The Return of the Nonprodigal Son
Mihai Pascal

During the time I lived in Israel, I worked in Jerusalem only one year. The rest of fifteen years I worked in Tel Aviv. I was a commuter. It took about 150 km or three hours by car, every day. My workday was starting with my leaving Jerusalem at six in the morning and it was ending with my returning home around nine or ten in the evening. I had this schedule for fifteen years, day after day. That was it! What else could I do? I had to raise the kids, to provide for the family, to make it good for them.

The fact that we lived in a circle of Romanian-speaking persons was half of an advantage. Maybe in a different circle we would have been forced to learn Ivrit faster and we would have started to manage on our own sooner. Who knows?

In 1989 my wife was detected with cancer and operated. The following months were dreadful and she didn?t make it. I became mother and father to my children. It was tough!

In ?89 I realized that ?something? was about to happen in Romania as well. Communism had already started to collapse in Europe. Its end was already clear in Poland and in Czechoslovakia. I knew something was going to happen, but I never imagined it was going to be that soon. Just like all the other Israeli interested in the matter I watched it all on TV. It was all broadcast live. I was very interested about what was happening with the country, with my family, with my friends. It was very hard to believe that it was truly and finally happening.

In 1990 I came back to the country because I wanted to set the bases of commercial ties between Israeli and Romanian companies. My attempt to do so failed. It was too soon after the Revolution and nobody knew how things were going to evolve. After one year or so I decided to do something in Romania, while keeping my job in Israel as well. In ?94 I set up a firm. The business was going well and I started coming to Romania more and more often. In spite of all hardship and initial difficulties, I was feeling this strong urge to return to Romania. I quit a good job in Israel and I came here and dedicated myself to my business here. The return happened in ?98 when I decided to come back for good. It was my decision. Children were adult by then and they decided to stay in Israel.

The greatest personal gain after fifteen years spent in Israel was the fact that I completely changed my views on work. I also learnt to treat people differently than I used to. From material point of view I was well off in Israel. I had a good position. But my greatest gain was not material, but the one concerning mentality. When I came back to Romania, the mentality of people was almost identical to the one I had left with fifteen  years ago. I realized that people in Romania were regarding life and work exactly as they did before ?89 and that they weren?t realizing that something had to essentially be changed. There were some basic and essential things that weren?t yet understood. In my opinion, even if Ceauşescu fell, his regime hasn?t fallen yet. In what concerns political thinking, fourteen years didn?t bring a major change. The second tire of communists came to power. They have the same political philosophy. Just one person disappeared. It is exactly like this!

When I returned I didn?t try to adjust back to the old mentality. On the contrary, I tried to impose my mentality to the collective I created. It was a new mentality. For Romania it was a new vision upon work. I was successful in the majority of the cases. Those who didn?t adjust left my firm. Slowly I created a team of young people and I managed to convey to them a new way of thinking and of working. Young people adjust and learn faster. Actually, not all young people do. I met many young persons while I was interviewing people for various positions in my firm. Some of them have a backward way of regarding work. You can see parents managed to transmit to them their own mentality. Unfortunately, one can still see situations which prove an old-fashioned and narrow-minded mentality. You can see it everywhere: in the street, at the firm, in the relations with other firms. I tried to hire many young people who had graduated Polytechnics among the best. Many of them disappointed me. Those best who adapted on the fly are still with us, at the firm.

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