Newsletter by Liat Ben-David, author of "Yahrzeit".
2 Nisan, 5766
March 31, 2006
When I was six, I discovered the Philosopher's stone. Sometime between
Succot and Hanukah, shapes and colors that until then looked like something
meaningless that a child carelessly scribbled suddenly became coherent and
clear: the letters of the Aleph-Bet danced into words, words became
sentences, sentences became stories. One day, suddenly, I could read.
I remember my excitement, an excitement that covered me from head to toe,
when I moved from one text to the other. Newspapers were suddenly filled
with life, billboards suddenly made sweet promises and carried important
warnings, books engulfed adventures. A whole new world of adventure and
magic revealed itself in front of my astonished eyes, and all for the
simple, incredible art of combination of twenty two letters.
To celebrate my reading and in honor of Pesach, exactly forty years ago, my
mother placed a small, tattered book in my hands. Its cover was worn out,
evidently the book had been read and re-read for many years. The yellow
pages carried the scent of book-dust, raising my curiosity, and naive
illustrations were hidden within.
"Here, why don't you read this book during the holiday," my mother advised.
"I read it when I was your age and loved it so much that I read it over and
Looking at the cover, I read: "The dolls journey to Eretz Yisrael".
At that time, we had been living in LA for three years. Even though she
knew it would take at least another three years before we went back to
Israel, my mother started preparing me or the journey. "We will be going
back home soon as well," she said. "Just like the dolls."
I started reading.
For many hours I read, laughed, cried, was moved and excited when nine
dolls, seven female dolls and two male dolls, embarked on a long journey to
the land of Israel, setting out to join their mother, the child Sharona,
who had made Aliyah with her family, leaving her dolls behind. Like my own
mother, I read and re-read the story, celebrating make-up parties with my
own dolls, just like Sharona did in the story, dressing up my own dolls
just like she did, giving them similar names to the names of the dolls in
Several years after we returned home, the book was lost with other books my
mother had in her incredibly rich library. I took comfort in the thought
that the books had completed their task and made way for other, new books.
But the story of the journey of the dolls to Israel remained in my memory.
Two weeks ago, I received an email from a woman who introduced herself in
the following manner: "You probably don't know who I am," she wrote, "but
many years ago my father wrote a story that described our Aliyah to Israel
through the eyes of my dolls...my name is Sharona, and I am the mother of
the dolls from a book that is called 'The Dolls' Journey to Eretz Yisrael'".
I almost fell off my chair. A few more emails, phone calls and days -- and
the new reprint of the book was in my hands.
Once again, like I did forty years ago, I sat to read. Memories came to
mind, some dancing into place, some colliding: for example, in the original
edition that I had read as a child, the pilot that saves the dolls was
Lindberg. Since later his anti-Semitism was revealed, in the new edition
the savior pilot is one of the Wright brothers; the names of the male dolls
have changed; and some of the illustrations are new. But the Hebrew is
still young, naive and musical; and the daffodils on the camel's back are still fragrant,
sending out the scent of longing, a longing that I felt when I first
smelled them with my imagination when I was six years old.
Although many years have passed, years filled with computers, films, DVD's,
virtual reality, video and many other gadgets that are meant to fill our
lives with content -- nothing, but nothing, can replace that magical
feeling of discovery through twenty two small, simple, ancient letters.
The Philosopher's stone.