The Return of the Nonprodigal Son
Mihai Pascal

I was born in 1947 in the Ţara Haţeguluiregion, in Baru Mare to be more precise. My father was a Moldavian from Fălticeniand my mother was from Poiana Sibiului. They settled in Baru and they had a large family. They had five children altogether. Two of them died. I went to primary school in Baru Mare and I attended high-school in Haţeg. I applied at the Metallurgical Engineering College but I failed the admissions exam. Because I wanted to avoid being drafted, I got into a two-year technical college. Back home we were a very united family. My father and his brothers ? all of them brave Moldavians both by extraction and by convictions ? were nagging me about going to college in Iasi. They were telling me all the time that Iaşiis better, that Iaşithis and Iaşithat. I listened to them and after I graduated the two-year technical college I went to the Polytechnics University in Iaşi. Afterwards I settled there and I got a job.

In 1971 I got married to Geta. She was a researcher at the Museum of Arts in Iaşi. We got an apartment and we passionately started collecting paintings. We had a close circle of friends and we had two children: a boy and a girl.

Leaving the country became an issue around 1982. A few years before, during some trips in Europe, I was thinking that I would have liked to remain in countries such as Germany or Italy. Later I realized that, given the fact we were a mix family, it would be easier to go to Israel where my wife had close relatives. The situation in Romania was getting darker and darker. Geta and I were feeling responsible for the future of our children. When we left Cristi was in 6th grade and Dana in 3rd. There was a new law that made emigration very difficult. Those who wanted to emigrate had to pay for all the years they had studied in the country, since education was for free only for the loyal citizens. We got green light in 1984 and we left for Israel.

Until we left Romanian authorities made us some problems, but we didn?t encounter huge obstacles. I had to change the workplace because I have been retrograded due to my decision to emigrate. My wife didn?t have big problems. It was just that her colleagues caviled at her in a small-minded, nasty way.

We both made up our minds for Israel because we could officially emigrate there and take along the entire family and a few of our belongings. On the other hand, my wife had relatives there, we had friends and we thought we wouldn?t be all alone in a foreign country. We thought adjustment would be easier, especially for the children who were, in fact, the main reason for our decision to emigrate.

The relatives and the friends were very happy we came and they supported us in every way they could. We settled in Jerusalem. It was very hard in the beginning regardless of the warm support of our close ones. There were many unknown factors. The most important was the fact that we didn?t speak the language. Then, there was the fact that we encountered a mentality radically different from the Communist mentality in which we had been born, brought up and lived until our departure... I didn?t have any problem from the point of view of the religion. I am a Christian Orthodox. The social environment in which we were functioning was one of liberal, open-minded intellectuals. As time went by I realized that social conflicts could occur in an environment dominated by a different religion. It was not my case, however. The first obstacle and the toughest was the language. It was a completely new and strange language, different from all the language I had come into contact with until then. The Ivrit dialect is the old Hebrew. It is a dead language, as we say. It was brought back to life and adapted to the needs of a modern, dynamic and industrialized world. It is very hard to even get familiarized with the sonority of words and to start understanding a bit. It is completely different from other languages. It is not a phonetic language. You write something and you read it otherwise. I found it extremely hard to learn. After spending four month in an Ivrit teaching school I got a job and tried to manage with the few words I had learnt. I was surrounded by understanding people who made it easy for me to talk and to understand. I started working as a car mechanic and I had that job until I got familiarized both with the language and with the vision those people had on work and life. I understood that first of all one must be productive and efficient. Therefore I started with a job completely different from and under my qualifications of engineer. Slowly I understood how working hours are regarded and for what and how people lived. This entire process of understanding that was slow and difficult. Now, here, I am surprised at the lack of efficiency, the slowness and the lack of meaning and purpose in the work of people. There I learnt it the hard way, but irremediably, that work is worth it only if it is efficient. Only then may it properly be remunerated. You can?t steal your own goose!

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