I like to tell stories. My children say that Mother has a story for everything.
It’s right. But I do not invent. All that I tell is what really happened to me in my life.
And today I want to tell you how I learned that I am Jewish and that such a state of Israel exists.
I immigrated to Israel from Russia from the city of Nizhny Novgorod, formerly Gorky. Medium-sized city in the scale of Russia, about 1.5 million inhabitants and at that time with a large number of Jews. Today, most of them live in Israel or America, but then we were all there.
I read a lot of stories about how Jewish children learned that there were Jews and other children started persecuting them.
For me it was different. I even remember that day for sure. February 17, 1977
Does anyone remember what happened that day? Not checking online or looking what is recorded?
Then I will remind you. On that day, February 17, 1977, Maccabi Tel Aviv played basketball against CSKA.
I was in first grade. I, my parents and grandmother lived in a small two-room apartment (not a living room and two rooms, just two small rooms). Grandma is alone in the room, and me and my parents are in the second room. What made us special is the fact that we had a TV that no one else had in the neighborhood, but it does not belong to history.
Late that night, my parents watched a basketball game, which they never did! And not only that, they planted me to look with them! I did not understand what was happening. Then Mother began to explain. She started from afar.
You know, mom said, we cheer on the team in yellow and want them to win.
How? Are we not for the Russians? Why? And then my mother continued – these, in yellow – ours. It confused me even more.
Who are ours? Not Russians? No, my mother explained that this is a team from Israel, and we support them because they are Jews, and we are also Jews. And so slowly, Mom continued to explain. She told me that our country is Eretz Yisrael, and that their dream and the dream of many other Jews is to immigrate to Israel. She explained everything with such pride and excitement that I realized how important this is for her. Until the end of the game was born an ardent Zionist, which I am until today. It’s impossible to describe joy when Maccabi won the game. I hardly slept that night. I should have shared this with someone. My mother forgot to tell me that it is forbidden to talk about this “with any of us.”
The next day at school, I was looking for someone to share my excitement with. To my disappointment, last night nobody saw the game, everyone was asleep. Therefore, I changed my strategy and began to ask: Do you know that Israel played against Russia yesterday? If you saw who would you support? For Russia? And I am for Israel! They were surprised, but not enough to continue the conversation. That’s how it went today. At the end of the day, the teacher asked me to stay.
When all the children were gone, she quietly told me with a frightened look: Friedman, do not forget that you are Jewish, you should not talk about it!
From that day I started a double life. Outside – like everyone else, at home and in a proud Jewish heart with a great dream.