HOW A LATIN AMERICAN JEW MET HIS JEWISH MASHIACH
Rébe Judio Mesiánico Renovado
In Asunción, Paraguay, South America (see map below) on Monday night at 8:30, February 23rd, 1981, Elohim made His coup d´etát on my life, toppling over the dictator who had led my life up until then, now over 16 years ago. The coup was liberating and a gust of mountain wind, pure and fresh, blew on the desert which was my life. But that would be like writing about Dvarim (Deuteronomy) before BeReshit (Genesis).
A TALE OF THREE CITIES: Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Asunción.
The Be Reshit (In the Beginning) of my personal encounter with the Jewish Mashiach began at the Israelite Hospital in Buenos Aires, 62 years ago (2002). I was born weighing 3.6 pounds in my mother's seventh month of pregnancy. She was going to lift a bundle of laundry put out to dry on the patio of our common house on Maturín Street, in the blue collar borough of Paternal where my father rented a room for the both of them. On a visit to the neighborhood in 2002, my last trip to Argentina, the house had been demolished and a small business had been set up on the same place.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (1940-1944)
My father was a would-be lawyer and a little-above-the-mediocre oil painter who turned into a carpenter first, and then a furniture polisher. This was very "in" at the Jewish Marxist circles of the Argentina of the Thirties, where Communism was god, and Stalin was its messiah. I was raised overprotected and pampered by my very Jewish mother, and well-educated by my father, who wanted me to become what he could not. At age three-and-a-half I was a good chess player.
So much so that when, at age four, I was in the hospital for an operation because of appendicitis, a doctor happened to pass by the side of the bed and saw us playing. He assumed my father was just moving the pieces instead of myself. Father invited him over to sit at the corner of the bed to play against me and I won--at least that is what my father used to tell the family. (You can see the doctor at the picture on the right. On the left is myself.)
At home there were two different air fronts moving at cross currents: the warm air current of my mother's love and the stale air issuing from a house where a couple has nothing to say to each other, nor do they have anything to offer each other, unless it is frustration and a sense of loss from what could have been but never would be. Life was tough outside but father was encouraged by his American sister to move to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where, she said, immigration to the U.S.A. would be easier. Montevideo was a city on the upsurge on the mid-Forties thanks to W.W.II and to the city's excellent meat which was being exported all over the world.
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY (1944-1961)
Once established there I grew up in Montevideo refreshed by the salty breeze of the Atlantic Ocean, full of parks and rose gardens. There were no smog, no crime, no wars, no militarisms, nor nationalisms. It was a country which resembled Woody Allen: full of a pungent kind of humor, an intelligent, cultured nation which thought out a lot but felt very little. A nation where at the legendary Sorocabana Café, Freud and Adler were discussed, together with soccer football and inflation. (Well, I talked about Freud.) Father was the one doing the work at home. He was one of those people who could not see the trees and the forest at the same time: it had to be one or the other. He had a leg which was shorter than the other one, and as a result, he carried it as a chip on his shoulder. It served him as an excuse and as a crutch for not doing many things he could have done. On top of that, he had an unusual skill at making the wrong decision at the wrong time. This is what we Jews call "schlemazl."
If the Nobel Prize writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (picture on the left) would have been his friend, he would have turned him into a character on one of his tragic stories, or at least, counting on father's schlematzl, a short--of a leg--story. In my father I found my anti-model: precisely because he was not rich, compared to his peers and friends, I was going to be a multimillionaire. Precisely because my father was not ambitious, I would become very ambitious. In my father I found exactly what I did not want to be.
There was a monster which pursued me and signaled me for life, cutting off any possibility of a life of action; the pearl-gray, spongous demon of asthma. He came to live at home when I was a baby and he did not come out until I was 17. Maybe he got bored with me as I laid in bed for six months at a time and went off to play with other Jewish children. Who knows? Forced physical immobility, spurred by the suffocating one sitting on my chest at daytime, and especially at night, railroaded me into the inner world of the mind and the imagination. I wrote my first short story at age eight or nine, in a contest I made with my best friend at the time, Carmi, who was the same age as me. I wrote my masterpiece on a corner grocery store account book. It talked about a UFO and its crew. Carmi wrote about his family and his mother. Were these to be two short stories or two Freudian slips of the pen regarding two very different destinies written by the expertise of nine-year-old midgets? At age eleven I was reading MARTIN EDEN, by Jack London, a typical Socialist reading by the son of a Communist in the Forties. But I did not know that. At thirteen I read "The Nausea" by Jean Paul Sartre, Hesse, Romain Rolland, but especially all of Stefan Zweig, and THE TWENTIETH FIFTH HOUR, which was later turned into a movie with Anthony Queen and Virna Lisi. Zweig, together with Honoré de Balzac, became my favorite writers. Later on, at the crucial age of seventeen, appeared the Chinese writer Lin Yu Tang. He introduced me into the Oriental mindset and to an overvaluation of everything Oriental, especially Chinese philosophy, Zen, Confucianism, the Chinese classics, Chinese poetry like Li Beng's LI PO. Through his influence, I wrote Chinese poetry, which was much more mature than the "infantile fables" of Adam and Eve. By that time I was watching eight movies a week, week after week, year after year. Holly wood became my psychological and emotional tutor during my adolescence; it was my acupuncturist and doctor, my psychologist and my witch doctor. It did not matter what was hurting me, there was nothing a good movie could not cure in me. My cosmogony began to part more and more from "the healthy doctrine" to center more and more on my "gods": MetroGoldwynMayer and Warner Bros. I even had my saints: "Saint" Tennessee Williams, "Saint" Arthur Miller; and "Saint" O´Neill as far as theater was concerned; and "Saint" Jack Palance and "Saint" Kirk Douglas and "Saint" Kim Novak in movies.
