March 15, 2011

In Japan's tsunami, Fuyoko is "fine" (per Facebook messages)

Fuyoko drinking tea in my Tel Aviv flat (January 2005)

On getting news of unspeakable disasters, putting a human face on the victims follows quickly. And so when news broke of Japan's tsunami flood, earthquake, and nuclear meltdowns, it was Fuyoko Sato's face that I saw; she, the only person I know on that island nation.

Feeling a bit loony turning to the Internet (if, miraculously, she was OK, would she even have access?) yet having no other means of contact, I posted a message on Fuyoko's Facebook "Wall" (where I found similar messages from other concerned friends).

Tamar Orvell > Fuyuko Sato
From Tel Aviv, Shalom Fuyoko! All I could think about was you and your family and friends on hearing news of the disasters in Japan. Please put a word here so that we can know of your whereabouts and situation. My heart goes out to you and to your nation. — Much love, Tamar
Sunday at 3:19pm

And then, the next day, came Fuyoko's reply.

Fuyuko Sato
It really nice of you to think of me. I have no problem here though some people in my town have to go to shelter because of tsunami. all of my family and friends are fine. thanks again for your note.
8 hours ago

Tamar Orvell
Your news shines light on news that reports horrors. Please keep me and your FB friends and others updated, and especially, on how we can support you now and over the coming weeks, months, and years. Love, Tamar
about an hour ago 

 ° ° °
The back story
Fuyoko and I were among the Shabbat dinner guests in Jeff and Judith Green's Jerusalem home, a first meeting with the remarkable Japanese young woman that launched our friendship. Fuyoko quickly wow-ed everyone by speaking basic Hebrew that she had learned in less than two years, a tribute to her sharp intellect, Japanese legendary study habits, and Israeli tutor.

What brought the demure, unassuming Fuyoko to Israel that winter in 2005? Research on public memorials to the Shoah — the subject of her thesis for a master's degree in history at UMass Amherst (the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system).

From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv
When we learned that the next week she would decamp to Tel Aviv, from where she would visit Shoah memorial sites in the center and north of Israel, I invited her to be my Tel Aviv house guest.

. . . and then to Atlanta
In 2006, after UMass Amherst awarded her the master's degree, and before she returned home, I had the pleasure of hosting her again, this time in my Atlanta home. Fuyoko had been selected to participate in the Summer Institute for Teaching the Holocaust, a program hosted by The William Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Museum, in Atlanta!

Fuyoko preparing her native dishes in my kitchen,
using ingredients her mother had sent from Japan

Over the years, sometimes on Skype, more often via email, and now on Facebook, we have kept up with each other's lives. Exactly one year ago, Fuyoko sent me a long email, that began —

When I traveled to Israel, I had a lot of hard time, but now I really miss Israel and I would love to go back there. People were full of energy and actually they were friendly. (though sometimes there were some people who were rude.) I also miss the sea which was really bright blue. The sea of Tel Aviv was the bluest one I have ever seen.

Today, I especially miss the radiant Fuyoko — her courage, wisdom, sense of humor, and love of people, history, adventure, and the Hebrew language. And I often reflect on our real-time visits, when this gentle, persistent self-starter showed me how to engage with a culture almost totally alien to her own, and not become undone; rather, to notice and value the worthy, honorable, and pleasing differences.

Perhaps the disasters in Japan (and elsewhere in the world) will impel us to find a way to meet again.

March 09, 2011

In Tel Aviv: International Women’s Day 2011

 "Bread, work, fair wages for all women"
"From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we'll do battle as in Egypt"

Shouting slogans inspired by current struggles for democracy and justice in Libya and Egypt, hundreds of marchers — Jews, Arabs, kids, dogs, and 2.5 men — under police escort, demanded fair and equal wages, an end to cuts in social services, an end to the Occupation, and dignity for Arabs and Jews.

The marchers joined women and girls (and their allies) around the globe in celebrations marking the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Watch the video (1.48 minutes).