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The Mystic Experience
By Tova Wald
In August, 1968 I fulfilled the Jewish dream of a lifetime The Old City was at long last liberated and access to the Wailing Wall became a reality! I knew where I would be spending my two-week’s vacation…in Israel! Carefully saving my money, I was able to afford the trip . Stepping off the plane on arrival filled me with that commonly felt feeling of “coming home.” Not only was I here as a tourist, but also taking the opportunity of seeing my Israeli relatives for the first time.
I traveled daily with my touring group. This was a mixed group by age and background. Life here was so different from back home -- another world with such a mixed population; different terrain and coastal areas, and our ancient sites…
At the first opportunity, I called my uncle, Meyer, my father’s oldest brother. “Ven kenst du kumen?” “When can you come?” We could only speak in Yiddish since I hardly knew any Hebrew. “Kenst kumen itzt!” “You can come now!” An hour or so later I was at his place of business. Meyer was so happy to see me—a wide smile on his face. My uncle owned a plot, what they call here a “migrash.” There was a front gate; the area was fenced in. Above was a flimsy tin roof. It was located across the street from the old Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. I followed my uncle up a narrow dirt path. Uncle Meyer took out a box crate for himself to sit on and one for me. “Kum zitz zich.” “Come sit down.” We talked. He spoke, often with humor, which made us both laugh. Here were items for Home and Garden in a flea market arrangement. Plants and small shrubs covered the ground. On the sides were an assortment of items for the home: knickknacks, tools, utensils. As a young pioneer, Meyer had left Poland for Tel Aviv in about 1912. Uncle Meyer was a widower with a married son and family. He was artistically talented self taught, making sculptures and creating paintings. To me, his paintings were a mixture of Picasso and Matisse--vibrant. He also painted many different murals on the walls of his apartment; they were unique and charming.. He tried to sell his artwork, and did from time to time.
My vacation was drawing to a close but I managed to see other members of my family. Aaron, the son of another uncle, took me for a ride along the Tel Aviv seashore. “Stay here with us” he said.. You’ll make a life for yourself here . We’ll look after you.” I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I said I couldn’t because of my elderly parents back home. Aaron fell silent, not looking at me. A few days later I boarded my plane for the flight home.
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I resumed my daily routine, going to work and stopping off regularly to see how my parents were doing. (I lived a block away.) They were suffering from their ailments and depended on my help and attention which I gave as best as I could.
One day after work I was approaching my parents’ building. Something on the ground caught my attention. Laying at the foot of a garbage bin near the edge of the sidewalk was a figure of a little hand-- what we know in Israel as a “hamsa.” (A symbol of good luck in the Middle East although at the time I didn’t know the word or its meaning.) It was black. And I was about to dismiss the object as worthless, but it piqued my curiosity. I bent down and placed it in the palm of my hand, realizing at the same time that the hand had some weight substance.. How strange! What could it mean? This little hand probably was part of the contents of some discarded items carelessly thrown into the garbage bin. But due to its inherent “good luck” it fell out landing at the foot of the garbage bin where it laid until I spied upon it.
Once inside my parents’ home, I took out the cleaning polish and a piece of cloth and began rubbing…firmly. The little hand gradually became transformed revealing its true silver character. It shone! The episode was wondrous and mystical. I bought a silver chain for the little hand and wore it And somehow sensed that when the right time came I would know its meaning.
The years went by, My parents had passed away. For the first time I was totally on my own without obligations or responsibilities. I was 40 years of age with a brief marriage behind me. What turn would my life now take? I was giving the matter some serious thought when those wonderful memories of my trip to Israel started filling my mind. I made my decision… Israel would be my new home.. My process began. I had to pack my things for shipment. After some setbacks, the necessary paperwork and passport were completed. On the night of January 12 1982 I left the U.S. aboard my plane that was to take me to Israel. I was hours away from landing when suddenly the little hand, the hamsa, reminded me of what had occurred many years ago. I felt that the most important event in my life was soon to happen. As I pondered over this…I found the answer. The Hebrew word for hand is yad . The numerical value is 14, added to the year 1968 my first trip to Israel comes to 1982 when I arrived as an olah chadasha (new immigrant) in Israel.
from the August 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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