05 January 2009

Israel: 'Every person has a story'

In Israel, memories of elderly Holon residents are being documented and published under a new municipal-sponsored program launched and overseen by city social worker Ella Podolitch.
"Our motto is that every person has a story and he has the right to have it written,"she said "We don't filter out people and say this one can and this one can't. Our motive is to record the stories of the city's residents. The main thing is that they should not be lost forever."
The four-month course was attended by 13 retirees who volunteered to record the biographies of the city's elders. The writers met with the residents over a year, resulting in 16 biographies.

Read the Haaretz story here.

Holon resident Leah Ofri recently celebrated her 100th birthday. During her 100 years, almost all of them in this country, she endured a number of experiences, many of them more bitter than pleasant. She came to Palestine together with her parents and two small brothers at an early age and when she was 5, her mother died. With her father unemployed and not functioning properly, she became the family's sole provider.

During World War I, Leah and her family were banished from Tel Aviv and went to live in the Galilee, but when the Turks left the country, they returned to Tel Aviv. Then her father remarried and, at the age of about 10, she was separated from her family and sent to live with the well-known Chelouche family in the Neveh Tzedek quarter of Tel Aviv. She remained there for seven years, helping the Chelouches with household chores, and was treated warmly.

During those years, Leah would see her father only twice a year, when he used to come to collect the money she was paid for her help. When Leah was 17, she was married off to a man she did not love and they had eight children. Her eldest son, Avraham, was killed during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Today she has 25 grandchildren, 45 great grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. The events of Leah's long life were recorded in a book written by Tirza Tam ....

Tirza Tam, a retiree himself, took the course sponsored by the municipality and taught by biographer Amotz Shorek.

Relatives of the subjects, according to the story, were very positive about the project which revealed the individuals' diverse backgrounds and experiences.

A recent meeting brought together 10 writers and three subjects, including Leah Ofri, as they described the writing process.

The story also includes the story of Zvi Gil, 90, who arrived from Poland to Palestine at age 2 with his grandparents. His parents and six brothers remained in Poland and perished. Says one of Gil's biographers:

"It was very emotional for me to hear Zvi's stories," she said. "When I was a little girl, I didn't want to listen to the stories told by my mother and father. Now I am here to correct this attitude. Today I can deal with material that I never ever dared to touch before."
Read the complete story at the link above.

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