|"Saint" Kirk, a.k.a. Issur Danielovitch |
In painting were the saints Van Gogh and the Chinese classics. Huxley, Wilde, Balzac, Stendhal and Thoreau--especially Thoreau-- were the saints I prayed to and Thoreau´s WALDEN was my bible. The only thing I did not do was to burn incense to them. And if I never did that it was just because MGM never taught me to do it. Or did they? Wasn't the money I paid at the ticket office "food for the idols" which the Rabbi Shaúl (Paul) talks about in 1 Cor. 8:7? From this theoretical basis as a spectator I soon passed on into the practicing stage. I became a Holly wood practicing believer. Not only did I go to "church" on Sundays, often three times in one Sunday, plus my daily "mass" the rest of the week, but I began to "preach the word": I began to write literature. Not only did I worship at the altar of the homosexual Tennessee Williams, or at the one by the alcoholic O´Neill, but I wished to become one of them. I wished to become the playwright of the Fifties and then of the Sixties. I wanted to become a god myself and have people worship me and burn incense bought at the movie theaters' pulpits. Not only was I worshipping at the feminine temple of creativity, Art, I was also going in and out of the masculine temple of Science and Invention. I began to become interested in inventing things like a voice-recognition machine, an idea which kept me up nights without end. I also fiddled with a blueprint for an erasing tape for typewriters. I even contacted a giant in the business and, silly as I was, blurted out my idea to them in a letter. They offered me a free course and, seventeen years later when any would-be patent suit I might have gotten out would be invalid, they patented it in the U.S. I know because by then I was getting rich, and I was suscribed to The Wall Street Journal back in Asunción, Paraguay.
From that invention alone I would have had become a multimillionaire. But it was not to be. When I asked my father for help, he told me I should talk to an attorney, but he did nothing about it, not realizing he and my mom would have gotten rich in the process, too. It was about this time, when I was fifteen or sixteen, that my years of interest in Chinese philosophy took me into the arms of the occult; UFOlogy, Telepathy, Yoga, and everything else which Elohim forbids, although I did not know anything regarding God or His prohibitions. That was, after all, more the rule than the exception in the atheist Montevideo of the Fifties, which was totally humanistic and totally democratic at the end of the Fifties. Let us not forget Montevideo was one of the few countries in the world at the time with a Communist and a Trotzkist Party, totally legal, plus a ring of legally established brothels in every borough of the capital. Ariadna´s thread of my interest in UFOs did nothing to get me out of the labyrinth as it did in the mythological story. On the contrary, it helped me to enter deeper still into the occult. Reading took me into practice, but that is further into the future and deeper into the labyrinth where the evil spider spins his web. At age seventeen and within the private galaxy of my mind, my life gyrated anxiously but precisely around the earthly ambition to become a famous writer. My hero at the time was the latent homosexual and future suicidal Ernest Hemingway. In my ear and mind, I was going to be the next Hemingway. I started to copy his style and to write like him. I began to see scenes in my mind like he recommended. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA was my second bible, after WALDEN, and its short, staccato style became my style. I began to take ten mile walks along the seaside in Montevideo. The beaches, rocks, seaweed and seafoam of the Atlantic Ocean, and the salty air, fog and saltpeter, the white sand and sea shells, which were Hemingway´s Cuban universe became my universe, only ten thousand miles further south. Instead of going to Pre-Med class, my classes became the those walks between Ramirez Beach and Punta Gorda Beach. I majored in the pale-green water close to Malvín Beach, splattered by the cold spray of a winterish September. By that time, my heart was filled with the dry, pungent sea air of the Montevidean Spring. The result was a series of suggestive, sad and shy poems full of a nostalgia of centuries whitewashed by the saltpeter and the cutting air of the sea. In the morning I used to go out dressed in my overcoat and my woolen scarf. When I got to Pocitos Beach I took them off and remained in my bathing trunks and walked along the rocks, with the sun always keeping me company. I just sat there, trying to take in my eye everything home; the smell of the sea, the infinite ocean which spoke a language I did not understand, and the rocks, as wise as they were old, silent before the incessant chat of the foam and the whispering gossip of the wind.
