Somehow it wasn’t out of character for Boyer Class of 1970 to spend its annual reunion weekend in Yeruham. The program for the weekend would be considered a big yawn for most vacationers, but not for Boyer graduates. It included an hour long lecture on Friday by a social activist, a meeting on Saturday with the mayor, and an informal get together with a committed, some would even call him quixotic, philanthropist.
In addition, a special social minded tour guide took us around town and as part of Yeruham’s contemporary history we visited the home of a witness. In 1955 he arrived from Morocco as a young boy, and together with his family was dumped there in the middle of the night. The tour ended with lunch at the home of a member of a group of women who cook for tourists and visitors.
This choice of the Boyer group could be better understood if we remember the mission of the school from its beginning in the second part of the 1960s.
It was a new high school which was both a boarding school for gifted and talented students from developing communities in peripheral areas, just like Yeruham, and a day school for students from Jerusalem. The boarders were the best students in their communities and were chosen to attend Boyer because the educational opportunities back home were limited.
The vision of the school, which was founded by the Society for Advancement of Education, was to bring together promising young people ,to give them good education and leadership skills and thus to create a pool of future leaders who will eventually either go back to their home towns or contribute to the community as a whole.
In the class of 1970 there were many new immigrants and quite a few of the boarders came either from North Africa or Eastern Europe. But even among the Jerusalem group, unlike the more established schools (like Rehavia Hebrew High School or the Hebrew University High School), a high percentage of the Jerusalem kids were new or recent immigrants. The reason for that was that the new school was built in Kiryat Yovel, an area where the government chose to build apartments for new immigrants.
During the high-school years, there was some rivalry between the two groups of students: the kids from the boarding school, who were like a big family, and the day kids, who often were considered outsiders. Consequently, after graduation there was almost no interaction between the two groups.
But in 2010 the Class of 1970 celebrated 40 years to graduation and soon after that reunion, the whole class started to meet on a regular basis. I didn’t attend Boyer high school in Jerusalem myself, but since my late husband was one of the Jerusalem kids (a new immigrant from Uruguay), my partner and I were invited to join the group.
Still it took more than 40 years for the two groups to really get to know one another. At the annual weekend two years ago, each of the students talked about his/her family history. It transpired that many of the Jerusalem kids, who were considered “privileged”and even “spoilt” by the boarders, had a very similar life story to their counterparts from the developing towns. The big difference was that they were not dumped in the desert in the middle of the night but were lucky to get a place in Jerusalem, and that was crucial.
We sat in the porch listening to the story of our Yeruham witness; we were laughing, since he told his sad story humorously. I looked at the expressions of one of our Boyer friends and knew that inside he wasn’t laughing. Only minutes earlier, walking along the streets of Yeruham, he told us how in 1963, when he and his family immigrated to Israel from Morocco, they found themselves in Beer Sheba even though they were specifically told that their destination was Haifa.
Some things are not funny, even in retrospect..
P.S The link to the Boyer high school in Jerusalem