One of the great joys of growing old (in my case growing VERY old), is a pleasure beyond words to hear from people whose lives I have in some way touched over those years.
One student, now a grandmother, was in my class at the university in Hebrew and biblical history in 1958. She still remembers me and lives not too far away from me but requests me not to identify myself as her former professor for the wish to hide her age to others in the community.
From 1959-1962 a young student by the name of David Owen was one of the most outstanding of the more than three thousand whom I taught in those years and beyond. He ultimately earned a Ph.D. and became a world renowned archaeologist and author of more than twenty books. He explored in previous unknown areas in land and in sea in the Greek islands (Kos in particular) and in the cities of Turkey. He is famed especially as an undersea archaeologist.
In recent years he has spent much time in Singapore and in China where his son and grandchildren live. Although his primary education had been in orthodox yeshivot, David is no longer a believer or practicioner. For him, in his earliest university years, Gilgamesh supplanted the legends of Noah.
Although 58 years have passed since he left my classroom at the university, he has kept in frequent communication with me. Most of his e-mails deal with humor, with the American presidential catastrophe, with the sins of a disappointing Israeli government and often taking me to task for upholding the biblical (non-archaeological) opinions of ancient events, to which in his opinion I am blind.
Only today I received an e-mail from a student who was in one of my classes in the late 1990’s-early 2000nds He found me through his reading of the TIMES OF ISRAEL and located my personal address to thank me for the inspiration which I gave him. What inspiration exactly, he did not say and I do not know.
Some forty-five years ago (if my memory is clear), my wife and I, on a visit in Mexico, met a young couple on honeymoon in Acapulco. The beautiful young Cuban bride has kept in almost daily e-mail contact with me, always remembering our first joyful meeting.
And most endearing of all to me are the Israeli friends of my youth. Most who are still alive keep in contact and visits with me whenever possible. And although more than 62 years have passed, our friendship has remained strong and steadfast. Rak b’Yisrael !
Remembering is a blessing and a virtue. I may not always remember what day it is on my calendar but I never forget my life-long friends. It is a gift which God has blessed me, and my children consider it remarkable that I can share remembrances from so long ago.
Likewise, my beloved late wife had keen memories of our first encounter aboard ship in the Mediterranean, about our initial meeting in the port of Naples, of the sites, shops, museums, castles and gardens of Paris where we visited together.
The one item which she could remember and I could not was what food was served at our wedding in Tel-Aviv on a January day in 1960.
A Chabad rabbi in our city of Rishon Lezion used to tell me his impressions of my wife Rahel in the years following her death in 2016. While I always referred to her as my sainted one, he referred to her as a blessed one, not only to me but to all with whom she came in touch. He remembered her tzedakah and to the charities which she freely donated with open hands.
In my daily morning prayers I always add a personal request that my mind would remain clear as the years pass.
The remembrances from friends and students of long ago years keeps this almost 88 year old body with an 18 year old mind. (We simply did not grow together at the same pace).
Something to be grateful for. Remembering me helps the years to pass by peacefully and joyfully.
Ken yirbu. May they continue to increase in accordance with Hashem’s future life plans for me !
And if anyone else remembers me from days of long years ago, please write and say hello.