Did you notice? Yes, I was in love, like only a seventeen-year-old falls in love. In my interior mansion there was only one tenant: Her. She walked around her mansion with her close cut bold hair and I took a step back to let her pass. She went with me to the beach but she really did not get out of her palace. It was I that took her with me and fed her with air, cold sea water, sand and memories.
In the afternoon it was time to go to the movies and read my gospel. Orson Welles was Luke and Jack Palance was my messiah. Like Shaul, I studied at the feet of my Gamaliel, Tennessee Williams. Alfred Hitchock, that satanic elf, wrote his own "Divrey Yamim/Book of Chronicles" and "Kings" which I watched and rewatched again and again. I watched VERTIGO nineteen times; STRANGERS ON A TRAIN over 30 times. By the time I was nineteen I had watched and written down over 9,000 movies. How many Christian books have you read? How many Jewish books did you read? Did you read nineteen times the story of king Shaul and David, which has vestiges of VERTIGO?
I was ready to become the first Rabbi of the Holly wood Synagogue of Celluloid Tzadikim/Just men and I am sure to this day that if another "Saint" in my religion, "Saint" Kirk Douglas would have heard of me, he would have had me ordained without a moment's hesitation. Successful as I was as a student of the gospel according to "Saint" (Jack) Palance, I was not so successful, obviously, as a student of more trite subjects like Chemistry and Physics. This is especially difficult to achieve if the girl one is sleeping with is the same girl as your Chemistry teacher's. Do you think it was astute of me to choose the same young girl as my Chemistry teacher, who was in his late Fifties? Would you be much surprised if I told you I flunked Chemistry over and over and finally had to quit Pre-Med School? My medical career screeched to a halt the day my aunt from America found out I entered the Montevideo Faculty of Medicine on General Flores Street and exited a few minutes later through the Yatay Street entrance in order to proceed directly to my office at the latest motion picture theater. As a consequence of her discovery, things got a little tense at home between my father and I and terrible things were said, unforgivable things like: "You have to get a job!" Can you picture the insult? And other obscene things like that. Can you imagine the insult? To tell Julio "Hemingway" Dam to work everyday? And for mere money? My first job at the ripe age of eighteen was, incredibly, substituting for a Chemistry Ph. D. in his early thirties. The old Italian manager of the hosiery mill was in my pocket the minute I applied what every third-rate politician knows by heart; tell your audience what he wants to hear. The only real qualification I had for the job of chemist at the dyeing hosiery mill was of mixing colors. And wasn't my father an oil painter? Had I not learned about which color results from mixing this and that color when I used to sit at his lap? Doesn't everyone know that if you mix yellow with blue the result is green, etc., etc.? That was exactly what I told the old man, Mr. Caccia. When I was in the bus station, on my way home, somebody came out of the mill and told me I had gotten the job. They expected me at the factory the next Monday. How did I do at the mill? I won't blame it on the big bad wolf. The one to blame was really Math. I had to figure how much orange pigment to mix in order to dye 1,200 pairs of nylon stockings and instead of mixing 0.0002 grams I mixed 0.002 grams. It was just one zero less, for crying out loud! Was that reason enough to fire me when 1,200 pairs of orange stockings came out looking like red carrots? It was only a matter of a zero, wasn't it? After that I was a bellboy at an international hotel. A few months later I was a full-fledged telephone operator, thanks to my gift of languages (I spoke five at the time, although only English was my forte and still is). For a nineteen-year-old, in 1959, I was making three hundred dollars a month, which was a splendid sum for Montevideo. Now I can see Elohim's hand in it since that opened the door in Israel to do the same job. But that is going into the future. Let us go back into the past.
JULIO THE ZIONIST
In Montevideo, around the time of Nazi Eichmann's trial, 1961-62, Elohim began sending hunters (Jer. 16:16) and anti-Semitism grew out of the earth like spores after the rain. It was the time of BABI YAR, the poem by Yevgeni Yevtushenko,and my yiddishkeit and my Zionism broke out.
|Yevgeny Yevtushenko today|
I began attending HaNoar HaTzioni´s meetings, the Zionist organization, three times a week. There I spent the best years of my youth and I made the best friends of my life, with the exception of Carmi. I learned Hebrew songs and wrote a few poems about Israel, two of which were published by the local Jewish paper. Elohim's invisible hand was now more marked in the sand, but I would not realize it for many years. It was at the HaNoar HaTzioni that I fell in love again a couple of times. I became a comedian. Very soon I was extremely popular. Everyone knew that if they stayed with me they would be laughing their heads off. As a result, I became the popular Chaver everyone was looking for. It did not make me more popular with the Jewish girls but it did bring to me several Jewish boys as close friends, the kind of true friends I would never have had with the sport fans, the scholars, and those with charisma which had been my friends. Meanwhile, I changed jobs. There was a vacancy at a local bank and I asked for the job. I was as suited for a bank job as you are suited for being an astronaut, if you know what I mean. Anyway, employing the same technique I used for the hosiery mill I asked myself: What does a bank manager appreciate most? And since they looked like a bunch of robots to me, I thought that a print-like handwriting would impress them.
