, by making me a photocopy of this form, and in addition allowed me to speak to the Rabbi by phone, who “knew all about the case”. Rabbi Hacham, was busy, but promised to contact me later, which he did.
I realized that, if he died in Petach Tiqva, someone had paid the transport costs for moving his body for burial in Or Akiva. Somebody was willing to pay the fee for this service. So there must be somebody who cares.
At about noon that same day, the phone rang, at home. It was Rabbi Hacham. Most of the facts that he revealed, were not pertinent to my investigation, however, concerning his widow, it seems that he had married recently, and was in process of divorce, when he died, and had not completed the divorce. In essence, he still had a legal wife when he died, as much as the rabbi didn’t like to admit it.
The name of the home for the aged was familiar to me from the time I’d worked in the Hadera Hevra Kadisha, and a quick check in the phone directory, gave me their phone number. When I contacted them and spoke to a social worker, I found out that there were relatives, and that he had a lawyer in Tel Aviv, who took care of his affairs.
I duly filled out the form for the Canadian Government, and mailed it out that day.
A couple of months later, I received an additional letter from the Canadian Government. This one was a surprise. Because one check had been cashed, the month following his death, they were demanding that “I” refund the amount, and claim the income tax at year’s end.
That’s when I contacted his lawyer by phone, explaining my situation. He told me to send it all to him in the mail and not to worry, as he would resolve the whole problem.
It was fun playing detective, but I didn’t think, that by doing a favor to the Canadian Government, I’d be held responsible for his debts, for all my trouble. But Thank G-d it all worked out fine in the end. “I hope!”
Since I’ve been on pension I begin the day by awakening at 5:00 “without the aid of a clock”, and get to Shule early enough to be ahead of the speeders. We usually reach “Borchu” together. Then we study a couple of Mishnayot, then its home for breakfast, and a couple of hours at the computer. Right now I’m working on this book about some highlights in the story of my life as a retiree.
Then for some variety I’m recording some of my new ideas on the Torah. There are well over 2,000 pages on that project so far. A great number of them had been recorded in an early Einstein word-processing format, that was very popular till Word took over as the preferred word processor.. A lot of time went into reformatting all that data to Word-7. But as life progresses and things become more complex I’ve graduated to Office xp on Windows xp, upgraded to Windows 7 and awaiting my copy of Windows 10.
In the earlier stages of reformatting my data I had to go through a three step process. First translating Einstein into ASSCI, then calling it up through Word-7, as a DOS-text, reformatting the text, then saving it in a Word -7 format which at the time I believed to be worth the effort. The finished product seemed to be much snazzier. While I really felt comfortable with Word-xp, the world was progressing to Word-7 and beyond. Since Microsoft quit supporting their xp operating system I purchased a Windows 7 version.
Then came the offer of a free update to Windows 10, so I took advantage of that and am now as up do date as can be. However I’m still working with Office-XP as my word processor.
Making life Easy for Myself
Putting so much time at the computer can be uncomfortable, and being the kind of guy that I am, I refashioned my computer table. First I made an adjustable shelf, on a pivot mounted under the table. Then I removed the table top and repositioned it, so that the front edge is further back than it was to start with. Following that, I readjusted the keyboard tracks so that while I’m working, the monitor screen is visible between the back of the keyboard and the leading edge of the table top. The amount of swivel that my eyes must travel, relieve me of, practically any neck movement. Now I can, literally work at the keyboard for hours and not feel the fatigue that plagues most keyboard operators. I’m told that I should patent the idea, but I don’t have the inclination to get involved in any government hassles, more that I have to.
Dabbling in the Kitchen
One late winter day, going on towards Tu B’shvat, the Arbor Day festival in the Jewish calendar the idea came to me to create a Tu B’shvat cake. This would contain all seven species listed in the passage in Parshat “Ekev” of the Torah that states, “You shall eat bread, and there be nothing lacking in it”. I understood it as meaning, “None of the seven species shall be left out”.
Wheat flour is no problem; for Barley, I use black beer; for Grapes, raisins; Figs are always available dried or even as liquor for part of the necessary liquid in the recipe; Pomegranate wine or syrup is accessible all year round; Olive oil is no problem; and Date spread, is always obtainable. It’s a rich cake, but once a year it does no harm.
Over the years I changed the format to miniature pies. That way nobody complains that they got a piece without the crust along the edge, or too much crust. They all come out the same.
I enjoy helping with the Thursday preparations towards the Shabbat, with a thick vegetable, chicken flavored soup (with chicken not chemical powder), meat, rice, vegetables and often some extra special kugel. Then on Fridays I prepare the fresh salads.
Often I help by preparing suppers as well. Things I never did while being occupied on the commercialized work force.
Reflections on long life
On the day that he would nibble
from the tree of knowledge of good & evil
He was supposed to have died.
But he delayed that inevitable moment.
never noted, for his accomplishment.
