Beno & Iulia
Beno and Iulia Azriel

Iulia: I got to Israel in September 1963 and I could say it wasn?t easy for me at all. The hardest thing was learning the language. It was extremely hard, because it was different from all the other modern languages. I couldn?t talk to people. I could only communicate normally with the Romanians. When I got to college at the French Department other problems occurred. In Romania, we were learning almost nothing connected to the 20th century. What we were learning was not accurate either. The result was that I discovered I was far behind with my knowledge of modern French culture. I had to read a lot in order to get back on track. But my main problem was the different mentality of people around me. I was confronted with a new kind of society, completely different from the Communist society. People here respected other norms and had other priorities. I was astounded and shocked in the beginning. It took me a few years to understand and to adjust. Only in 1967 (i.e. the year of the first war with the Arabs) I lied that I was part of the Israeli people because, in time, I had learnt to love the people and the norms. In the university I saw that in Israel there are many people from all over the world, not only Israel-born people. People are different from one another. Each one brings from home customs, behavior, eating styles, clothing? I remember that in the beginning I wanted to meet colleagues of mine. None of us knew Hebrew. We were shrugging, smiling and giving up. Only as far as 1968 I started having relations with people who didn?t speak Romanian. As I was starting to get better in Hebrew I could get closer to different people from different parts of the world. But I must say that, to this day, the group of Romanian friends remained as important as in the beginning.

Back in 1963, leaving Romania meant for us a definitive breaking off, the end of a part of our lives, a total heartbreak. In some way I finished it completely with the Romanian culture and life. Our life was hard and full. We were struggling to adjust to the new mentalities and requirements. We were trying to get off of our heads the haunting image of the friends we had left behind and of the breaking off with them. That was very hard. As Beno was saying, we went to Romania as soon as the Romanian State gave us the permission. Beno told me please be careful and don?t expect too much! I don?t want you to be disillusioned! Cherish what you will discover there.  I will never forget it. My friend Magda waited for me at the airport. We got on a cab and the entire ride we talked as if we were just continuing a conversation started day before. That is when I realized that I didn?t have to worry anymore. I still have all the good friends from childhood, the friends I made between the ages of six and eighteen. I wonder if it?s by chance or it is just the quality of people who are my friends.

Beno: It is probably the people. Experience taught us that people radically change as time goes by. Only those ones who were shaped around a set of genuine values didn?t change. That was why we were able to re-bond with them as if there had been no hiatus.

We are Israeli of Romanian origin. We are connected with the state of Israel and we are proud to be Israeli. We cannot conceive living anywhere else but in Israel. At the same time, by culture, friends, affinities and language we are Romanian. At night I dream both in Romanian and in Hebrew. It depends on what I dream and on the persons I am with in my dream. I like to solve crosswords in Romanian. Every time I return to Romania I make huge provisions of crossword puzzles. The Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language (DEX) is one of the most important books in our library. We equally enjoy reading in French, English, Hebrew and Romanian. We read Harry Potter in English, Romanian and French?When we are in Romania we go to the theater a lot. We try not to miss any important theater performance in Bucharest.

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