Since I enjoyed writing what is called the Palmer Handwriting, I submitted the application letter which looked as if it were done by a typewriter. They chose me from among 47 other candidates. My banking career lasted exactly thirty days. I scratched out the days going to the bathroom and passing my fingers over the pattern on the dark brown tiles which were galaxy-shaped. Imagine the concentration that I exerted since I can still remember it! My rejection of that automaton's job was such that I phoned from a public phone one early afternoon to a friend I had made at the bank and asked him to tell my boss I was quitting, never mind the paycheck that was due. Look, I'm not dumb. I wanted the month´s check just as much as you would. I am just more sensitive than dumb. So that you can see that I was not that wrong about bank careers, let me tell you that the boss, a fat man with a supposed future ended up his years at the Montevideo loony state asylum. Bank employees of the world, unite! (So that you don't go the asylum, all of you, like that poor man.) Then in Montevideo the goyim (non-Jews) started to grab young Jewish girls and boys off of the street and mark them, using a knife, with a Maguen David or the letter "J" for "Jew" in their foreheads. This created a wave of Aliyah (literally "to go up," immigration to Israel). Cynics in Israel would later say that the knife markers were on the payroll by the Jewish Agency, the one in charge of immigration. Later on I changed organizations, "the name of which I cannot remember," as Cervantes (our Spanish Shakespeare) used to say. They met at Convención Street, in downtown Montevideo. Here the emphasis was on Aliyah, immigration to Israel, and their propaganda worked. Many of my friends and buddies began to emigrate to Israel. I used to go out with Carmi and sometimes with Leo. When Leo decided to emigrate to Israel too, external as well as internal pressures mounted and began to push me towards Israel. My previous career as a banking employee and a not so notable accountant led to the inevitable: Julio "Hemingway" Dam makes Aliyah! An additional effective trigger also played its part, and it was my kind of trigger. One winter night, I was lying in bed in my winter bedroom (I also had a summer one) watching a black and white movie with Kirk Douglas. Douglas played the part of a former concentration camp refugee who emigrated to Israel and met a blond with her hair cut short. Listen: Don't you find it somewhat like something you heard here before? That's exactly what I felt when I saw the movie. "Saint" Kirk Douglas made me do it! I told my parents I was leaving for Israel.
I called Elena on the phone, the Jewish girl I had been dating, and without thinking I was breaking her heart, I told her cold-heartedly I was leaving. "Helen, I beg your forgiveness." I later asked the Lord to forgive me for what I had done to her. I did not know that she loved me seriously. I thought she was having fun, just as I was. I bumped into her at the Buenos Aires Book Fair in 1976. "Helen," I asked, "How are you?" Her husband, as big as a clothes cabinet, just stood looking hostile. The poor one! In my colossal egotism, I did not know the damage I was causing her. "Did you hear, that, Helen? Forgive me! I hope you have the blessing of meeting the Messiah that you and your husband need. I hope and pray that you get that son you never had and that he grows up with you. I pray that Messiah brings you His peace and His light and forgiveness, as He has done with me. And for whatever you may have done to me after we met, I forgive you."
EN ROUTE TO ISRAEL, 1961
December 26, 1961: We sailed, my parents and myself, on the S.S. Augustus. It was a big, 44,000-ton ship en route to Naples. Our ship tickets were paid for by the Jewish Agency. Mom had decided to go with me. After all, if I went to Israel, what would she do by herself with me being her only son? My father decided to follow the only two members of his immediate family, although he did not agree with the whole business-shmissness. As we will see, it was the Lord's doing. What do you think? I remember patches of the trip, like a quilt made up of vivacious colors. A patch: I am on deck. It is nighttime. It is as black a night as a blind man's sight. It was cold. Lights gave off a pearly gray color on the water which runs parallel to the ship, like people sinking and trying to get a hold of the ship in order not to sink. The boy next to me, a round-faced Italian, asks me where I am heading. "Israel." "Why?," he wants to know. "I'm sick and tired of being called four-letter words just because I am Jewish." This is the first time I have ever told anyone about it. I had never complained about anti-Semitism regarding Uruguay before. The Italian guy shows me a poem: the now famous BABI YAR in an Italian translation.
