My Story, My Israel!
By: Sanda Abromovici-Lam
My name is Sanda Abromovici-Lam, no mistake; the R was dropped from day one. When I lived in South America people assumed that I HAD to be Sandra! After all where could the name Sanda come from? When I made aliyah I was so excited I could finally recover my identity. Wrong! In Israel they call me Sandra too, even when it’s written in Hebrew without the Reish. Guess my destiny is to keep fighting for my name among other identities. I decided I could write my story as an amateur story-teller. So here goes…
My story is not politically correct and I hope I will not abuse the concept. Born in Italy, raised in Argentina, married and lived many years in Peru and now, at long last, I am an Israeli/Jew, though the latter is not quite a politically correct term in Israel, the land of the so called Jews. I have one and a half double loyalties and I am not ashamed. I am a proud Israeli who loves Argentina deeply. To be honest, Argentina like many countries is an anti-Semitic one. Who says love is perfect? In Argentina I used to be known as the Italian Jew, in Peru I was the Argentinean Jew, the prejudice being more on the Argentinean side than on the Jewish side. Peru is not a racist country but anti-Semitism is in proportion with the around 3000 Jews living there right now. Anyway, there wasn’t much time to hate us as Peruvians were mainly concerned with their passion for football. So only once or twice, I was called a $%^& Jew but on more occasions, a %^& Argentinean. I am not complaining. I never encountered real physical danger there. I am a proud woman and now have the courage to stand up for myself and my people. In Israel you cannot guess the gender of people by their name. Being the descendant of Shoah survivors gave me an edge and the right to be a fighter/paranoid. I was born a year after the (Jewish) State of Israel. I was not old enough to have known a lot about my family’s personal story, but it did have bearing, for better or worse, on who I am now, what I believe in and feel deeply about.
When I was little I yearned to go to a Hebrew school and have a more traditional Jewish home. My parents were not religious or even fairly traditional yet my father was the proudest Jew I have ever met in my life, other than myself. I guess the ghosts of the war and originally being illegal immigrants in an Argentina where Nazis were welcomed and Jews were not had an effect. Nevertheless, we always observed Yom Kippur. I used to read a lot about Judaism until I became more interest in universal love and brotherhood. Proudly, I have lived in one of the most exciting and important ages on earth, women’s liberation, the civil rights’ movement, freedom of sexual expression, no wars, political heroes and more. During those revolutionary days I lived in one of the best countries on earth. We used to talk for hours trying to solve all the global problems. I was not a real hippie – even though I tried – I was a Jew.
One day in June, 1967 my life turned upside down for ever, my friends said that we were not strong enough and the Arabs would throw us into the sea. My grandmother cried reliving the ghosts of the Shoah. I was frightened by all this. News was coming in about Israel’s victories and my friends swallowed their words. I felt a deep sense of pride, relief and gratitude.
had been too cowardly to make aliyah on my own; the subject was kept hush, hush. Many Jews in the Diaspora have had similar experiences, so it is very boring to conjure up the ghosts of the past. Israel came second best to marriage and children. Soon the time had come to give the children a proper Jewish education and environment. As part of a school program they visited Israel, and one-by-one I waited anxiously to hear their first impressions of my beloved Israel even though they were still quite young.
Soon they grew up and their weddings in Israel were wonderful, a dream come true. As parents had waited all our lives to witness this point. Our children made some adjustments out of respect and love for us but in Israel the “Yiddsche mamme” is buried for ever, along with the father…but I don’t complain! Israel for us is a new world and much better one.
The Israeli-way is a subject that still amazes me. I thought that in Israel, the land of my dreams, I could shout to the winds I was Jewish. Wrong again! Where is the Jewish tradition here? I am told that I am still living with my Jewish Diaspora mentality. The mentality of the one who loves being Jewish and an Israeli without being afraid of being politically incorrect! In the Diaspora I knew who was Jewish and I was glad to meet them. I felt at home and safe. Here it seems a sin to tell, to ask or to be. So, me the rebel, the Diaspora Maccabean came to Israel, land of the Jews, became an Israeli, but feel like I am not a politically correct human being if I decide to be Jewish too. Many people, who live in Israel, don’t like to be either and in our democratic state they have license to hate and talk. What can I say? After all we are Jews, a nation of 7,000,000 Prime Ministers. Maybe the Jewish Israeli, Israeli Jewish way is so mingled and entangled that you can’t tell them apart. Where is the sacred way of Jewish life, the Menorah and other symbols? I do not yearn for the idea of the shteitel Jew; I yearn for the idea of united and proud Israeli Jews who don’t hide their identity. The new generations are the Israelis of tomorrow and we are part of 120 tribes that come from all over the world. We bring our different identities with us but the only thing in common, that we have, is our Jewishness. Ironically, I had to come to Israel to search for and find my true identity, cause in Israel I ended up being Argentinean.
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