i’ve found the crazy sephardi israeli family i’ve been dreaming of.
introduction: my mother’s cousin’s daughter (my second cousin) made aliyah 20 years ago and married a yemenite/turkish sabra and had 4 kids in mitzpe netufah up north.
for pessach, his entire family and their kids came. and me.
overwhelming? yes. comic? yes. patriotic? no choice but yes.
half the family is religious, half secular. half right wing, half left wing. half married, half divorced. all crazy. a gorgeous microcosm of this place, all at the epitomy of israeli jewishness, the ‘passover seder’.
highlights: sitting at the far corner of the table, across from the eternally sephardi grandmother. she came to israel as a girl from turkey and lived in tent camps like most sephardi families did when they came here in the beginning. my aliyah feels like cake and a half. she chatted endlessly in hebrew…
כבר התחתנתי בגילך! סבתא שלך מאיפה בטורקיה? הצלחה בארץ! צריכה לאכל יותר, חמודה
i watched her and i felt family. a dozen kids running around, cousins – playing, fighting, shouting – relating!
favorite part of the seder this year: one of the aunts was handing out prizes for all the kids willing to read from the haggada. one of the kids, a boy around 9, gets up and reads מה נשתנה in Temani, which is Arabic. after he finishes, the awesome prize aunt hands him his gift – a plastic macine gun with realistic bullet shooting sounds. his eyes light up and he immediately begins shooting family members around the table.
i turned to my cousin, the only other american in the room, and asked her – “isnt it somewhat surreal to hear Arabic words chanted and then a machine gun go off?”
which leads me to my next point. it’s true what they say. when u get to israel, u can take the jew out of galut but u cant take the galut out of the jew. i’m more of an אמרקאית now then i ever was, no matter what my teudat zehut says.
but like the country-at-large in which we all now live in regardless of where we came from, dysfunction abounds. as i mentioned, the family is a microcosm of israeli citizenry, and like israeli citizenry the family has it’s share of crazy (and violent) conflicts. the irony kept me smirking:
1. i come from a family in america that deals with its conflicts by not speaking and then pretending all is well, and here i was in the middle of a heated shouting fist fight match feeling totally at ease because it seemed… healthy.
2. there i was, in the middle of a typical israeli family conflict, awaiting the start of my conflict management course to begin next fall. in israel.
the climax of the weekend was an impromtu performance by my youngest little israeli cousin, merav. blonde haired with big brown doe eyes, 7-year-old merav sat on the couch in the living room while yemenite adults were calming down the tension in the other rooms. she opened a book in front of her and began singing israeli folk songs in the sweetest little girl voice i ever heard…
על כל אלה, על כל אלה
and that’s just how i felt the whole time, whatever entertainment i was provided by israeli nature. i felt so aware.
i felt at home. i could taste it. like i tasted a bit of matzah, a bit of freedom, a bit of what pessach is about – going home.