There are people who everyday come into our lives, or perhaps more accurately we come into theirs, who cast an influence upon us that we only truly come to appreciate upon their absence.
While the above statement may be true for our whole lives, it is I believe most important as we age and/or are guests in a foreign country. Such as the case of this writer during his annual visits to Israel.
Being painfully aware that one’s Ivrit is limited, it is immediately apparent that the other person is on a higher level, as it is they who are more easily able to carry the conversation by conversing with you in your language and not theirs.
Over the years I have come to know and then lose the acquaintance of a kindly old Armenian photographer in the Old city, a cultured antiquities dealer named Sami, who was also a member of the Israel Numismatic Society who had a store opposite David’s Tower, the knowledgeable and personable tourist officer, named Edith, at the Jaffa Gate Tourist Office and a Franciscan bookseller just down from the same tourist office.
However, what brought this truth painfully ‘home’ recently was being informed this past February of the sudden death last September of Naama Yemini, Zichrona Lebracha, the Manager of The Jerusalem Smart Hotel Chain. The thought of her sudden passing at such a young age is still a shock.
Having met Naama on several occasions during my annual trips to Israel during my stays at their hotels, I was immediately struck by her strong sense of professionalism which was evidently built on her innate caring personality.
The ancient Romans would have easily identified Naama as someone who was possessed of a strong “humanitas”.
Though I never had any occasion to require her services during any of my stays, the frequent crossing of our paths was a constant source of anticipated and informed pleasure.
Our parents and extended families have been the wise and judicious counsels of our personalities since our birth. And, though the press, both domestic and foreign, is full of stories of Israelis whose conduct is questionable, it is surely people such as Naama who cause us to reflect on who we are and cause us to seek to become better people.
This is particularly important as we in the diaspora present our beloved Israel and our experiences there to others half way around the world.