The first procrastinator in history.
till his resolve yielded,
At 930, his life just ceased.
And ADAM became deceased.
Some years ago I attended the Fifth Torah and Science Conference that was held at Bar Ilan University. One of the papers delivered concerned the statistical relationships between longevity and genes. Information was divulged that through repairing a defect in one of the genes, the lifespan of man could be extended to 1,300 years.
I’m certain of one thing, however. It shall never come to be. No Government body would allow the funding of such a project. Just imagine, man would work from age, 20 till 67, and be eligible to receive a pension for 1,233 years. No matter how humanitarian one might be, it would not be feasible. And there’s no way a normal man is going to remain part of the work force, willingly, past the age of 67. I wouldn’t.
I enjoy being a retiree too much, despite the long hours with no overtime pay.
I learned a few important lessons in life and death from my experience in the office of Hevra Kadisha.
Many surviving families while organizing the funereal service of those who had died wished to have as many guests in attendance as posible, even if it meant delaying the time that the burial would take place. Some of the reasons included, “People have to come from Be’er Sheva, from Eilat, from Kiryat Shmona, and from Jerusalem.” This discussion with the staff of the Hevra Kadisha, might have taken place at 8:00 AM, and the time, being offered, could have been 14:00, a six hour time span, yet they would insist on a 16:00 service. A time that was not practical, because the field staff, end their normal work day at 15:00.
My reply usually was, “But it’s not the same person from all those places.” Other arguments, on my part were, “But these people have to return home after the service.”
The true reason for not causing any delay, would have been lost on those who feel that a large turn-out will be a greater honor to the deceased. Not so, however. The greatest honor for the departed, is to inter without delay. The quicker the burial is performed, the sooner the “nishama” [soul] can leave the body, and assume it’s place in heaven. And that’s what life is really about. After all, are we not all curious to see what’s the score, up there?
I may not have accrued a vast accumulation of Mitzvoth, but still feel that based upon my intentions, I should be granted some consideration. We’re taught that our rewards are based upon our attempts, rather than solely upon our successes.
In any case, I hope that I shall be remembered by my striving to honor my fellow man. Because I firmly believe that, one who pays homage to the creature, honors it’s creater.
Great contreversy concerning “organ transplants” abounds. A perfectly good organ from the cadever, of one who is deceased, when used to help aliviate the suffering of another living person, even assuring, with the help of G-d, that one who has little chance of survival, till a vital organ is exchanged, actually receives that second chance to live, should be recognized as performing the greatest Mitzvah of all, “pikuach nefesh”.
I also firmly believe that the reward for saving the life of another Jew, is akin to “Arousing of the dead” (Tichy’iat Hametim). Not only is the afflicted creature given a second lease on life, but by the very act, of having a human organ from a fresh cadever transplanted to him and in essence, becomig an integral part of the living person, that limb continues to live, having been brought back to life, when transplanted and becomes a “gift of life”.
We are taught that the amputated limb of a living Jew, doe’s not impart impurity while the person is alive. Only after death, does the limb or organ defile one who is under the same roof with it. The question may be asked: if a transplanted organ brings one who cannot continue normal life without it back to “functional” life, and that part of the cadever reverts to become a living organ, shouldn’t the rest of that body revert to be non-defiling, as well? This is the kind of question I’d like to have answered, when I meet the scholars who have the knowledge about it, like Rambam and Ramban, who incidentally were both medical professionals.
As far as I feel about the matter, when my time comes, I’d prefer to be laid to rest with the utmost expeditancy.:
However should any of my organs be fit for transplant, I’m willing to be buried with the replaced organ of the recipient. That is why I try to keep myself as healthy as my age allows.
I can hardly wait to meet some of those luminaries who have caused me so much anxiety, while studying the Torah
- Moshe Rabainu, who could explain some of the Torah’s secrets;
- Rashi, who was so profuse with commentary, but paid little attention to Ta’amai Hamikra;
- Rabbi Akiva, ben Yoseph, who really got into the deep secrets of the Torah;
- I’d love to exchange ideas with the Gaon of Vilna who has given me so much plesuare with his fantastic ways of explaining the secrets of the torah.
I’d even like to confront Noah, who, with a clap of his hands, could have prevented the scourge of mankind; the mosquito. Another slap, and he could have eradicated the common house fly, as well. He must have had his reasons not to kill them; and I’d like know what they were. I won’t give him any rest till he tells me the secret.
But getting back to the matter of organ transplants. The true benevolence of offering an organ transplat, must assure that it is from a healthy body. The gift of a diseased organ, is no great favor to the recipient. I’ve read about such cases, and was abhorred about the case, for instance, when an iris was transpanted sucessfully to an eye, only to have the patient die one month later from “Rabies”. The donor had died from that terrible disease, but because he had offered his irises to the organ bank, they were transplanted into an otherwise perfectly healthy human being, only kill her, by this horrendous desease. No great favor!
