Eretz

part 3
by Sandy Cohen

 

 

 

July 11, 1967

 

 

Dear family,

Tonite, after diner, the kibbutzniks sang happy birthday to me.  I never heard such singing, because there were at least eight languages trying joyfully to harmonize.  It was funny and there was a very happy feeling, which was a great way to enjoy my birthday.  There was a thin red silk ribbon bow-tied around a long yellow feather sticking out of a largish cup cake, one on each table.  Caroline, my girlfriend, gave me a book about a Danish animator named Leaf Marcussen, that she knew I would really like.  And I sure did!  

Even though it was my birthday (I'm now 26), it was a regular work day.  I was in the kitchen between meals cleaning the counter tops and drying and putting away the pots and pans.  I can move my arm pretty well; just can't lift very heavy things.   After the kibbutz diner was over, I was invited to a Palestinian family for coffee and cakes.  This was at the home of my new friend, Mustafa, whose parents extended the invitation.

I wanted to tell you that when I was in the hospital in Tel Aviv, my doctor, Mustafa Nassib Makarem, who is Palestinian, invited me to have diner at his parents' house.  Mustafa and I walked from the hospital to his neighborhood around seven in the evening. The sun sets around 8, so it was that orangey dusk sky light that makes the scene appear both vivid and nostalgic.  The stucco walls, which were doubtless whitewashed many times, took on a warm umber cast, and contrasted with the faded pale pastel greens and blues of doors and window sills.  I always like to take photos in at this time of day, and that's when Mustafa and I usually walk around the streets each one of us snapping away.  That's how we became friends, actually.  There I was in the hospital with my arm and shoulder in a cast, I could get out of bed, but I hadn't gotten outside yet.  In comes this intern who asks me if I want to get out of the hospital for a walk outside.  A few days earlier Caroline brought my camera back to me.  I thought I had lost it down the well, but Caroline had picked it up where the thugs dropped it.  She also brought a bag full of fast Fujichrome slide film.  So, when I got to get dressed to go out, I naturally wanted to take my camera.  That's when I learned that Mustafa was an avid photographer who usually photographs on his way home in the evenings.

So we walked to his parents house through various neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, shooting pictures as we passed.  At that time of day, everything photographes beautifully.  Little kids gather and pose for us, and families strolling along their alleyways were friendly and let us take their pictures.  Mustafa's house was white stucco with pale blue walls inside.  There was a sofa and a table with chairs, but most of thepeope there were sitting on cushions on the floor, which was carpeted with many colorful rugs.  There were about ten or twelve people who had gathered to meet me and to wish me happy birthday.  They served little cakes, which were like homentashen, with poppy seeds and honey.  The coffee was thick and strong, served in little cups from a brass pitcher with a long spout, and ornate designs engraved in the sides.  Everything was clean and cheery, and Mustafa's father was the perfect host, gracious and friendly.  The father could speak English very well because he had studied medicine at Rochester University, and returned to practice in Tel Aviv, at the same hospital.  His father was there to meet me, but he spoke no English.  Everything we said had to be translated, and sometimes Dr. Nassib Makarem senior quarreled with Dr. Nassib Makarem junior about the way to pose some phrase I had said.  For example, I wanted to say that after the war, Israel was going to have all students, Palestinians and Isrealis learn both Arabic and Hebrew in school, so that everybody could communicate better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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copyright © Sandy Cohen, Little Deer Isle, Maine, 2008