June 30, 2008

Tel Aviv: learning from elders

German-born Ute and Romanian-born Leah sharing girl-talk

At the corner of Tel Aviv's Allenby and Yavne Streets, in the public Beit Avot (Home for the Aged), the stories flow and I discover worlds. So when my globe-trotting friend Ute came from Frankfurt on her first trip to Israel, visiting the Beit Avot was a first stop.

Speaking pidgin German
Sitting on a bench in front of the Beit Avot, Leah was the first to greet us. They quickly established rapport, and howled in delight as Romanian-born Leah recounted, in pidgin German cobbled from her scant Yiddish, how she overcame bridal shyness on her wedding night.

Inside, we headed to Moshe's room for answers to Susanne's questions. She visits him weekly, and recently sent me this e-mail from the USA  —

... Is Moshe OK?... He had that eye surgery before I left and I am wondering if it left him impaired... I just hope he is doing all right. Also, he asked me to find a book and I need more information.

How did the eye surgery go?
Perfect, Moshe's reply.

Were you scared? Ute and I asked, in unison.

I've fought in four wars, killed many people on command, and was a captain in the paratrooper's brigade. Children are starving all over the world. What's a five-minute zapping with a laser beam? Moshe's bad-news-good-news answer.

Tell Susanne, thank you for asking, and to forget about the book, he added.

And so ended the Q&A and began Moshe's freestyle discourse on history, Jesus, opera, Greenwich Village, angst, and Israeli documentary film.

Ben-Gurion Remembers (the movie)
Among Moshe's myriad accomplishments and adventures, he was the chief cameraman for Ben-Gurion Remembers (1972), a tribute to Israel's first Prime Minister that scans this nation's history. Moshe told us about his first conversation with the elder statesman when the film's producer introduced them before the filming that lasted more than forty days. 

Our interest in the film having been piqued, the next day Ute and I sat in a carrel at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque Library and watched it, weeping, horrified, and ashamed as newsreel footage showed killing, maiming, and destruction. And, we cheered listening to Ben Gurion, world leaders, pre-State pioneers, and other courageous ingenious actors who helped trump the mad men and mad women and their death machines.

When we returned to the Beit Avot to thank Moshe for his camera work, his joyous shouts and gasps — that we sought, found, and watched the film thrilled us. Suddenly, he rose from his chair and went to the closet where he rummaged among his few possessions in the small room he calls home. And he retrieved a small photograph (shown in the photo on the left) of himself when he worked on that film project (in the photo, his assistant is on the left).

The twinkling eyes, the hair-framed smiling face in the photo still his, intact and unchanged since those glorious forty days' filming more than three decades ago.

My related posts on the Beit Avot

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