|Recent Babi Yar plaque|
It dealt with the terrifying collective grave in the USSR where thousands of Jews had been murdered in cold blood and some of which had been thrown alive into the grave which they themselves had been forced to dig; the very efficiency of the devil, the supreme anti-Semite. I did copy it in a notebook, word by word, with effort, since it is in Italian. Yetvushenko in Italian reminded me of Salvatore Quasimodo, ever so smooth; as smooth as Russian velvet. Nobody else dared to say anything like that under Chriushov. The sea's tears mixed with mine, salt over salt, sorrow over sorrow: Sorrow for what the Nazis did; sorrow for what the neo-Nazis were doing; preventing the Russian people to learn that most of the dead at Babi Yar were Jewish. Stalinism, you say? Listen, did you see the monument in the middle of the forest, in 1997? Do you know that up to 1989 at the latest, if you went there you were arrested for whatever charge they wanted to impose on you? Patch: My father was talking to a psychiatrist on board and I barged in. The guy shows me a book in English by Eric Fromm, THE ART OF LOVING. I copy most of it in my notebook, feverishly, like somebody copying the Dead Sea Scrolls. For a hungry mind, bread crusts are like an Epicurean banquet. Fromm: "One of the saints in my humanistic gospel, a blind man guiding the blind 'and both of them will fall down the well.'" Patch: A couple with his son. Germans in their forties. The guy looks like a Nazi. There are only days until we get to Naples, Italy. I am climbing the stairs leading from one deck to another. I meet the German woman. She stops me in the middle of the stairs. There is tender fear in her look. "Where are you going?," she asks. "Israel," I answer. She looks down quickly. Does the name give her the chills? "Things are tough there. Be careful," she says. What do I say to her? I smile back. Who is she? I'll never know. What do you say to a perfect stranger? Was it remorse for what her own husband did during the war? Very probably.
We arrived at Naples, Italy, enveloped in zero-degree weather during the day and over thirty degrees below zero when the sun went to sleep. We had a week to spend there before our ship to Haifa, Israel, came. Covered with an overcoat up to my mouth, with a dark hat down to my eyebrows, and a woolen scarf covering my nose, I breathed with an open mouth in order to heat my face. Naples: Foot-high old stones make up the houses' walls. Clothes are outside to dry. Radios are blaring. The Arts Museum: I stayed all morning there admiring a sepia-colored chiaroscuro representing a Roman charioteer handling a metal chariot, as if coming off the wall.
|Charioteer (not a Chiaroscuro)|
I could not believe it was not actually coming off the wall so I touched the wall in order to convince myself it was only a chiaroscuro. Who had done such a magnificent drawing? Chi lo sa? The museum's guard entered every few minutes to check to see that I was not dismantling anything off the shelves and putting it in my pockets. Treasures like these are all over Italy. What a country! The language, or better, the Neapolitan dialect was very different from the Italian I learned in school. Everybody understood my Italian but I had trouble understanding their dialect. Hostile, rapacious people, the Neapolitans, or rather, the Neapolitan Republic, I should say. I see them as a race apart, subjugated by Rome but still proud, hiding their desires for independence under a fierce, rapacious look. There is none of the toyteratti in Naples which Fellini tries to show us. If Montevideo is Woody Allen-inesque, then Naples is the Ratso which Dustin Hoffman made famous in MIDNIGHT COWBOY, only sixty years older; deformed, astute like a demon, full of tricks and devoid of any feelings whatsoever. I made a friend in Naples and on a Sunday morning we took a tramway and toured the city. We ended up walking down the local Pere Lachaise, the cemetery. Patch: Pompeii, 79 A.D., was buried in lava within minutes.
I walked through its streets as wide as those of Naples or maybe even wider. Wus wilste fun mir? What do you want from me? My memory is not like it was thirty-seven years ago. Of its people, only vacuum-filled, corpse-like white lava was left: Some are still in their beds, some are seated at something like a sofa; some are in the position of making love. Do you know what? It is a glimpse of the future: I see the U.S. being attacked by the USSR in the near future. It is also a portrait of each one of us when the Lord calls us and the city which is our body suddenly is going to be paralyzed, strangely quiet, like the streets and houses of Pompeii; the roofs are going to be torn off and ivy is going to start growing over our bones, a testimony of what we were but are no longer. Better yet, what we ceased to be. Our hatred is going to be filled by the whitish lava, like the Pompeiian cadavers were and all the tourists are going to stare at us and say: "Look at that guy on the floor. Do you know who he is? Hatred. And a woman will say, staring at our envy, at our hardened hearts: "There! See? That dog lifting his paws up? It is Rancor. See that hyena drawing her teeth out, can you see her? She is called Gossip. Look here, this wrapped viper, can you see her divided tongue? She is called Lack of Love."
