I’d like you to meet my very special friend Efi Rimon. Efi is a paraplegic. He can only move one finger and speaks with great difficulty. He is confined to his electrified wheelchair all hours of the day. But despite his terrible handicap, which he has suffered from since birth, Efi is electrifying with the energy, inventiveness, curiosity, adventurousness, determination and achievements of a dozen normal human beings.
Efi lives in his own apartment after many years in a home for the disabled. But he boldly decided to lead an independent existence, and some ten years ago he realized his dream of living in his own modest apartment where he leads a very active life surrounded by an amazing panoply of smartphone, fax, TV, CD and DVD players, computer, and an enviable collection of CDs and DVD’s featuring leading international blockbuster films and the top international, Israeli and Arab singers. But he is not content with simply filling his life with music and films and Television programs. In recent years Efi has written several books about his life, his illness, his friends, his loves and reflections on life and illness and on how normal folk look on him and look up or down at him because of his condition.
Efi has been able to achieve so much in particular due to the remarkable help and encouragement he receives from his Filipino caregiver Peejay who looks after him like a son. However for the first nine years of his independent living it was Peejay’s uncle Nick who looked after Efi with single-minded devotion and love. So much so that, when two years ago Nick suddenly passed away with cancer, it left Efi heartbroken. During Nick’s illness he was even looking for ways to fly to his hospital bedside to comfort him – the totally handicapped young man to comfort and encourage his caregiver! He told me many times during our conversations, with tears in his croaky voice, that he had promised Nick that when Nick was well again he would immediately reemploy him as his caregiver.
Now, each year on the anniversary of Nick’s passing, Efi lights a memorial candle in his memory.
Under Nick’s special care Efi flourished in many ways. He became very adept in the use of the phone and cell-phone, he loved to listen to music CD’s and to watch the films of Van Dam and Clint Eastwood, he kept his room and papers in tip-top order and he learnt to use the fax and dictated many letters concerning himself and Nick to the various social authorities and government ministries. He let nothing stand in his way. He stoutly and successfully defended Nick from any attempt to send him back to the Philippines, because for him Nick was a true passport to life.
In his little books, all dictated to and written down and translated by friends, and in which Efi takes great pride, he writes candidly about his illness, about his love of music, about the things he likes to collect, about his profound desire to be treated like a normal, rational human being despite his handicap, and his need to prove his abilities, as exhibited in the writing of his books. What emerges most poignantly in his latest book, which he vows will be his last, is his desire to raise a family and find a suitable and beautiful wife, preferably from among the Filipinas, and thus prove his ability to lead a normal life and disprove all the doubters and the many who hurtfully dismiss such desires as wishful thinking.
Efi’s latest work is called “Le’Hivaled Mi’Hadash” – To be Born Anew…. The book is divided into chapters which range over his medical problems, his love of music and his favorite singers, as well as the things he loves to do (like going to the Malcha Mall), and the things he loves to keep. It also strikingly analyses the way in which normal people think about him and treat him, and how often their thoughtless and demeaning attitudes move him to helpless fury and tears.
Near the end of the book Efi again talks about Gladys, his Filipina girl friend and the great love of his life. In a poem he wrote about her, he describes his terrible sense of loss when Gladys was deported because she didn’t have a visa to remain in Israel, and he expressed his bitterness at the cruelty and thoughtlessness of the authorities in depriving him of her love.
GLADYS I MISS YOU
By Efi Rimon
(Translated from the Hebrew by David Herman and originally printed in the “Focal” local Filipino magazine)
A handicapped young man sits on his wheelchair, sad and longing…
I had a Filipina girl friend called Gladys who they expelled from Israel,
And I cried a lot
Because I was very attached to her.
We had a very good friendship,
And ever since she went
I can’t stop crying because I miss her so.
I even wrote an article about her
In the local Filipino magazines “Focal” and “Manila Tel Aviv”.
I even had photos of Gladys printed on my shirt
On my pillow
And even on my watch.
I hope and pray that soon she’ll return..
I even bought a laptop
To get in touch with her.
But it didn’t help
And so now I decided to write this poem for her
In order to tell her and everyone how much I miss her,
Gladys , my beautiful Filipina friend..
I am a handicapped young man, paraplegic, sitting on my wheelchair
But I hope that with this poem I will reach Gladys
And tell her and the whole world how very much I miss her.
Copyright Efi Rimon, Jerusalem 2012
And here again, in the book’s final chapter, he talks about Gladys whose memory remain so vivid for him: “I hope that all I have written they will read and take to heart, because what I have written is the truth and not a joke. And I call the second part of this chapter “Gladys My Eyes” Gladys was the most beautiful of all.. This is the second book I have written about her, and I wrote about her a lot. Gladys was the most beautiful of all the Filipinas . She had special eyes. And this is the end of the book. I have written this book so they should see how much I love Gladys..”
Perhaps in a final chapter, yet to be written, Efi will be reunited with Gladys and he will again know the happiness and satisfaction which he so richly deserves.
Whatever happens, it will give Efi Rimon and all his friends and helpers great satisfaction to know that his little books will one day soon find a sponsor and be published to spread his inspiring message around the world.
Here is a moving song which Ben Reuven wrote about Efi called the Ballad of Efi Rimon:
Through Nick and Peejay and their friends and acquaintances among the Filipino caregiver community in Israel, Efi has developed a deep and abiding love for the Filipino culture and food ,and every year or two he and his caregiver travel to the Philippines to meet Nick’s family and other friends there.
A cruel disease and death took Nick away from the one who needed him most. But the seeds of love that Nick Esplana, and latterly his fine young nephew Peejay, have planted in Israel in the heart and soul of a young physically challenged Israeli Jewish man will never wither and will remain a deeply moving memorial and example for all time.
Efi’s unique book was published last year in time for the Jerusalem International Book Fair and copies are still available.