JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2002 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763


Saada Aharon

Who will light the Sabbath candles for grandma?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Saada Aharon was only 20 years old when she and her parents bundled up their life's belongings. It was 1952 and the gates in Yemen were finally opening to allow them to ascend to the Holy Land.

The primitive village Saada called home was not only her birthplace, but also her parents' and grandparents'. The family customs and traditions to observe the Torah and its commandments were passed from generation to generation --- even while they lived under strict -- often, repressive -- Arab rule.

The trip to the Holy Land was long but moving. Saada settled with her parents in the "Maabarot,'' or settlement camps, along with the thousands of other Jews who arrived from Yemen, Morocco, and Algeria during Operation Magic Carpet, as the mass emingration period is known.

Saada was very beautiful and a cousin introduced her to a fellow Yemenite Jew who was but a year her senior. Yichye fell in love with Saada. The two married a couple of years later, after saving their first agurot and lira to buy a dress and a jacket for their wedding.

The old and distinguished senior Rabbi of the Yemenite community officiated and this young bride, the new olah (emigrant) to the Holy Land from centuries of her family's history in Yemen, began her new life together with her husband, sharing a part of a caravan with her elderly parents, steeped in the Yemenite tradition.

Saada and her husband were merchants in the old Carmel market in Tel Aviv. Their fruit stands were always the busiest, as the two of them worked 10 hour days to sell their wares to customers who were treated more like family.

And like family, their customers reciprocated.

Soon, Saada and Yichye were parents to three children. At each birth, bris (circumcision), or simcha (lifecycle event), the Yemenite community gathered at their caravan, apartment, and home to celebrate.

As the clock moved forward 50 years to 2002, Saada and Yichye's 15 grandchildren would alternate their Sabbath dinners with the grandparents in Ramat Gan. The patriarch and matriarch who came penniless and on a 'flying carpet' in 1951 and 1952 to their Holy Land, were now able to afford a lavish Yemenite Sabbath dinner with their children, in laws, and grandchildren.

Saada had to get to Tel Hashomer hospital on Wednesday for treatment of an illness. Saada told her 13 year old granddaughter, who together with Saada's son and daughter in law, lived next door, that she would be back soon after her tests at Tel Hashomer. Saada's feet were swollen from poor circulation again.

Saada boarded the bus to the Bar Ilan junction in order to get a connecting bus to Tel Hashomer hospital for her 9AM appointment. Bus 87 had stopped and Saada, who was standing not too far from the bus, began to wonder why the bus driver and a passenger were struggling with another man on the pavement.

The bus driver began to shout "Mechabel"(terrorist). The bus passengers ran out of the bus and began to run wildly in all directions near the bridge close to the Bar Ilan campus entrance. Saada's feet and medical condition precluded her from 'running' like the other Jews running away in their own country. The man on the pavement began to stir after falling from his attempt to board the back door of the bus 87.

The man was now known to all the running Jews to be a terrorist with a bomb belt around his waist. Saada tried to run, but could only walk, limp, and scream. The terrorist ran towards another bus stop of passengers waiting for the bus. The terrorist blew himself up and the Yemenite Jewess who arrived on a flying carpet of promise 50 years agothe Holy Land received most of the bomb belt's contents in her body.

Tonight is Saada and Yichye's anniversary. They were supposed to have shared Sabbath dinner with all of their children and grandchildren. Instead, the family will sit shiva until the Sabbath and ask : "Who will light the Sabbath candles for Saada?"

  —   Harvey Tannenbaum

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© 2002, Harvey Tannenbaum