Wednesday, June 01, 2005

GUEST POST

My friend, Dave sent me this letter. I found the story so enchanting that I share it with you,with his kind permission. Thank you, Dave!


Auckland, New Zealand
19 May 2005
Darling Dawn,
As you know, I was born and raised in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). A second-generation Rhodie, I left there in 1959, when my father accepted a job in South Africa. His view then was that the country would go up in flames in the next five years, and that we should be better off in South Africa. Despite my protestations – I wanted at least to finish my schooling in Salisbury (now known as Harare) – we took up residence in Johannesburg, and I only returned to the land of my birth twice after that; once in 1962, and for the last time ten years later.
Thirty-three years later, the connection remains, albeit tenuous. Family members are scattered over the Globe, in South Africa, England, America, and of course, in Israel. So imagine my delight a while ago, when I received a link to a new website that has been established, that aims to re-connect members of the Jewish community in Zimbabwe! I quickly found an article written by my uncle in Israel, about my grandfather. Another page took me to a photo of the headstone of my mother’s father who died a few weeks after my Bar-Mitzvah. And then, on another page, I was dumbfounded when I came across this postcard (click on pic above to enlarge).
Addressed to Daniel S Benatar and Haim Hatchuel, the card was mailed from Tetouan in Morocco on May 18th 1906 – 99 years ago yesterday! I believe the message acknowledges and thanks them for a suit that my grandfather Haim had sent to Gibraltar for someone getting married (my grandfather had a cousin Albert Marache who lived in Gibraltar at the time) and it was signed by his brother Messaud Isaac Hatchuel. The opening words mean “Dear Brother…” and all I can make out are the words (in Spanish) ‘we are all well here.’
What I find equally astonishing is the address: all it has is Salisbury, Rhodesia! Seems the firm of Benatar and Hatchuel were well known in the city at that time! Grandfather would have been 25 years old at the time.
I just knew that I had to own this piece of my family’s history! I noticed that there was an email address under the pic, so I shot off a message, asking the person how he came by the postcard. And I looked at the website. (It turns out that Dave, the seller, owner of Afribilia, is a distant cousin of a girl with whom I went to school! She now lives in Israel, not far from the uncle who sent me the link to the ZJC website! Circles in circles!)
Within a couple of days, I had sent off the money for the card, and in just over a week it arrived. I am debating how to frame it, since it has a rather attractive picture on the reverse.
There’s nothing of earth-shattering significance in this story. I look at the postcard in its protective clear sleeve, standing on my desk, and think of the line of continuity. I remember holding Daniel, my first grandson, at his Bris. I had the strongest feeling that all the previous generations were there, looking on. Lined up behind me were my father, his father, and the only great-grandfather I knew, Haim Hatchuel’s father-in-law. Six generations! And today, out of the blue, I’m holding something that my own grandfather had held in his hand, and – despite its negligible intrinsic value – it has the weight of 99 years of history in it. A history that circles the Earth – from Morocco to Rhodesia, and via London, to Auckland. It tells of families united, and separated by distance. It speaks of friends parted and re-connected. Above all, it affirms my place on this Planet.
Magic happens!
Love you lots.
Dave - a.k.a. DovNos Bootman

 
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