Do you want me to tell you something? I do not want that the Lord's lava of ire gets to me. Do you? It was morning and the sun was shining over the rooftops of Haifa, Israel, as we approached the harbor. The water was light-blue like a swimming pool. The copperish gold of heresy caught my attention immediately as I entered the harbor, but I did not know her true face then.
A puzzle: If Montevideo is Woody Allen and Naples is Dustin Hoffman playing Ratso, guess who is Israel? You lost! There is no Israel: there is a mosaic of nations there, all back from exile and at home. Each Israeli city has a different personality. How does Elohim see them? Maybe He sees Tel Aviv as PRAVDA , the Soviet newspaper does: A fat businessman chewing on a filthy cigar, with a gold chain crossing his chest on his three-piece suit. And Yerushalaim (Jerusalem)? Like a priest from the tribe of Levi, with his turban-like headdress and his metal chest plate for the Urim and Thumim, and his long tunic. And Haifa? Perhaps He will see it as a blond kibutznik, naive but tough, sunburned, wearing leather sandals and a leather-covered watch on his wrist, for the sweat. When we reached Israel, Leon, my old buddy from Montevideo, was waiting for me in his Peugeot van. On the Haifa-Tel Aviv road we saw the new buildings pass by. "Did you see that?", "Look at that!," repeatedly until I got sick and tired of it and I spat at him: "Listen, baby, what are you so proud of? Are they, by any chance, your buildings?" He was right, of course; those buildings were, in a sense, his. Were they not in Israel? But for me Israel was still not my country. Mom had a sister in Hertzliah (named after Theodor Hertzl, the first in dreaming about a modern Jewish homeland, even in 1890).
|A beautiful beach in Israel|
My aunt Pnina had been in Israel already for forty years. She was living with her husband, my uncle Moshe, his son, Aaron, her daughter Rivkah, her husband Yosef, now deceased,and their two-year-old daughter. Only when I wrote this did I realize that my friend Leo had moved to Hertzliah because of me since he did not know anybody in Israel. For him it was the same to live in Hertzliah or in any other city in Israel. When we arrived with my parents, the Jewish Agency gave my parents a shikun (a free house) to live in. The first thing my father and I did was to learn Hebrew. Some task! It is said that each language one speaks makes it easier to learn a second one. Based on this logical semi-nonsense I felt very optimistic: I spoke five languages, so what was the big deal about a sixth one? "Keep them coming!," I thought to myself, feeling cockily sure of myself. The truth was much different from this. I could even paraphrase an old Russian proverb for you and say: "I wish that the only thing you do with your life is to learn Hebrew!" Only part of it is a joke, for learning Hebrew is no joke. To begin with, it is a language without vowels. Look, what is your name? Benjamin, Henrietta? How are you, Mr. B n j m? Hi, H n r tt ? See what I mean? You buy YEDIOT HACHRONOT (or like my wife Sarita used to say, "Idiot Achronot") (The Latest News) and the heading by itself makes your head spin: "Thr hdd bb brn n hf!" Imagine! Did you find out what happened? Well, that's the way you feel when you buy an Israeli newspaper and your friends ask you whether you heard about "the three headed baby born in Haifa"! And believe me, in Hebrew it is worse than that, because in English, with a little practice you can guess what does it say up there, but try and guess it in an unknown language which has no equivalent whatsoever in any language! Let me point out something: Did you ever stop to think our Messiah, that Adonai who came and lived among us, Imanu´El, spoke Hebrew? (Purists are going to stop me cold: He spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. He did speak Hebrew, as many Scriptural verses will attest to: Jn. 19:13,17, 20; Lk. 23:38; Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14; Rev. 9:11; and 16:16.) Did you ever stop to think He had a Yiddish name, that He ate Jewish dishes, that He was a Jewish Rabbi (59 times He is called a Rabbi in the N.T.? Obviously, He would have to have peies (sidecurls), wear a tallit (prayer shawl) with tziziot (fringes), in fact Malachi 4:2 says exactly that: "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings: and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." Scripture obviously speaks about the Messiah here. And what does Scripture say about Him? That He has "wings"? In Hebrew, "wings" is an idiom for "tzitziot," for the outer, four-cornered, vest-like tallit a Religious Jew wears outside his chaluk, his tunic. So Yeshuah the Messiah wore a tallit with tziziot, just like any other Rabbi wears today! Speaking about Hebrew, my father enrolled me in a Hebrew class at an ulpan inside a kibbutz. In such a place, one studies for half a day and works for half a day, paying for the studies by working. This particular kibbutz was located outside the city of Afula, in Northern Israel. The trip lasted about two hours by bus. The kibbutz is pure communism in motion, a utopia made real. In the kibbutz there is no money: everything you need, including cigarettes and movies are provided by