Israel at 70 – The Drummer, The Baker, The Rescuer

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Weissenstern and family members pose for a photograph at the Zaka headquarters in Jerusalem
Duby Weissenstern (R), 43, David Weissenstern (C), 71, and Efi Epstein, 25, pose for a photograph at the Zaka headquarters in Jerusalem March 26, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work or volunteer at the Israeli Zaka emergency rescue and recover organisation. David Weissenstern was one of the first Zaka volunteers since its founding in 1995, Duby Weissenstern is currently Zaka CEO. Picture taken March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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By Amir Cohen
TEL AVIV (Reuters)

The cantor’s grandson came from Tajikistan. The baker, who survived Auschwitz, came from Czechoslovakia. The emergency responder is a sixth-generation Jerusalemite. Together in one land, they celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary on Wednesday evening

Since 1948, Israel has been home to Jewish immigrants from around the world. And when they arrived in their new home, many stuck to what they knew, and who they knew, handing down family trades from generation to generation.

Dressed in a traditional Bukharan floral gown and embroidered cap, 85-year-old Allo Alaev plays the doyra – a central-Asian frame drum.

 

Alaev family pose for a photograph in their rehearsal studio in Rishon Lezion
Amin Alaev (R), 55 (R), Aviva Alaev (2nd R), 22, Allo Alaev (C), 85, Amanda Alaev (2nd L), 13, Ariel Alaev (L), 51, and Avraham Alaev, 7, pose for a photograph in their rehearsal studio in Rishon Lezion, Israel March 22, 2018. Grandfather, sons and grandchildren all perform together as part of the Alaev Family ensemble. The family immigrated to Israel from Tajikistan in 1991. Picture taken March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

The Alaevs came to Israel from Tajikistan in 1991, one family among the 1 million Jews who have moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union since the fall of communism in 1990.

The master percussionist is accompanied by two sons and five of his grandchildren playing rhythmic, fast-tempo folk music on an accordion, violins and a darbuka drum.

 

Itzhak Meir Ferster and his family members pose for a photograph at the Ferster hat store in Jerusalem
Itzhak Meir Ferster (R), 71, Avraham Ferster (C), 41 and Simha Bonim Ferster, 24, pose for a photograph at the Ferster hat store in Jerusalem April 16, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work at the family business. Itzhak Meir Ferster immigrated to Israel from Germany in 1934. He learned hat making from his father who fled from Poland to Germany during World War One. Picture taken April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

“My father was a famous singer there, his father was a cantor and my mother was a famous doyra player. I learned how to play it from her,” said Allo, the family patriarch.

Israel’s cultural mix has been a boon. “It’s only made our music better,” said his son Ariel, 51. “Music has no borders.”

 

BREAD OF GENERATIONS

Keeping a family trade has provided a sense of stability for some Jewish immigrants who survived the Holocaust.

Jolanda Wilheim came to Israel in 1949, after she and her husband had been in the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz.

 

Ben Hur family pose for a photograph at the Ben Hur Falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv
Tomer Ben Hur (R), 23, Aharon Ben Hur (C), 84 and Oz Ben Hur, 55, pose for a photograph at the Ben Hur Falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work together at the Ben Hur Falafel restaurants. Aharon Ben Hur immigrated to Israel in 1951 from Iraq. Picture taken March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

Their daughter, Myriam Zweigenbaum, said her father’s father had owned a bakery before the war, so when her parents moved to a new land where they had nothing else to fall back on, they drew on family knowledge to start their own bakery.

Wilheim, 96, still works in that small bakery in central Israel, with her daughter and two granddaughters.

“I feel I’m living out what it was that the Nazis had tried to cut down more than 70 years ago,” said Wilheim’s granddaughter, Keren Zweigenbaum, 38.

 

Dagan family pose for a photograph with a picture of the family's late patriarch at Hishtil Nursery in Nehalim
Amit Dagan (R), 55, Hadar Dagan-Abeles (2nd R), 28, Baruch Dagan (C), 45, Bat-Sehva Dagan (2nd L), 77, and Mordechai Dagan, 49, pose for a photograph with a picture of the family’s late patriarch Yehezkel Dagan (1937-2016), at Hishtil Nursery in Nehalim, Israel March 20, 2018. Picture taken March 20, 2018. Grandmother, sons and granddaughter all work at the nursery founded by Bat-Sheva Dagan and her late husband Yehezkel in 1974. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

Despite the wars that Israel has fought with its Arab neighbours – and the still-unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Israel is seen by many Jewish immigrants as a safe haven in the Middle East.

