Veter­ans

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • ABI­GAIL KLEIN LEICHMAN

When the Six Day War broke out in 1967, Itzik Maron was in Lon­don tak­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion ex­ams to be­come a li­censed phar­ma­cist in his na­tive South Africa. His fi­ancée, Vivi­enne, was wait­ing for him at home. But he de­cided to fly to Is­rael to see how he could help.

With the war over by the time he ar­rived, Itzik went to speak with the head phar­ma­cist at Sharon Hos­pi­tal in Pe­tah Tikva about em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Is­rael. Then he toured the coun­try be­fore fly­ing to Jo­han­nes­burg, just in time for his wed­ding.

Itzik and Vivi­enne, who’d met in phar­macy school in Jo­han­nes­burg, raised three chil­dren in Cape Town. Aliyah was al­ways in the back of their minds and they vis­ited Is­rael of­ten. How­ever, says Vivi­enne, “We kept try­ing and for var­i­ous rea­sons putting it off.”

And then a trau­matic event in 1997 pro­pelled them to act.

Their daugh­ter, who had moved to Is­rael sev­eral years be­fore, was home for a visit. She was work­ing on her com­puter late at night when the phone rang – un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for that hour – and just af­ter she went to an­swer it, two Molo­tov cock­tails came crash­ing through the win­dow, de­mol­ish­ing the com­puter.

“Had that phone call not got­ten her up from the com­puter, I shud­der to think what could have hap­pened,” says her fa­ther.

That at­tack turned out to have been prompted by the pub­li­ca­tion in Is­rael of a photo the lo­cal Cape Town Muslim com­mu­nity found of­fen­sive. A mob had tried to at­tack the Is­raeli Em­bassy and a Jewish nurs­ing home to no avail, so turned its fury on the Maron home, which was listed as the con­tact ad­dress for the Jewish Book Cen­ter of the Clare­mont Syn­a­gogue.

The fire caused by the bomb­ing dam­aged the house se­verely, though Itzik noted that the mezuzah on one de­stroyed door­way re­mained in­tact.

The Jewish com­mu­nity came to their aid, bring­ing food to their rented apart­ment and help­ing them sal­vage what they could. The Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry sent two ad­vis­ers to help the Marons through their trauma. Even­tu­ally the house was re­built with strong se­cu­rity in­stal­la­tions.

But Vivi­enne had had enough. She didn’t want to con­tinue liv­ing in a place where she was al­ways look­ing over her shoul­der. In the sum­mer of 2000, she told Itzik it was time to make aliyah. He agreed on the con­di­tion that they could sell their house “for a de­cent price.”

Within three weeks, a cash buyer ap­peared and paid their ask­ing price. The Marons ar­rived at the ab­sorp­tion cen­ter in

Ra’anana just be­fore Rosh Hashanah.

The tran­si­tion from a lux­u­ri­ous house to a leaky lit­tle apart­ment – in a land where they didn’t speak the lan­guage well – was soft­ened tremen­dously by vol­un­teers from TELFED, the South African Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion, which caters to the needs of South­ern African im­mi­grants.

“We are re­ally in­debted to them,” says Itzik.

In fact, for the next six years the Marons rented an apart­ment in the same build­ing as the TELFED of­fice in Ra’anana and Vivi­enne vol­un­teered there. “The people were amazing in Ra’anana. For four years we didn’t have a Shab­bat meal on our own,” says Vivi­enne.

They shared some amus­ing anec­dotes from those early days. There was the time Itzik was in an el­e­va­tor with a cou­ple who were hav­ing a heated ar­gu­ment in He­brew. At one point the woman said to her com­pan­ion, “This gentle­man is lis­ten­ing to ev­ery word we say. Please speak in English!”

One week­end, they saw a cloud of storks fly­ing over­head on a Dead Sea beach. “It was mag­nif­i­cent,” says Vivi­enne. “A few days later at my ex­er­cise class I was try­ing to tell the other women what we had seen, and I said there were a whole lot of ‘has­sidim’ cir­cling in the sky,” us­ing the wrong plu­ral for hasida. “They laughed and said, ‘You mean hasi­dot!’”

An­other time, Itzik in­ad­ver­tently walked out of a su­per­mar­ket with­out pay­ing for two chick­ens he’d put into a bag over his shoul­der. When he went back in­side and ex­plained his er­ror to the cashier, she said, “Nu, az ma?” – ba­si­cally, “So what?” He had to in­sist on pay­ing.

“In South Africa I would have been sit­ting in the po­lice­man’s of­fice,” he said. “I didn’t sleep that night; I had vi­sions of the mishtara [po­lice] com­ing to put me in hand­cuffs for steal­ing two chick­ens.”

They can have a good laugh at these mis­ad­ven­tures and chose to take in stride even the more frus­trat­ing road­blocks to their ab­sorp­tion. Their phar­ma­cist qual­i­fi­ca­tions were not ac­cepted in Is­rael, and at age 60 they had no de­sire to start over at univer­sity. In­stead, they sought em­ploy­ment in other fields.

“We had a few bad ex­pe­ri­ences, but with a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude it all worked out,” says Itzik, who cur­rently works for a cos­met­ics com­pany in an ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tion.

Un­til her re­tire­ment, Vivi­enne cared for English-speak­ing Alzheimer’s pa­tients in the morn­ings and looked af­ter two lit­tle girls in the af­ter­noons.

“We man­aged. You have to re­al­ize that you just have to take what comes,” says Vivi­enne.

When they felt ready to buy a home, the Marons opted to move near their daugh­ter and her fam­ily in Modi’in, a city they found to be af­ford­able, “lovely and green, fresh and new.” They have lived there hap­pily for nearly 13 years.

Ev­ery year they visit their two sons and their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies in South Africa. Over the past year they ended up going three times due to a grand­son’s bar mitz­vah and the ar­rival of a new baby.

They are never tempted to re­turn, even though they do miss the higher stan­dard of liv­ing in Cape Town and the every­day cour­te­sies that Is­raelis tend to lack.

“In South Africa we were part of a won­der­ful com­mu­nity but it’s not the same as be­ing here, amongst your own,” says Vivi­enne. “I feel safe here,” she adds, which is no small point given what hap­pened to them in 1997.

“It is all a mat­ter of at­ti­tude,” says Itzik, who en­joys sun­rise walks in the park with­out a care. “The glass is never half empty; it’s half full.”

(Cyn­thia Bar­mor)

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