Rachel’s tale

Rachel has been our oseret (cleaning lady) for many years. She is a nice friendly lady, short and rotund, who is prone to make such exclamations as “God willing,” and “you’re welcome.” The reason I’m writing about her is that this week she invited us to have lunch at her new home. She has a beautiful new home in a place called Sha’ar Ephraim (Gate of Ephraim) about 20 mins drive inland from Netanya. I want to tell her story, to show that Israel is like every other country.

She came to Israel from Azerbaijan when she was a teenager, got married and settled in the nearby town of Kfar Yonah and had four children. After some years an opportunity came along to buy some land on which to build a house in the neaby moshav (cooperative village) of Sha’ar Ephraim. That was about 20 years ago. So she and her husband used all their savings to buy a plot. A few years later they saw an article in the newspaper that said that people who had bought land there had been duped and had lost their money. Fearing the worst, her husband, Andre, went to the Government office in Tel Aviv where they have the registration of land purchases, and was told that he did not own the plot he had paid for. It turned out that the man who had represented the moshav had taken money from many people had given them fraudulent registration papers (or tabu) and had absconded without actually buying their plots from the Government agency. Since so many people, ca. 200 families, had been duped in this way, some being sold the same plot, they had meetings and retained attorneys and approached the Knesset, but that didn’t help. The guilty individual was caught and was imprisoned for a short time, but was then released. It appears that he had bribed his way out.

Finally a case was made and fought in the courts and the Government was ordered to make good on their plots. This took ca. ten years. Then they paid a deposit of NIS 40,000 (ca. $10,000) to the moshav to build there, but this money vanished too when the moshav declared bankruptcy. Finally they were able to start building, and now after 20 years they have their house. It is beautiful, large, open, airy and spacious, with shiny floor tiles, a white marble staircase, and a large white kitchen, with dark green windows and shutters and dark wooden doors. While all of this was happening Andre, while driving a truck, was hit from behind during a morning fog by another truck and his truck turned over three times. He broke his back in several places and most of his ribs. He was in hospital for months and could not work for several years. Eventually he recovered enough to do light work. Finally they are now happy in their new home.

A word about their location. They are adjacent to and just east of the Arab village of Qalansawa. We happened to visit this village in 1963 on our first visit to Israel (but that’s another story), what a coincidence. We have never been back there since, nearly 50 years, but although I was tempted we did not drive through it. Rachel tells me that the Arabs are friendly and seem to have modernized a lot. Their women are no longer treated as mere chattel, although that may only be superficial. Anyway, we enjoyed our visit and the food, and we wish them good luck from now on.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.