A love relationship… a farewell love

My love affair as a journalist with the TIMES OF ISRAEL began with my first published article on 13 September 2015. It was called “Bittersweet Israel—August 2015”.

I was welcomed on board by my faithful and always helpful editor, Miriam Herschlag. She has been a guide and a friend who has had to “suffer” over the past five years with my never-ending computer problems. Then, as now, I remain computer illiterate. I am of the old school when journalists wrote their notes by hand or clackeled them out on a typewriter.

I have boxes filled with copies of the hundreds of articles that I wrote (typed out) for a newspaper several years ago in what now seems like centuries ago. All ready and waiting to be incinerated.

Whereas the 1000 articles published in THE TIMES OF ISRAEL are all properly numbered and are bound in 19 volumes and will be cared for hopefully by my grandchildren after a special angel pays me a visit.

I do know how to turn the computer on and off and I can find my way to the internet. With one finger I type my article and with that one finger I click “SEND”, hoping that it will meet with Miriam’s approval.

This, my one thousandth article over a five year period, is dedicated to Miriam and to the staff at TOI.

I cannot remember at what point in time I set a goal to write one thousand articles. This is the 1000th. I have reached my intended goal. Time to rest.

My late beloved and sainted wife Rahel was my inspiration. She proof-read each article before it was sent for publication but I did not always follow her wise advice concerning what changes should be made, what added and what omitted.

Days before her death in 2016 she made me promise to keep up writing. She knew it would be good therapy for me in my year of mourning. But it is now four years later and I am still in mourning for her.

I am grateful to my many readers who have shared with me their comments over the five year span.

A warm relationship has been formed between writer and reader and I cherish them and their comments.

Like magic which has appeared on my e-mails since January, I have received comments from eleven faithful readers urging me to reconsider retiring.

Mark Sanburg in Hadera has calculated that I could write 1000 more articles over a period of three more years!

He has calculated the number of articles while I calculate the number of years. I hardly think I will still be on this good earth for three more years!

What I will do with myself and my daily life following the reached goal of 1,000, I do not know. But there comes a time when one must say a farewell love.

In 7 more weeks I will be celebrating 87 years of my life, a life filled with joys and gladness, a life filled with tears and sadness. I do not know what I have to look forward to in my remaining time on this planet. My apologies to readers who may have been offended by my words and thoughts. Mea maxima culpa!

I have three adult children and three adult grandchildren. My 20 year-old grandson was married on 5 January of this new year. I hope to live to hold a great-grandchild in my arms.

Even before their marriage, Ariel and Rivka announced their intention to have five children. Good luck! They are very orthodox Jews, so nothing surprises me.

I may make it, with God’s help, to see my first great-grandchild but I am sure I won’t be here to see the next four. So far, I am the oldest living member of my family. God must love me although I don’t know why. I guess He has a passion for sinners!

In the last four years of my life without Rahel, our Israeli Canaan dog, born in Jerusalem, lies on her bed next to mine. She brings me comfort, more than many people can know or understand. When Rahel was alive we held hands. Now Carmit extends her paws. Not the same, obviously. But still, it is real love.

During the past five years of my 1000 published articles I have been both privileged and very honored to hear from readers who have become my “long-distance” friends.

As I have frequently mentioned in several of my articles, my life has been patterned on the Talmudic statement in Aramaic, “o chevruta o mituta”… it is either friendship or it is death. A life without good friends is not a life. It is a lonely death.

God has blessed me with a lifetime of wonderful true and caring friends. Many of you are among them.

I wish we were able to meet “panim el panim”… face to face… but the distances between us are long.

Readers in Israel near my hometown of Rishon Lezion, readers from Brazil, Germany, the USA and Canada have been my most frequent commentators. Their comments on many articles have been an inspiration to me.

The most recent has been the magnificent tribute written by Saul Chapnick, a devoted reader in America. Those who have read Saul’s tribute have marveled at it. And those who know me and have read it added their own warm words.

It is amazing how kind words from strangers I have never met have influenced me and touched my heart. My gratitude to them is over-flowing.

My readers in Rishon Lezion have been life-long friends for 62 beautiful years. We have shared many joys and too many sorrows together. My life could never be what it is without their love and friendship.

I am reminded of a lecture I attended in 1951 at Terra Sancta college in Jerusalem. The speaker was the world renowned Jewish philosopher, Professor Martin Buber, a giant of 20th century philosophy.

He was lecturing to us on the relationship between man and God. His remarks were based upon his 1923 best-selling book in German, “Ich Und Du”, translated into English as “I and Thou”.

I can still see him in my mind’s eye standing in front of the lecture podium, occasionally stroking his long white beard.

It was, as I remember, a bit difficult for me to understand him. The depth of my knowledge of philosophy was very remote from deep, and his excellent classic Hebrew was spoken with a heavy German accent.

He wanted to convey to us students that human life can only find meaning in relationships with others. All of our relationships, said Professor Buber, lead directly to our relationship with God – the Eternal Thou.

For Buber, the ultimate Thou is God. In the I-Thou relations there are no barriers, no restraints. This enables us to relate directly to God without the intervention of others.

In the I-Thou relation, God is spoken TO directly… not spoken ABOUT. God, for Buber, is always present in human consciousness. There is nothing that disconnects anyone from God, he believed.

In his lecture I remember clearly that he told us that God is a friend to whom we can speak and address our concerns. There is nothing to hide from an All-seeing and All-knowing God. I have been speaking to God… just me to Him… every day of my life. If He answers me, I cannot always know. I am wrapped in silence.

His emphasis on the importance of establishing relationships with others has inspired me all my life. Relations with whom I have directly and relations, like my many readers whom I relate with indirectly.

