Israel Stories

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Mountaineer

Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?’ ‘Not sure, without my hair how can I go out to the shops, but then I could wear a hat.’ ‘Without my teeth how could I eat, but them I could have everything liquidized, but then how could I smile?’ ‘You’d have to swallow first’, I interjected. The old lady scowled, ‘I mean with no teeth how can you smile?’

I looked at her ancient face. A hundred Yemenite summers had shriveled and molded her face into a relief map of the Himalayas with her strangely European nose acting as Everest. ‘When you get to my age’, her friend continued ‘you have to preserve your looks’. I looked at her perfectly preserved face, like a pickle in a jar.

‘Young man, when you are as old as us, you’ll understand the dilemma, teeth or hair’.
The other lady, laughed, ‘like we have a choice’, here, I have another question, what would you rather lose your fingers or your toes?’ ‘I know someone who lost 6 fingers and he’s OK,’ I piped up.

‘But could he draw water from a well, or cradle the water from a bucket into his child’s mouth, or be effective with a stick and drive his sheep across the mountains, or even bake bread?’ One nil to the Andes twins, I thought. ‘But without toes he couldn’t walk to the well, or drive his sheep, but he could bake bread,’ Triumph, I though, got them just where I want them.

‘When I was a girl, I knew a man with no fingers or toes, amazing story, how he coped with life’. ‘What happened to him?’ I asked eagerly anticipating a story of courage and hardship. ‘Oh, we thought he was a freak and he starved to death, very, very, sad!’

‘Tell me,’ I asked, ‘How did you two come to live in Israel?’ ‘Well,’ answered Himalaya woman, ‘In the 1950’s we trekked hundreds of miles through desert and mountains, under a burning sun, to reach the Holy Land. The journey was fraught with all types of dangers, the heat, the cold, the robbers and marauders, but we arrived’. ‘And you,’ I asked the pickle, ‘how did you get here?’ Well my brother-in-laws cousin had a factory in America, so he sent us money for a plane ticket to join the family in New York. It was hard to travel in those days as my friend told you. We got to Greece and I got on the wrong boat which docked at Jaffa and the rest is history’.

‘I have a question for you,’ pickle women smiled, then winked at Himalaya woman, ‘anything’ I said preparing my aliyah story for them, ‘what would you rather lose’ she continued,’ your goat or your cow!’


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