the kibbutz itself. Of course, if you did not like the movie they showed at this kibbutz every Thursday night, you would have to wait until the next Thursday to try your luck again! We used to get up at three thirty o'clock in the morning and go out immediately for work. A tractor used to come and pick us up and take us to the field until eight o'clock, when we interrupted work to come back to the kibbutz and have a voluminous breakfast/lunch, the likes of which you never saw: Anchovies (yes, anchovies, at 8 a.m.!) yogurt, sauerkraut, fresh bread, butter (real butter, not margarine), three or four varieties of cheese, milk, coffee, tea, etc. etc. When one was through with it one wanted to go to sleep in order to digest that premature lunch, but no such luck. One had to go back to the fields. I got "the onion detail," where I took out the onions from the earth with one knee on the ground and the other one crawling up the lines and lines of onions growing in the morning cold. Once in a while I would look at the insignificant vista I had at my right. The onion field (do you hear that, Truman Capote?) was sitting on the top of a meseta. At my right there was a deep valley of perhaps a hundred yards, and on the other side of the valley one could distinguish the pastel-colored houses of a city which is now mostly Arab with nothing of importance called Nazeret (Nazareth). If I looked twice at the city from where I was it was a lot. Let me add, too, that I did not even bother with visiting it. This is despite the fact that it was only twenty minutes away by bus from the kibbutz's door! The city where the Jewish Mashiach grew up and I did not even bother to go! We used to work until noon, and then we went back and had gefilte fish or meat balls with puree cooked in one of those big cooking pots like you see on prison movies. We ate them on the chadar ha ochel (Hebrew for "dining room"). Everyone doing the same task and watching each others faces every day, three times a day, is not precisely an incentive to a la Oscar Wilde conversations. In truth, I believe that had Oscar Wilde been in a kibbutz for more than six months I bet he would not have been able to write even one of his famous epigrams, nor would he be able to be a homosexual: he would have found no partner in the Victorian environment of the kibbutz of the Sixties! A week after I arrived, as I was walking down the narrow cement paths which separates one from the ignominious clay-like mud, I began to mutter to myself the following: "Why take a bath today? Who am I going to see whom I have not seen yesterday? Shave? I shaved yesterday. Why do it again today? Is there, perchance, a new girl who arrived today? Bah, I'll shave tomorrow...or on Sabbath, before going home to my parents." That is the praxis of the Communist utopia, obviously light years ahead of the Communist GULAG, but not comparable to Yerushalaim (Jerusalem) or Tel Aviv. In the afternoon, a Yeke (a Jew of German origin) teacher indoctrinated us in the harsh sounds which had no relationship with any other language of which Hebrew is made up with. She did it without referring to any other language to explain what was said. It is called the "Direct System." It is possibly the worst language teaching method there is. It took me ten minutes, perhaps, to realize that she was trying to explain, say, the word "computer mouse," when with a translation it would have taken her a couple of seconds. Anyway, my presence in that specific kibbutz lasted only until I argued with the Yeke in front of my peers that the opposite word of sweet was not necessarily the word "salty," as she insisted, but could be "bitter." I did not know, at the naive age of twenty-two, that what we were dealing with was a lot more than just two words, I was messing with Marx and Engels and Hegel. I was not just pitted against a language teacher, but against the whole cathedral of the mind called Hegel´s dialectics armed only with my puny Aristotelic-like, linear mind. The results? The red Yeke booted me out of the kibbutz because I was insubordinate (read: contrarrevolutionary activities!). I was indeed very lucky that I was in Israel and not in the Demokratische Deutsche Republik: there I would not be kicked out, they would have given me ten years in the GULAG! To make a long story short, I did not learn Hebrew: I had to wait till I met the Jewish Messiah to really learn how to speak and read it. After the ulpan, and after a ten-minute interview at a posh hotel on Hertzliah Pituach, I got a job as a telephone operator with a big salary and only six hours of work a day, due to the unhealthy conditions of the job. I worked like mad from seven a.m. to one p.m. I would then quickly get down the stairs which led to the beach and at 1:03 p.m. I was on the Hertzliah beach getting a sun tan. I could pay all the bills of the SIMCA 1000 my father had bought brand-new thanks to our status as brand-new immigrants. Funny thing, though, we couldn´t have bought it had I not taken out a driver´s license in Montevideo to supposedly drive Elena´s father´s car. In the end, I never did drive her father´s car, but thanks to the driver´s license I showed to the Israeli customs officer, my father could buy the car without import taxes.