Last night, my daughter and I were walking to a newly-opened coffeebar. As we opened the door, a young chassid with long payot and beard approached us. He was a disciple of the strict Breslov chassidim, the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. And he handed me a very small 31 page booklet, “Aifo Ata?” Where Are You?

Usually I refuse to accept material from chassidim, not being a chassid myself (although a great-grandson of Belzer chassidim ) and yet a practicing modern conservadox Jew, I thanked him for handing me the small booklet and later that night I read it.

To my profound shock I discovered that the words were not only those of 18th century Nachman of Breslov but were the very words spoken and written by 20th century Martin Buber, a champion of the Chassidic ideals.

“Mere friendly human contact is the only way to shake off stupor and emerge from darkness to light.” Talk to others, be a friend. In that way you will strengthen contact and relationship with God. Emptiness and loneliness will quickly disappear. You will no longer ask yourself “where am I” for you will know the answer: “I am here”. Nachman and Buber!

We need to understand one another, to embrace one another, to share with one another, to build up relationships with others. For most of my life I have tried to do it through my writings. In that way it has brought me closer to God and through Him to my fellowman. Writings, however, are only words on paper. They are not substitutes for embraces, hugs, kisses and open expressions of fondness and of love.

Therefore, while I still possess clarity of mind, it is incumbent upon me to give a loving farewell to all those who have been so kind to me.

The painful shalbeket (shingles) which afflicted me one month ago has severely affected my right eye. My doctor has diagnosed it as uveidtic glaucoma, a painful offspring of post herpetic neuralgia which has followed the shingles virus. It makes it hard to see and, ergo, difficult to see the keyboard. For that reason I must delay further writing until there is an improvement in my health.

1000 articles are bound in 19 volumes of more than 3000 printed pages. What will become of them when my body is no longer here, I cannot say. If no one has room for them, a fireplace will be fine for their disposal. A warm fire to keep the home-fires burning on the cold nights!

What began in September 2015 comes to an end in January 2020. Five beautiful and self-fulfilled years.

The first article was entitled “BitterSweet Israel”. Sadly, the 1000th article sees only a “Bitter” Israel. The “Sweet” is fading rapidly away. A nation without a government. A land without a leader. Inspiration which died and gave birth to despair. A generation floundering, not knowing in which direction to turn.

This final article is dedicated to Miriam Herschlag, the faithful editor who will now be freed from Esor, the illiterate computer meshugganeh. We have met only once in her office in Jerusalem sharing donuts.

On every other relationship, it has been through written correspondence.

She is an inspiration to writers who are grateful for her editorial comments and suggestions. The TIMES OF ISRAEL is her great love and, in return, she is a great love for those of us who write.

Perhaps our future, our hopes, our dreams will yet be realized in Miriam’s words. She maintains hope, faith and a deep belief in our country, reborn from 2000 years in the ashes. It is people like Miriam who will redeem the nation by her positive outlook. Would that I could be a staunch Israeli citizen as I once was!

I am very deeply touched by her letter to me on 10 January of this year in which she informed me that one of my most popular articles, “Miracle on Dan Bus # 4”, has been read by 195,000 readers to date.

No Pulitzer Prize. No Nobel Prize. Just many dear and noble readers. I love every one of you, even though we may not have met. Yet, the spirit of Martin Buber’s words on relationships binds us.

As an old song begins “ thanks for the memories”.

God bless the millions who read my words and the hundreds who responded. Enjoy your lives.

It is the only one we have.

And to my editor, Miriam Herschlag, harbai todot mi kerev libi. Many thanks from the bottom of my heart. You are the greatest.

My 87th birthday will be a good time to retire! The cake and ice cream will be delicious. I’m not counting calories.

Shalom. Farewell. Peace and love.

Esor Ben-Sorek

P.S. My younger daughter Liora has refused to allow me to quit. She emphasized it by going into a gift shop in Rishon Lezion and buying me a pen, inscribed in Hebrew in two lines :

L’Abba ha itonai ha yakar shelanu. (To Dad our dear journalist.)
She tamshich lichtov b’ahava. (So that you will continue to write with love”.)

She is a lawyer. A prosecutor. I cannot fight her. If I do, I’m afraid she will haul me into court before a judge. (One of her colleagues, no doubt, to assure her of the “verdict” that she wants) !!!

L’hamshich o lo l’hamshich? Zot ha sh’aila. (To write or not to write? That is the question).

Thank you, William Shakespeare. You posed the question. Now… what is the answer? I’m waiting.

FOR MIRIAM, MY VERY DEVOTED AND VERY PATIENT EDITOR.

Esor Ben-Sorek, Ph.D. (Universite de Poitiers, France)

And how should I like to be remembered by my readers? Only as is written in my bio… “a follower of Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky and Begin. (of blessed memory).
And still a proud citizen of the State of Israel.”

P.S.
While preparing this final 1000th article for publication, I happened upon several notebooks in which I had written a diary of events… 130 handwritten pages… in 1969, fifty-one years ago, describing my official visit to Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.

Re-reading through all the handwritten pages (it took 5 pens to complete the diary of events), I proposed submitting them for publication and I asked my editor, Miriam, for her opinion.

She was very supportive and thought it would be a new project for me. But since 130 handwritten pages cannot be transferred to the computer keyboard all at one time, Miriam suggested that I forward them as a serial comprised of several chapters.

As soon as I can catch my breath and adjust my eye-glasses to reading my 51 year-old handwriting. I will begin on this new project which brings back hundreds of pleasant memories.

Hopefully it will not bore my faithful readers.

Draw up a chair, fill your coffee/tea cup with a warm beverage, and sit back for a tour of former communist eastern Europe. But if you really must close your eyes, I wish you pleasant dreams.

DIARY: POLAND 1969 is on the way!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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