Old age conjures up many memories of a long ago past. Happy memories. Sad memories. Memories of achievements. Memories of failures.
When I retired eight years ago at age seventy-five, I was traumatized. After fifty-two years of an active professional life, what was I now to do? No hobbies. No sports. No card games. Only books, newspapers, radio and television to keep me abreast of the events in a sorry world.
My youngest daughter, a distinguished government lawyer, looked through scrapbooks containing clippings of the newspaper columns I had written, of many published articles, and suggested that I write my memoirs to pass along to my three children and three grandchildren. I was not convinced that my memoirs would be as exciting as the newest mystery novel, but I sat down and scratched out some of the things which I most remember and cherish.
In 1957 I was granted an audience with Her Majesty, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, at the royal palace at Soestdijk in Baarn, not far from Amsterdam. At the time I was teaching Hebrew in the school of the Joodse Gemeente on Amsterdam’s Plantage Parklaan.
In 1958 I presented a certificate of a Forest of Trees planted in the Keren haKayemet to His Majesty, the King of Denmark, in the guest office of the Royal Danish Embassy.
In 1969, upon returning from an official visit to Poland and Czechoslovakia and from there to the Soviet Union, I was invited with my wife to a private meeting with Zalman Shazar, then President of the State of Israel. He was particularly interested in my account of meetings with Jews in the synagogues of Moscow and Leningrad. Next to a photo of the three of us hangs an autographed photo of Menachem Begin, then a beloved Prime Minister.
In 1974, traveling on a foreign passport, I visited Egypt which was still in a state of war with Israel. My stated purpose, as a Jew, was to visit with members of the Cairo Jewish community and to discern the condition of their lives. My visit was treated with great hospitality and respect by the Egyptian officials.
When I had been invited to a public meeting with Shimon Peres, then our Minister of Defense, on July 18 of that year, I informed him of my recent visit in Egypt and shared with him comments made by some Egyptian officials that they were prepared to make peace with Israel.
I showed Minister Peres the album ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT given to me as a gift and inscribed “with best wishes and a shared hope for a just and permanent peace in the Middle East”, signed by His Excellency. Dr. Kemal Abou Elmagd, Minister of Information.
Mr. Peres did not believe that peace with Egypt would be forthcoming in the near future. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, both of blessed memories, proved him wrong.
On August 5, 1982, I was invited to give the opening prayer at the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States, standing at the podium from which American presidents address the members of Congress.
And in July 2007, I flew from Tel-Aviv to Sofia, Bulgaria for a private audience with His Eminence, the aged Patriarch Maxim, Pope of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. I presented him with a silver menorah which I had bought in Jerusalem as a small token of heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Bulgarian church and clergy for their magnificent efforts in saving Bulgarian Jews from deportation by the Nazis.
The Bulgarian Pope presented me, in return, with a copy of his official portrait.
Too many memories to forget. Recalling them is a story of a worthwhile life. Once I was young. Now I am old. And old age is quite often depressing.
Looking back at the past I remember that once I was a SOMEONE. Looking at the present, I realize that now I am only a SOMETHING. But with the albums of treasured memories and events, I leave it to my children and grandchildren to decide.