The job at the Sharon seaside hotel had an unexpected consequence which changed my life completely: There I met Sarita, my future wife. One morning I went to the hotel kitchen to have a sip of tap water. As I was standing near the tap sipping the water I heard somebody speak Spanish, my native language. I turned around slowly and saw two women speaking in Spanish. As I was leaving I asked another employee who the women were. "Ha Argentinai," he said, "The Argentinian ones." I felt immediately comfortable with one of them. Her nickname at the hotel was "Bli yiadaim," ("No Hands!") because to every young man who wanted to manhandle her she would give him a slap on his hands and tell them: "Blee Yadayeem! Blee Yadayeem! No Hands! No Hands!" In the end, the "Argentee-nai" turned out to Paraguayan. One free afternoon I was walking down Ben Yehudah Street in Tel Aviv waiting for the Ben Yehudah movie theater to open when I spotted the young woman who had spoken Spanish as she was window shopping. I pretended I had just seen her, which was only partly a lie, since I had seen her but I did not have the guts to approach her. I invited her for a soft drink. We sat and we talked, I don't remember about what. Then we went to the movies to see DR. STRANGELOVE, with Peter Sellers. It was April 1964. We got married September 4, 1964. It was all so quick that when we told our friends we were going to be married, the women said "Really?" and their stares went down to Sarita´s belly, thinking it would be one of those "shotgun marriages." Was this marriage made in heaven? Of course it was. I believe some are especially blessed in heaven and mine was definitively one of them. After 39 years of it, I should know what I'm talking about, shouldn't I?
|An inside view of the Sharon Hotel|
TO BE CONTINUED:
LAST UPDATE: APRIL 18, 1997.
CURRENT UPDATE: OCTOBER 25, 2004.
That was in 1964. Life in Israel was tough. As a store owner on Dizengoff Street told me, back in 1994, on a visit to Israel I made on my own, when I asked him in Hebrew (I can still utter some pretty good sentences, oi gevai!): "Nu, how is business?" And he went: "Git in drert!" (in Yiddish, it literally means: "terrible!" Lifting up my eyebrows at him I snapped back: "How come?" And he said: "Mah (What?) is not 'Tov ba Eretz' (It is good in the Land (of Israel) 'git in drert'?" (terrible)? And he was right on both counts. It IS "Tov ba Eretz" if you know Elohim. It is, however, "git in drert" (terrible) if you dont! (That is my dialectical conclusion, for whatever it is worth).
Anyway, we stayed in Israel until 66, when we decided there was no future for us in Israel, after the business failures I experienced, some of which I will explain with a luxury of detail only some time to kill can offer me. My first business deal was to try to paint oil paintings a la Pollock, who was in vogue in the Sixties. I knew how to paint? Chatzveh Chalilah! (Of course not!) My dad had been an oil painter all his life, so I picked up something from him, maybe his little chutzpah. So, in order to make it a profitable business, I lined up three blank canvasses on the balcony of my parents tiny apartment in Hertzliah, and started "the Pollock methode" which was--believe it or not--a fractal mode of painting (this was discovered this year, in 2004). What I am calling "the Pollock methode" of painting was simply to strike the three oil canvases at once with sprayed paint of various colors, hoping for the best. I signed all three with different Jewish names, like "Einstein" (no, not really, my chutzpah did not stretch THAT far!), Goldberg, etc. and I sent my poor wife Sarita to sell them door to door. Sell them she did not! She turned out to be the worst salesperson in the world, but it took me forty years to find THAT out! So THAT took care of my first failed business deal. As for my second, I´ll paint you a picture of it. You see, while working
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El Rabino Dam es el líder espiritual de la kehiláh Mesiánica Renovada Beit Shalóm (Familia de Paz/Completación) en Asunción, Paraguay, Sudamérica.
Ha escrito 'La Verdad Sobre El Anticristo Y Armaguedón'. Y varios libros ya publicados en español: 'Mi Amigo Hashém', '¿Jesús Era Un Niño Cristiano Que Iba A La Iglesia Todos Los Domingos? ¿Cuántos Errores Puede Usted Detectar En Este Libro? ¡Hay Cuatro!', 'Matitiáhu: Una Traducción Con Comentarios Judíos Mesiánicos Renovados', y una serie de libritos de comentarios de 'Romanos'.
El Rabino Dam además brinda seminarios gratuitos sobre los siguientes temas: 1) Judaísmo Mesiánico Renovado; 2) La Verdad Sobre El Pseudo-Salvador 'Anticristo' Y El Armaguedon; 3) Como Llegar A Ser Amigo De Elohím; 4) Armas Avanzadas De Liberación Y Guerra Espiritual; 5) El Hebreo Como Herramienta Para Entender Mejor Las Escrituras; 6) Las Diferencias Entre El Cristianismo, El Judaísmo Mesiánico y El Judaísmo Mesiánico Renovado; 7) ¿Hay Errores En El Nuevo Testamento?; 8) La Verdad Acerca de 'Romanos'.
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