Vet­er­ans

CHAIM YADGAR, 81

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • LISA SAMIN

Chaim Yadgar is a gentle­man and artist who has put his me­chan­i­cal abil­i­ties and artis­tic tal­ent to good use, mak­ing beau­ti­ful hanukkiot and other use­ful items from dis­carded equip­ment from Yad Sarah.

Born in Arat, Afghanistan, Yadgar made aliyah with his par­ents and two broth­ers. His fa­ther was a spice mer­chant who trav­eled through­out Afghanistan. “At that time, the spices were also used for medic­i­nal pur­poses,” he says.

Although he was only three years old when they left in 1937, he grew up on sto­ries of his par­ents’ life in the Jewish com­mu­nity. He re­mem­bers them telling him that they closed the gates at night, like a ghetto, to keep ev­ery­one safe. His par­ents had close to 15 chil­dren, but with dis­ease and low mor­tal­ity rate, only three sur­vived.

The fam­ily’s jour­ney to Is­rael was fraught with dan­ger. They walked, rode don­keys and trav­eled by truck from Afghanistan to Iran to Iraq. In Iraq, Yadgar’s fa­ther was ar­rested for be­ing a spy and spent three months in prison. His mother, broth­ers and he were taken in by the Jewish com­mu­nity and his mother went to the jail ev­ery day to bring his fa­ther kosher food.

A year af­ter they be­gan their jour­ney, they ar­rived in Is­rael.

“We came through the Le­banese border and my par­ents hailed a truck driver and told him to take us to the Bukha­ran neigh­bor­hood in Jerusalem, where my mother’s broth­ers lived,” he re­mem­bers. “By that time, one of my broth­ers had died, so it was only the four of us who made it to Is­rael.”

Yadgar has price­less sto­ries of grow­ing up in this neigh­bor­hood, where his three sis­ters were born. But it was not easy. Liv­ing con­di­tions were aus­tere and it was dif­fi­cult for his par­ents to make a liv­ing. His fa­ther did odd jobs, in­clud­ing work­ing for the Dead Sea Works, where he was away for months at a time. He fi­nally found a permanent po­si­tion work­ing on ar­chae­o­log­i­cal digs, “be­cause the man­agers trusted him not to steal any­thing he found,” he says.

The War of In­de­pen­dence changed the lives of Yadgar and his fam­ily. While they were liv­ing in a neigh­bor­hood bomb shel­ter, their apart­ment was hit by a shell. No one was hurt, but they had no home to go back to. They were told to go to Baka, which was also un­der at­tack, and find a home to live in there. There were refugees from the Old City and other neigh­bor­hoods around Jerusalem. His fam­ily found a ground-floor apart­ment, with a sem­blance of a base­ment that they ran to when the shelling be­came in­tense. His brother was in the Ir­gun Zva’i Leumi, and his fa­ther worked dig­ging trenches for the sol­diers and se­cur­ing them with sand­bags.

At the age of 14, Yadgar went to work.

“I worked in book­bind­ing and other jobs un­til a friend of mine told me about a po­si­tion at a ‘big’ com­pany, Tut­tnauer.”

From the age of 15, Yadgar worked dili­gently at Tut­tnauer, a grow­ing com­pany work­ing in the field of ster­il­iza­tion and in­fec­tion con­trol for med­i­cal, den­tal and lab­o­ra­tory equip­ment. At the same time, he went to night school to learn me­chan­ics. He climbed the cor­po­rate lad­der at the com­pany, leav­ing for three years to do his army ser­vice in the Gi­vati com­bat unit. When he re­turned to Tut­tnauer, his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties grew with the ex­pand­ing com­pany.

“I worked in all of the de­part­ments, in­clud­ing hu­man re­sources,” he says. He trav­eled around the world, as the com­pany es­tab­lished over­seas of­fices in the US and China.

How­ever, Yadgar says that the best thing he did in his life was to marry his wife, Edna. He met her through fam­ily, and de­spite their 10-year age dif­fer­ence, he knew that she was the one. They had three daugh­ters, Li­tal, Or­nit and Lior. He is proud that all of them are univer­sity ed­u­cated. “I did not have a lot grow­ing up,” he says. “I wanted to give my chil­dren every­thing.”

While work­ing at Tut­tnauer, he came in touch with Yad Sarah, the le­gendary vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides a full range of med­i­cal equip­ment and health care sup­port ser­vices at no cost to hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple each year. The work­ers at the com­pany would help Yad Sarah with problems with FROM AFGHANISTAN TO JERUSALEM, 1937 their equip­ment.

“I loved what Yad Sarah was do­ing and I said that when I re­tire, I will vol­un­teer with them,” he says. At the age of 70, this is ex­actly what he did.

Yadgar works with other vol­un­teers to find me­chan­i­cal so­lu­tions for peo­ple who are phys­i­cally chal­lenged. He as­sesses the cur­rent equip­ment, un­der­stands the needs of the in­di­vid­u­als, and then adapts the equip­ment ac­cord­ingly. One mother asked him to make a spe­cial walker for her se­verely dis­abled daugh­ter whose bal­ance was min­i­mal. He put sup­ports around the walker so she could rest and walk con­fi­dently with­out fall­ing.

Yadgar’s artis­tic side comes into play us­ing Yad Sarah’s dis­carded equip­ment. He makes clocks and cof­fee ta­bles from wheel­chair parts and other household items. But his mas­ter­pieces are the beau­ti­ful hanukkiot he makes. He do­nates his time, and the hanukkiot, to syn­a­gogues through­out Jerusalem. His only re­quest is “in­stead of pay­ing me, they give a do­na­tion to Yad Sarah.” His hanukkiot are dis­played in some 30 syn­a­gogues. One that he made for the Atrid Syn­a­gogue in Jerusalem’s Arnona neigh­bor­hood can be lit elec­tri­cally or with oil, pos­si­bil­ity the first hanukkia of its kind.

“It takes close to six months to make these meno­rahs,” says Yadgar. “It is a good feel­ing to know that my work is light­ing up Jerusalem and the pro­ceeds are go­ing to help an amaz­ing cause.” ■

(Azri Samin)

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