The Survivor A Story
I MET my cousin, Yitzchak, in Tel Aviv for the first time, about a year after the State of Israel had come into existence. He was the only survivor of that part of my father’s family which had remained in Lithuania until the outbreak of the war in Europe. At our first meeting he and I sat together on the terrace of a cafe on the sea-front, looking out across the idle Mediterranean, which flapped its small waves down on the shore and glittered and winked in the distance, every little movement of its surface producing much light. Yitzchak asked me innumerable questions which I answered as well as I could, about the members of the family in South Africa, whom he had never seen, who were merely names to him; but I found, when he at last was finished, that there were fewer questions I could ask him. I knew already that he had been in Israel for only a few months, and was living in an immigrants’ camp; that the office in Israel which helped immigrants to trace their relatives had listed his name in the South African Jewish press; that the name had been seen by a friend of my father’s; and so-as I happened to be in Israel at the time-our meeting had come about. Yitzchak now told me that he supposed he would have to go into the army. He would like to go into some unit where he could learn a trade-he knew nothing, he said; he was uneducated; he hadn’t had time to go to school. No, he had no relatives on his mother’s side, neither in Israel nor anywhere else. He was quite on his own.
We were both silent. And I found that there was only one question that remained for me to ask Yitzchak. What had happened?
About the Author