The Return of the Nonprodigal Son
Mihai Pascal

I also attempted to do something and failed. I saw that there were a lot of helpless, abandoned children. I offered some of them a job, a place to stay, food, money, and clothing. I tried to make some of them pursue higher education. I got them private tutors in order to have a fair chance in front of the competition. They didn?t resist. The majority didn?t even respond to my gesture, not speaking about my pretensions. They were not used to put a continuous and constant effort into something that was going to pay off in the future, not immediately. This is it!

After fifteen years I had to readjust to some things, even if I kept the new mentality I got during the time spent in Israel. When I was in Israel I was thinking about and I was worried about my friends and relatives from Romania. Now, coming here means a new separation. This time I have both my kids in Israel, plus a lot of friends. I think of them and I worry about them. This is the truth. It was not easy and it is not easy still. This is the third time I am starting over.

In Romania I don?t live in a flat. I remarried and we have an old house we?re renovating. We have a big courtyard, four dogs, a small pond and a water source. We have a gigantic weeping willow, a vine bower on which we hung petunia pots. We also have a small hill with grass and flowers. This is at my wife?s house where we both live. I bought an old house on the top of a hill, close to the forest. I am trying to renovate it and to turn it into the house of my dreams. I am thinking that probably all the time I was away I subconsciously wanted to return to Romania.

I was not profoundly religious when I left. In the absence of the Romanian culture and traditions my interest and love for them and for the Romanian language grew stronger. I lived in the vicinity of the holy places of Christendom. I repeatedly went to visit them and I meditated upon their symbolism. I got close to the Romanian church in Jerusalem. Before I knew it I became more religious, even if due to the fact that Mosaic and Christian holidays are not at the same time, I couldn?t miss from work on Christmas or Easter. The free day in Israel is on Saturday. Therefore I had to work Sundays.

In Romania I kept my hobby. I collect paintings. I also have a new passion for Romanian traditional artifacts. Traveling in Europe and in Israel made me see the exquisite beauty and originality of the Romanian traditional art. I think that it is not put forward enough and definitely not invested in enough. A country which respects tradition respects itself. The more it knows itself better, the stronger its people grows. Israel is an emigration country. There is a lot of history there, but very few traditional things. That is because people come there from all over the world and they bring almost nothing. Coming back to Romania I feel the need for traditions and folklore. I am looking for traditional artifacts, I find them and I collect them. They are mostly from Haţeg, where I grew up and from Moldova and Bucovina, where I live now. I missed it all and now I enjoy it. I am a grown man now and I learnt to be selective and not let myself be fooled by appearances. You know the saying, not everything modern is beautiful and not everything old is precious. I listen to a lot of Romanian country music and I am glad when I can tell what area one song or another is from. I grew closer to traditional objects. I like them, the life in them. Every such object can tell me how people from various parts of the country lived and thought.

The political life of Romania is the biggest disappointment I had since I returned. There is the same mentality, nothing has changed: the bribery, avoiding the law, not valuing honest work, contempt of the powerful towards all the others and towards common sense all together. Corruption is in fact a continuation of everything before 1989. I have read a lot of books about the history of Romania and I learnt to rethink it. I understood that it is very important for us to have an external beneficial influence. For example, King Carol the 1st brought to Romania his German rigorousness and he is the artisan of modern Romania. Right now only the European Union can impose some drastic rules on us. Otherwise, it is impossible. This is the only chance for a real change in the future.

Anyway, life has changed after 1989. That is why I returned in the first place. There are new perspectives one could never even imagine before. However there are still a lot of people who have a very hard life and who are extremely poor. It is intolerable that after years of work they don?t have bread on the table. And this is happening only because the political class doesn?t care about these people. Salaries are small, pensions are even smaller, and the taxes are huge. Firms don?t have any facilities if they hire retired people who are still able to work and who want to supplement their pensions. It is very hard even to find a legal way to hire college students. There are very many restrictive laws who keep you from helping these people. These kinds of laws bring the life standard down. If you want to help out you must take money out of your pockets. How many people are able to do that? And for how long? The state should do more about this. In Israel, children and college students are hired over the summer. The employers only have to pay some taxes, but it?s nothing like the enslaving taxation system from Romania. That is why you cannot do the same in Romania. It is because the costs would be too high for your firm. The same goes for the pensioners. It is a vicious circle and there are many sick people because of continuously decreasing life standards.

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