My grandmother’s cousin, Roska, lived in Israel. She was married to Myrim. Roska and Myrim were two of the founding members of the kibbutz on which they lived, Kfar Menahem. Myrim got to Israel, as the family story goes, by walking from what is now Poland (then Vilna) to what is now Israel (then Palestine). That’s right, walking. Myrim and Roska used to tell stories about how they had one egg a week to share among the six (or was it eight?) founding members. And stories about how their friend Unice, the son of an Arab sheik who lived in the next village over, used to come through the fields to warn them when the Arabs were going to raid. And stories about getting stabbed in another town a few miles from the kibbutz and going to the hospital but pretending to be someone else so he wouldn’t be deported. So many stories- all of which sound too much like fiction to be believed but if there was one thing Myrim was, it was honest. Helping to found the kibbutz meant that Myrim was talented in many areas- farming, fighting and metalwork, just to name a few. He could fix just about anything that was broken and was able to build different machines to help the kibbutz farm and do chores more efficiently.
Myrim and Roska had three children, Amatzia, Kohevet and Gavri. I’ll tell you all about Amatzia and Kohevet another time. Gavri was the youngest and he was born right around Chanukah. Myrim loved his children more than anything else in the world and he took great delight in them and their accomplishments. They grew up on the kibbutz which means they grew up separately from Myrim and Roska- seeing them at meals and visiting with them but living in the children’s house, not at home with them (I remember when I first learned this about the kibbutz, I was horrified. Of course, I was five at the time and couldn’t imagine living apart from my parents. As an aside, the kids of my generation were the last ones to live in the children’s houses. Now on most kibbutzim the children live with their parents.). Gavri was a bit of a favorite, being the youngest.
Gavri grew up and went into the army, as all 18 year old Israelis do. There was a lot of conflict in Israel at that time- it was just after Israel had been declared a country and they were fighting at the borders all the time. Gavri was fighting during the Yom Kippur war. Not a long war, actually, but a war nonetheless. When the war was over, no one had heard from Gavri. Roska and Myrim began to get nervous. As the family story goes, Roska went into the desert where Amatzia (the oldest) was engaged in top secret military manuevers and demanded that he find his brother. To this day, no one knows how Roska found him.
Sadly, when they did find Gavri, he had died. It is thought that he and his fellow soldiers died within the first few days of fighting.
Myrim and Roska were devastated. People deal with grief differently and Myrim turned to the metalwork he had been doing. He began to create beautiful hannukias in memory of Gavri since he had been born around the time of Chanukah. He made so many that people began to take notice. He became a minor celebrity and some of his hannukias can be seen in different places like the the White House. The one in the photo is one he made just for me, using my initials. I have some beautiful metalwork from Myrim and the objects and jewlery I have are among my dearest possessions.
When I met Myrim I was two years old. He adored me and the feeling was mutual. He drove me around the kibbutz on his motorbike in the little sidecar. I did cartwheels on the lawn in front of his house. He took me to his metal shop and to the dinning hall. Each time I visited Israel, Myrim was there to show me around, hug me and make me feel special. In 1996 my cousins and I went to Israel and stayed with Myrim in his little house on the kibbutz. He got up in the morning to make us breakfast and it was the best egg and onion scramble I’ve ever had.
Myrim passed away a few years ago and right up to the end, he was sweet, kind, giving and generous. The nurses that took care of him adored him and if I close my eyes, I can still see his face when you gave him happy news. He’d open his eyes wide, smile and say, “yofi” which in Hebrew means “wonderful.” I can still hear his voice and feel the warmth of his hug.
Myrim’s Eggs and Onions
1/2- 1 onion, chopped
a few spoonfuls of milk
Let them get crispy and brown over medium-high heat, stirring once in a while. Don’t let them burn but let them get close.
Mix the eggs and milk in a small bowl and then pour over the onions. Yours may look a bit yellower than mine as I had an extra egg white to use up from a previous recipe.Sort of stir it all around until the egg is cooked through. Enjoy with a little bit of salt and some toast, if you wish.
You can read about the hannukias in Myrim’s own words and see photos of them here.