Israel Stories

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Traveler

He looked like any other religious Jew. He had the standard white beard, black hat and looked a bit shabby in his weekday clothes. We chatted about a great many things as I drove him and his wife to Jerusalem. The mountain root from Bet Shemesh, for the uninitiated is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, but they hung on and didn’t look over the side of the mountain.

They had lived in Toronto before making Aliyah but their accent wasn’t Canadian. I asked him where he was from originally. His wife sighed and told me that was the wrong question to ask. I am from Calcutta, in India, you know, she declared with a lot of pride, but I detected some sadness. My mind started racing what did she mean ‘the wrong question’? Who was this man really? Had I opened a Pandora’s box, was I about to embarrass him? He smiled as he saw the fear on my face. Well young man he said, it’s a long story. Oh save us, his wife whispered next to me. Just look at the view and leave the talking to the men, he whispered back.

I am originally from Afghanistan, he began, but when I was in the British army I transferred to the Indian sub-continent. After the war I was on the wrong side of the partition and ended up living in East Pakistan. From there I managed to get to India and met my wife in Calcutta. We decided to move to Canada where we lived for many years before making aliyah to Israel.

Wow, we all said together, I feeling continentally inadequate, them seeing the car seemingly come within inches of the mountains edge, that’s quite a journey; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Canada and now Israel.

I can cook any dish from any of those countries you know, but wait for it, his wife said, it’s not over yet.

Oh your right dear, he replied, with a twinkle in his eye, did I tell you that I was actually of Hungarian descent and their ancestors came from Spain and Rome before that and of course originally the Land of Israel. Oh, save us, his wife said again, you missed out Egypt, Canaan, Ur and the Garden of Eden

When we were spread to the four corners of the Earth I didn’t realize it applied literally to individuals, I said. Well it may apply to us as well if you don’t drive slower, his wife half joked.
Anyway, there’s no African in him, his wife said, so we’ve reached the end of the road. His dark skin creased under his eyes, the corners of his mouth elevated and with a chuckle an in a very Hungarian, Afghani, Indian accent declared, but I do a good impression of a Yemenite Jew.


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