Please forward this error screen to 206. Soon after my father passed away in 1995 at age a person i admire my father essay, my mother presented me with his watch, enclosed in its red case adorned with gold letters. The 18-karat gold Patek Philippe was the only expensive thing my father ever bought for himself.
We were very poor when I was young. We shared, with another family, a small, one-bedroom apartment in a poor Haifa neighborhood, living off rationed eggs and butter. By the time I reached the age of 13, however, our financial condition had improved. Although by nature modest and humble, my father surprised us by buying himself the gold watch.
Gingerly opening the case in 1995, I was astounded to find in addition to the watch, hidden underneath, in the folds of the guarantee booklet: a minute, yellowing photograph of two beautiful young women. I did not recognize this photo or these young ladies. My mother was taken aback by this find but did not offer any explanations. I knew my father wanted me to find this photo.
I could not fathom why. Only now, 17 years later, has this mystery truly been solved, and the photograph’s place in my father’s life—and my own—finally become clear. One of 10 children, my father grew up in Krasnik, a town near the Polish city of Lublin. His parents, who owned a large kasha grain mill, were wealthy. They were members of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, and my father was named after the Sefat Emet, one of this movement’s great leaders.
During the Holocaust, when he was in his late 20s, my father was taken to the brutal Budzin labor camp near Lublin, where he survived by pretending to be a carpenter. In May 1944, the camp was closed, and the prisoners were marched to the Majdanek extermination camp. Jumping into a ditch at a curve in the trail, my father escaped this death march and hid in the forest with the partisans for the remainder of the war. After the war, my father returned to Narutowicza Street in his hometown of Krasnik, but he found no survivors. His parents, grandparents, and all of his siblings—except for one sister and one brother, who had immigrated to Palestine before the war—had been murdered.
He left Krasnik behind and moved to Germany, where he met my mother and married her in a gloomy displaced-persons camp in 1947. I have a single black-and-white frayed photo from their wedding. My parents left for the Land of Israel immediately after the wedding. Within months, my father was drafted into the newly formed Israeli Army and served as a mortar operator in the Galilee during Israel’s War of Independence.
Later, when I was a child, my father made sure to show me his battlefields in the old city of Tzfat and at the Dan and Dafna kibbutzim. I particularly loved hearing about the bridge he built over the Banias River in a long dark night under enemy fire. For me, the bridge became a symbol of his valiant struggle to traverse his crushing past with his empowering new life in Israel. In Haifa, my father owned an all-consuming wholesale produce business. Every morning, he rose at 2:30 a. Haifa’s Hadar section to the wholesale Tenuva market close to the port. Even in the glaringly hot summer days, when temperatures often climbed over 100 degrees, my father sported a straw fedora.