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Aunt Esther

Israel's Memorial day 2012

This picture of my family on my father's side, was taken in Jerusalem more than a century ago.

From right to left: my grandfather Yaakov Levy, his older brother, the educator Bechor Levy (sitting), his younger brother Nissim Levy, my great grandfather Yosef Levy, the youngest sister Simcha Levy (Meyuchas) standing in front of brother Moreno Levy and on the left my great grandmother Rivka Yedidah Levy.

(Brother Avraham was in the United States when this photo was taken. Esther joined the family a few years later when she married  Nissim).

Anchor 1

Today I was thinking of her again, Aunt Esther (the wife of Uncle Nissim, grandpa's little brother).

Aunt Esther was a beautiful Jerusalemite, full of joy with a constant smile on her face. I think of her often, not just at memorial days.

How pleasant it was to visit their charming home. I loved to sit in her little kitchen at the end of the long corridor and taste her wonderful pastries. No one in the world has prepared Burekites like hers, ans she was also a gifted painter.

She would affectionately call me "Maimoona" and only years later did I learn that in meant little monkey in Ladino. 

Uncle Nissim was also born in Jerusalem, and like my grandpa, he was also a lawyer and owner of a law firm in Jerusalem. Every visit to their home, Uncle Nissim, would spoil us with bitter dark chocolate, which he kept in a fancy box. Although my blood ties was with him, my connection was stronger with his wife, Aunt Esther. Yossi, their only son was my father's favorite cousin.

Yossi was a particularly talented man. After completing his masters in economics and business administration at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he completed his doctorate in business administration at the University of Chicago, where he later worked with former US Secretary of State George Schultz who was a professor there and was very fond of Yossi.


When the 1967 War broke out, Yossi was not called to serve but he insisted, and was annexed to the unit that fought in Armon Hanatziv (Commissioner Palace) in Jerusalem. On the second day of the war on June 6, 1967, the telephone rang. I will never forget Dad putting hanging up the phone telling my Mom, "Yossi is gone." It was the first time ever that I had seen my father crying.

Zvia, Yossi's wife, was pregnant at the time, and Nadav was born a few months after the war. And so Zvia, uncle Nissim and aunt Esther invested all their love in little Nadav that brought back joy into their lives.

Later on uncle Nissim fought cancer and healed, and kept an active life although he  was already retired.

On May 3, 1989, one Nidal Zalum walked through Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, and shouting "Allah is Akbar" attacked people who were waiting at a bus stop near Zion Square. He stabbed five people, two of them to death.  The two victims were two elderly Jerusalem lawyers - Kalman Vardi and my uncle Nissim.


I still think of her, of my poor Aunt Esther. Every day I try to figure out where she had the strength to go on, and every time I hear Ladino I smile to myself, and every time I make Buerkits I wonder what she would have thought of it ...


Maariv, May 6, 1989

Maariv, May 3 1989

Yediot, May 3 1989

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