Lazarre Seymour Simckes

Useful at any Age in Israel

This morning I felt so alone as a solitary immigrant I had to find someone to talk to. I went to the park near my building but all I found there were two people seated on a bench, a woman with long brown hair and a man with a gray beard and a bitter face. I said, “Good morning” in Hebrew. The woman said nothing and the man shrugged his shoulders. “I offered you a good morning,” I said. “What do you offer me?”

They got up and left. I was shocked. I thought to myself, I have work to do here. I am needed. I did miracles as a therapist in America. Why can’t I do the same in Israel? There are so many depressed people here! But before I could help anyone else I first had to help myself. So I went to the mall on Ibn Gabirol Street to buy some fresh salmon flown in from Norway.

At the entrance to the mall, a lady with a face smothered in all sorts of medications was busy feeding hunks of bread to a gaggle of pigeons. “That is so kind of you,” I said. She inched her face closer to mine and said, “Whoever doesn’t do it isn’t worth anything! Buy a banana from me!” She pointed to an impromptu food stand of bananas and strawberries lying at her feet.

“Sorry, I don’t carry money,” I said. “I only have a credit card.”

“You’re a good man,” she said. “You’ll make money someday.”

What a lovely woman! There was hope for us all! I felt better already.

I stepped inside the mall and bumped into a short man standing still as if in a trance. I asked him what was wrong. He showed me. He stretched his arms out and tried to clench his fists but failed. “Nobody knows what I am suffering from,” he said. “They can’t help me!”

Suddenly I felt sick again. I couldn’t buy fresh fish now. I left the mall and headed back to my apartment. Outside my building a boy was trying to do a skateboard trick. He jumped up onto a low wall along the sidewalk but he couldn’t keep his feet stuck to the skateboard so it flew off into the road.

“Can I offer you some advice?” I said.

“Sure,” he said.

“Try it without the skateboard.”

“Thanks, I’ll remember that,” he said and laughed.

So I was still useful at my age.


About the Author
Playwright, novelist, psychotherapist and translator from the Hebrew, Lazarre Seymour Simckes is a graduate of Harvard College, Stanford University, and Harvard University. He has taught literature and creative writing courses at Harvard, Yale, Williams, Vassar, Brandeis, Tufts, and abroad as a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Writer at Haifa University. He has also conducted a live, interactive writing workshop, delivered via satellite, linking Israeli Jewish and Arab high school students with their counterparts in America.