Friday, September 03, 2004

Tales of Aliya

My brother Aron's brother-in-law is featured this week in The Jerusalem Post's ongoing series on new olim. Ari seems to be approaching aliya the way it should be approached -- with a big dose of humor:
Without realizing it, Abramowitz applied to an Ethiopian absorption program. They accepted him sight unseen, also unaware that he was not Ethiopian. "It's a long story... They never made me feel like the white sheep."
As planned from the outset, Abramowitz joined the Mahal army program for foreign volunteers after five months in the absorption program. It was the beginning of a life-altering year in the 13th battalion of the Golani brigade.
"My lack of language at the time made it difficult to adjust at first. After arriving late to the first unit assessment meeting, I apologized for being ugly, "mecho'ar," rather than late, "me'uchar".......
After a year served primarily in Lebanon and Hebron, Abramowitz opted to remain in Israel, applying to Bar-Ilan University in logistics and computers.
"Due once again to language constraints, and the strange aversion of Israeli universities to textbooks, I realized after a full year of study that I had yet to understand what 'logistics' meant."
I would have thought a name like 'Abramowitz' was a dead give-away Ari wasn't Ethiopian. Still, reminds me of the time my father joined the army after we made Aliya in 1982. Because he was already in his 30s, he had to do a shortened basic training with a bunch of other immigrants.
The first thing the commanders did was separate some of the Ethiopians, who for some reason had a separate basic training. After all the Adissus, Kabedes, Radas and Zalelews had been called out of the lineup, the commander calls on one 'Pablo Shushkebibo.' No one moves. 'Polbo Shashkebib!" Still no one responds. "Bolpo Shishkebab!" Nothing. All the soldiers are staring blithely into space. At this point, the commander calls over the Ethiopian translater and asks him in Hebrew, 'Who's this idiot who doesn't know his own name? His id number is XXXXXXXX.'
With a start, my father realizes that's him, 'Paul Shaviv.' Turns out, his name got garbled in the computer and they thought he was supposed to join the Ethiopian group.
'Mah, ata lo Etiopi?'
So, I guess it's something of a family tradition......

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