In the memory of my dear friend Alexander Zvielli who generously shared his life experience with me. He passed away on May 2nd, 2017 at the age of 96. I will truly miss him.
L'Chaim – 95 Years of Passionate Living
His boss recently recommended him for the Guinness Book of World Records, the love story with his late wife would be a perfect screenplay for a Hollywood movie, and he has 95 years of passionate living to reflect upon: My Jerusalem friend and neighbor Alexander has much to tell. For IrespectU he shares stories from his life in a video.
„When do I see you?“ he always greets me on the telephone when I return to Jerusalem. And with a „You are most welcome!“ he invariably comments the precise appointment we agree upon. Our weekly chats on his balcony in the Rehavia neighborhood are one of my beloved rituals during my stays in Israel. Emotional displays and grand speeches are not Alexander’s thing, yet with our obligatory small glass of Jaegermeister he allows me to coax from him stories and tales out of his past. He thus opens insights into Israeli history for me which others only learn from books. After all, Alexander celebrated his 95th birthday in April.
We became acquainted 13 years ago, when I moved into a neighboring apartment, intending to reside in Jerusalem for one year – at least that was the original plan. In the beginning, I was for sure quite naive, but stubbornly determined to find my way about in a foreign environment. Culture shock was naturally not long in coming. Neighbors like Alexander and his wife were thus a gift from heaven. Alexander explained to the grumpy and aggravated handyman in Hebrew that my cable television should also include German channels. He communicated to me that the residential community felt it appropriate that I also decorate my balcony with small Israeli flags on Independence Day, and promptly provided me with the necessary decorations. I experienced my first Seder evening with him and his wife at their dinner table as „ On this evening no one should be left out or be alone.“
Both had a heart for newcomers and demonstrated this through their large and small acts of kindness, like the gift of a huge bar of chocolate on Easter. As a stranger in a foreign culture who felt vulnerable and sometimes forlorn, I was sooo thankful for these gestures! Their friendly thoughtfulness was, in my special case and due to their personal history, not to be taken for granted, on the contrary, it was rather astonishing. I only learned this later when, over a cup of tea, Alexander related his personal history to me.
His saga is so unique, yet so typical of his generation of Israelis, that I absolutely wanted to make it available to our IrespectU friends. I was overjoyed that Alexander was prepared to appear on camera for a short video.
Moreover, Alexander also has rich experience with the media, although mostly with the printed word. He has worked for the Jerusalem Post, which is the largest Israeli newspaper in the English language, for over 70 years (seventy !!!!!). His bosses and colleagues love him and on his 95th birthday the telephone did not quit ringing as everyone wanted to personally congratulate him. And they believe that this „world record“ should be fittingly recognized in public by means of an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
And at 95 Alexander, astonishingly enough, not only has a regular paid job, but he also has a mission: to remind readers that historical events still hold important lessons for people of our times. He considers his work more a calling than a career. Perhaps this is why he is so active and perky at his age? „What do you want? It is an old machine!“ he recently replied to his physician who had pointed out his age-related physical wear and tear. And he seldom complains about these hardships of age. Sometimes he engages in affectionate bickering with Gigi, his Filipino caregiver, when he becomes impatient that things do not go as smoothly as earlier. “Like an old married couple” he jokingly laments.
I received a positive prognosis from Alexander concerning my own aging process: „You need not worry; you are passionate about your work. That is most important. One needs passion in life!“. I will definitely take this piece of advice to heart …