The oldest Israelis remember the anti-Jewish sentiment that swept through the Middle East in the middle of the 20th century, fanned by Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism. The turmoil saw entire Jewish communities leave countries in which they had lived for centuries, even millennia.

That flight only accelerated after the establishment of Israel and the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, which fuelled anger across the Arab world at the plight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes during the conflict.

 

Mendelboum and family members pose for a photograph near one of their beehives in Nehalim
Roee Mendelboum (R), 27, Shalom Noy (2nd R), 94, Zvi Noy (C), 52, Lihi Noy (2nd L), 9, and Shir Noy, 7, pose for a photograph near one of their beehives in Nehalim, Israel April 4, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work together at the family beehive. Shalom Noy immigrated to Israel from the former Czechoslovakia in 1934, and started the honey factory in 1951 with just 3 beehives. Picture taken April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

The fate of those Palestinians – the vast majority of whom have never been able to return – is inextricably linked with that of Israel. The events of 70 years ago that Israelis celebrate are cause for mourning among Palestinians, who commemorate them as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”.

 

CHARITY AND CARE

But not all Israelis are newcomers. David Weissenstern’s ancestors have been in Jerusalem for six generations. They were among the first families who moved out of the walled Old City in the 19th century, and built the first Jewish neighbourhoods outside it.

 

Aricha family pose for a photograph at the Arica furniture factory in Ashdod
Daniel Aricha (R), 82, Yonatan Aricha (C), 24, and Udi Aricha, 52, pose for a photograph at the Arica furniture factory in Ashdod, Israel March 21, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work together at the family business, established in 1934 by their great-grandfather Yehuda who immigrated to Israel from Yemen. Picture taken March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

Weissenstern, his son and grandson are part of Zaka, an Israeli emergency rescue and recover organisation. Most of its volunteers, like him, are ultra-Orthodox Jews. Often first on the scene of car accidents and militant attacks, one of their tasks is to collect the body parts of victims, to ensure their proper burial.

Treatment of the dead is one of the greatest Jewish edicts,” said Weissenstern, 71. His family, he said, has always kept communal Jewish edicts of charity and care for the other:

“If you make a dollar more or a dollar less, that’s less important. What matters is what you’ve given to others.”

 

 

By contrast, Aharon Ben Hur, 84, only came to Israel in 1951 from Iraq, once home to one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the Middle East.

Ben Hur’s father and young brother were among 180 Baghdad Jews killed in 1941, in a pogrom known as the Farhud. He now runs two falafel restaurants in Tel Aviv, with his son and grandson.

“In Iraq, as a boy, my parents suffered,” he said. “When we came to Israel, it was another life.”

 

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Kevin Liffey)

 

Retired Admiral Almog and family members pose for a photograph at the Haifa navy base
Retired Admiral Ze’ev Almog (R), 84, Seaman Noa Almog (C), 20, and retired Major Gal Almog, 59, pose for a photograph at the Haifa navy base, Israel, April 11, 2018. Like many Israeli families, grandfather, son and granddaughter are or were in the Israeli military. Between 1979-1985 Ze’ev Almog was head of the Israeli navy, where his granddaughter serves today. Gal Almog is a former special forces officer and company commander in the Israeli paratroops. Picture taken April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

Retired school teacher Vashdi and family members pose for a photograph at the Yadlin elementary school in Rishon Lezion
Retired school teacher Zehava VashdiÊ(R), 77, school principal Orna Shely (C), 56, school teacher Yahel Mizrahi (L), 31, and Matan Mizrahi, four months, pose for a photograph at the Yadlin elementary school in Rishon Lezion, Israel March 22, 2018. Grandmother, daughter and granddaughter all share the teaching profession. Picture taken March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

 

Hirsh family pose for a photograph at the Hirsh pen in Lachish
Haim Hirsh (R), 56, Yakov Hirsh (C), 83, and Itay Hirsh, 28, pose for a photograph at the Hirsh pen in Lachish, Israel, March 21, 2018. Grandfather, son and grandson all work together at the family farm. Yakov Hirsh was one of the founders of the Lachish communal farm in 1955. Picture taken March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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