Today I unlocked a case which contained almost one hundred letters from 1959-1960 written from me to my wife-to-be and from her to me. 88 letters in all, a few from her mother to me and a few from my mother to her.
Now I am writing with dimmed eyes, fresh from fallen tears. In one impressive letter which Rahel wrote to me on 5 November 1959 she described in a six-page letter her experiences in France, Switzerland, Paris and London after I had left her in Paris.
She described the castles on the Loire, the art galleries in Montmartre where we had shopped together for artistic postal cards, the cafes at night and the great department stores she had visited. She gloried in her visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome… “like a palace” she wrote, describing its magnificence.
She wrote of frightening experiences in Rome, Florence and Naples where she was frequently followed by men who tried to be romantic, one nasty fellow who actually pinched her on the place where she sits.
Another man, a passenger in the same train compartment from Naples to Rome, offered to take down her luggage from the train when it arrived at the terminal. She thanked him but insisted that she was able to do it herself.
Leaving the train he followed her into the terminal office where she purchased a ticket for a connecting train to Switzerland. She asked at the ticket counter for a recommended nearby clean hotel, not terribly expensive.
The man who followed her stood behind her and said “I know where it is. Let me take you in my car” but she refused the offer.
At a café adjacent to the terminal building she bought a cup of coffee. The stranger sat himself down at her table. Now, full of anxiety and fear, she stood up and called out to others seated there that the stranger was annoying her. That was too much for him. He got up and left her alone and in peace.
Her letters described the mountains of Switzerland, its cleanliness, its friendliness and its expensive prices. But most of all, in each one of her 88 letters to me she wrote how much she had enjoyed meeting me on the Israeli ship in the port of Naples, how happy she had been with our walks and talks along the grand boulevards of Paris, how grateful she was for my kindnesses to her, in particular for the very large box of Parisian chocolates tied with a large blue bow which I bought for her in the Garde du Nord terminal.
She was leaving Paris but was remaining in Europe for two more weeks before returning home to Tel-Aviv. I was remaining in Paris for six more days before sailing to the United States.
On her return sailing from Naples to Haifa on the Zim lines SS/Jerusalem, she found in her cabin attached to the mirror fourteen postal cards which I had written and posted to her ship’s address.
She was overwhelmed and upon her return to Tel-Aviv she wrote me several letters of profuse thanks.
In each letter she told me how much she had enjoyed meeting me and how pleasant her days were when we were together. My replies to her were exactly the same. I missed her intensely and thought about her every single day.
In the bundle of our 100 letters which I re-read today (52 out of the remaining ones), I found the letter in which I proposed marriage to her. I was deeply in love with her and could think only about her and I waited nervously for her reply.
It arrived two weeks later and in it she wrote, “you asked me to marry you. I will reply in the words of Rivka to Isaac’s servant: I will come! I too love you very much and we can be happy together”.
And very happy we were with three lovely children until her death 56 years later.
Re-reading her letters reminded me of how great and precious was our love and how great is my loss. The knife still remains in my heart. I cannot take it out!
Love letters remind me of happier days in my life. And the loving memories still live within my broken heart.