An other case, more recently, was the transplant of an internal organ, only to have the recipient find that the organ was carrying cancer, along with it, passing on the desease to him, as well. What kind of donor gives the gift of death, along with the apparent “gift of life?” unabashedly.
If someone wishes to be an organ donor, he must keep those organs healthy, or he shouldn’t be so lavish with parts of a ruined body. So I’m striving to keep as healthy as I can. Not only to be a Kosher organ donor, but because it’s far better to die healthy, than to live sick.
Health is like traveling on the highway,
Where sticking to your lane is better
than an attempt to return, following a detour.
So is keeping your health,
More prudent than recuperation,
after combating an infection.
When the City of Hadera were preparing to set up a “fair honoring local volunteer organizations I accepted the challenge, presentation of the 5TOWNS AACI operations by running off a showing of some videos of our local TV volunteer group that had been produced by our voluntary efforts.
The symbol that had been adapted by the AACI 5TOWNS, is a bunch of grapes. For our exhibit, I made up a placard bearing a bunch of great big grapes. It was made up with 25 Styrofoam balls. Nine of them were split into halves, and glued onto a board, then the rest were glued onto these, forming a three dimensional (half) of a bunch of grapes and painted them purple.
I caught two women trying to remove the bunch of grapes from the sign as I was packing up our display at the end of the day. Asking what they thought they were doing, they told me they wanted them for the Alzheimer’s Day Care Center. I explained, “These belong to somebody, but if you want one, I’ll be happy to make another one.” A couple of days later, I got together materials, and, at their premises, I taught one of the women how to construct it. Now they’re happy. But I didn’t think I heard the end of it. They had intimated hope that I’ll figure out a way to construct some other fruits and vegetables of oversize proportions.
For the fourteenth TV magazine I prepared a four minute show on how homage was paid to the memory of young soldiers who fell during, and shortly after the war of independence. They were single and subsequently left no children. By this time their parents were also gone from this world, and no family to pay them the homage they deserve. Young pupils from the sixth grade of one school, and from the eleventh grade of a high school, volunteered to adopt the graves of some sixty soldiers, in order to honor their memory, on Memorial Day.
A few days prior to the official Memorial Day ceremony, they arrive at the Military Cemetery, and clean up the monuments, washing them down and sprucing up the surrounding area, two to each grave. Then on Memorial Day, itself, they came to pay their respects to the fallen by placing flowers on each grave. A very touching scene and one that I felt must be shown to the public, who, on the whole, are unaware that groups of young students are capable of performing positive acts.
With time so short I still have a lot of unfinished, things to do. Such as transferring all of about 25 hours of old 8mm movie film into video format, because the film is losing it’s sharpness. It’s going to be a project that I’ll love doing. It’ll be chance to practice a lot of editing. Now it’s just a matter of making time to do it. But now that it has been proven that video tape is not the best way to preserve those memories, I’ll have to transfer the movies onto discs.
About thirty years ago, I began experimenting with a solar oven. It was quite effective, but I’d like to work on perfecting it even more, by adding a second sheet of glass with a metal mesh between them, to see if I can increase the amount of heat that it retains. A few other small improvements can be incorporated into it, as well, such as an oven door, salvaged from a scrapped stove, to prevent leakage of the heat.
Then I have a collection of all kinds of “materials” that are waiting for me to decide how to utilize them. It’s not the kind of material that one wishes to throw out, without giving it a chance, so that’s another project that’s waiting to be processed. Most people would call it scrap. I tend to refer to it by its expanded name, Salvageable CRAP
In conclusion– how can we understand retirement? And why does this phenomenon take place specifically at this junction in life? Why does one retire altogether? Is retirement a positive or a negative occurrence?
My numerous years in the “Work-force” have proven that from a philosophical point of view, in order to prepare for the future, we should reflect on past performance. Till this special moment in life we experienced many ups and downs. No matter which roadway we might have chosen, they were pitted with numerous pot-holes. Somewhere along the way our efforts always caused us to become awfully tired. And tires can become awful when they show signs of bulges that have developed over the time. At other times and places they went flat. By the time we reached the aged milestone, number 67 in life after that many years, and while we still have fifty-three more to go, the patches outnumber the bald spots and the ride is far from smooth. During sixty-seven years the abrasions caused by innumerable bangs, bumps and sharp objects constantly wearing us down, nearly completely ruined our original tires.
But now, when one is liberated from the work force with the accompanying harsh conditions of the past sixty-seven years, the time has approached when we must remove those old worn, bald tires and replace them with a new set of smooth ones with deep treads. That is what I would call to RETIRE.
Now if I could just get the kinks out of my joints I’d be set for another run, but at a more leisurely pace, till [s]mile post number one hundred and twenty.
One sure way to achieve that is to invest in a good set of dentures, really comfortable shoes, and top-of-the-line eye glasses. After having made such expensive investments we will make every effort to get our money’s worth, by extending the time we live on this earth.