On Sunday, February 12, I was awarded Moment Magazine 2011 Memoir Contest first place prize. The award ceremony was held at the Spertus Institute in Chicago. Here’s a short excerpt from the winning entry, “The Sweet Life:”
All the films that came to the kibbutz, crisscrossing the Jezreel Valley from place to place, were in 16mm, mostly Black & White, as was the film that night. They came spooled in tin reels, usually three or four, which required regular breaks in the action for the projectionist—by far the most important person in the kibbutz in my opinion—to replace them and start again. In addition, the film itself would break occasionally during each screening, evident by strange noises and pictures running in high speed on the screen. These unexpected breaks in the action had always seemed to occur, at least to me, at the most crucial, suspenseful moments.
The adults, however, didn’t seem to mind one way or the other, and used these breaks for a variety of other things. First among them was the lighting of cigarettes, as almost everybody in the kibbutz smoked back then. Small flames flickered here and there, dotting the canvas of the dark lawn with color, before dying out into oblivion. Another favorite pastime activity was watching and pointing at the stars, and in later years at the Sputniks and Satellites floating slowly across the nightly skies. Some men used these breaks as an opportunity to relieve themselves in the nearby bushes. Shouts of all kinds, mainly announcements of urgent meetings or changes in work schedule, could be heard as well. A new mother would often be called to the babies-house, since her baby was crying for milk. There were hugs, kisses and feel-ups on the lawn. And between the blankets, rumors circulated through the grapevine, a baby or two were actually conceived.
Not me. I was conceived either on the boat of refugees bringing my parents, Holocaust survivors from Hungary, to Eretz Israel from Europe, or in the interment camp the British had brought them to after capturing their boat. It was probably a vacation for them there, compared with what they had gone through in the German concentration camps, since it was set up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Somehow, they had both survived the horrors. But they had left behind in the burning chambers, among other relatives, my grandparents on both sides. Come to think of it now, there were no grandparents to be found in my kibbutz at all as I was growing up.