My grandmother, Saida Levi, may she rest in peace, developed very strong survival mechanisms in her rough and very short childhood in Yemen. One of them was called “don’t mess with open wounds”. With strength she acquired from heaven knows where she shaped her life to be full of real joy and had a big and loving family. She came to Israel in her twenties, while pregnant, and with four children: my three uncles and my mother who was one year old. Here, in the holy land they yearned for, she gave birth to another daughter, in the Ma’abara [transit camp]. She called her Sarah after the biblical foremother of the children of Israel. When Sarah was nine months old she was taken to be examined. She wasn’t ill but my grandmother was told that Sarah had passed away.
Grandmother Saida insisted on seeing the body. She walked for hours to the hospital for that purpose. When she got there, after many struggles and demands, they brought out a small body, all wrapped in sheets. She felt the little cold legs, but could not see anything more than that. She came back empty handed, with a full heart, breasts full of milk and many doubts.
My aunt Sarah-Zehara (may she live a long life) was born a year later in the small tent they lived in, undetected by the transit camp guides. My grandmother hid her in a cupboard every time the social worker came around. These actions tell what she was silent about. Several years before she died, when Roni, her beautiful youngest granddaughter was born, she would say “I had a girl just like this and she was taken from me”. She did not say anything more, repeatedly asking not to talk about what was still an open wound for her. I feel very strange to have this privilege now, to open these wounds, to write a Facebook status about it.
I can say to whoever questions whether this is real that I believe my very wise grandmother, a woman of great integrity and purity. Maimonides said about the verse “that the people may... believe thee for ever” (Exodus 19, 9) that when the story/truth/the lesson is given from parents to their children (and grandchildren) “they will know that it was undoubtedly true, as if it all generations had seen it. For we would not give false statements to our children, and would not bequeath them with the meaninglessness of no use. They would not doubt our testimony that we give them, but would surely believe that we have witnessed it all with our own eyes, all that we have told them…”
She called her Sarah after the biblical foremother of the children of Israel. When Sarah was nine months old she was taken to be examined. She wasn’t ill but my grandmother was told that Sarah had passed away.