When you meet Elisheva Lehman, you meet a cheerful small ball – as she also likes to describe herself. A woman who talks about a life full of love and beautiful small moments. Only during the long conversations the scars from years spent underneath Dutch floor boards and the constant fear of being discovered, became apparent.
»I already imagined how a German soldier won the war riding my bicycle in the steppe of Russia.«
born 1924 in the Netherlands, now resides in Jerusalem
Walking through Parentshome Moses with Elisheva Lehman, she is greeted by everyone. Residents as well as employees like the cheerful, small lady. You can’t blame them. In a typical casual, Dutch way she says: »Come, sit down, honey!«, and within seconds we’re talking about being young, about love and the ocean.
Ellis loved a lot in her life. She says she was very lucky to be able to have two loves. Because many people only experience only one true love at most. When Ellis speaks about Elmar, her deceased husband, she beams with joy like nothing bad happened in her life. Her entire room is also full with little testimonials of love in her life: Countless pictures of her family are standing on tables and cupboards, little artworks from her grandchildren decorate the door and home-made and collected things remind her of others and experiences. Her hurly-burly, as she calls her wild collection lovingly, causes us to go on off tangents. It is fun listening to her.
Nevertheless, we get an idea of the terrible time of her past that is not forgotten in her present. There is the fear when a car stops down the street during night and the uncomprehending head-shaking at the face of the still persistent Anti-Semitism. And there is Berni, her first true love. They wanted to get married after the war, they were sure of that. They had arranged to meet at their park bench but he did not return. Even though Ellis was able to fall in love again, she felt guilty to Berni for her whole life.
Only more than 60 years after the war, she was able to come to terms with this loss with the help of her daughter. She shows us diaries Berni wrote for her during the war. We read lines full of love and hope and know about Berni’s death in Auschwitz. It makes you choke – a feeling that cannot be consoled with any kind of happy story.
Then it’s time to leave the past behind. One floor below the residents who are in a bad state physiologically or psychologically, are waiting for Ellis. Once a week she plays the piano for them sharing some of her joie de vivre; melodies from the past. Music always accompanied Elisheva. It gave her strength and courage. We watch Ellis singing out loud, sharing her strength and joy and all of the sudden, we feel happy. We can even hum along some of the melodies: »Muss i denn, muss i denn zum Städele hinaus und Du mein Schatz bleibst hier…«
Ellis playing the piano, making the people around her happy – this image gets stuck in our head and it turns into the commenting image of our portrait.
When it is time to say goodbye we do so as friends.
Even though a lot of our encounters in Israel lasted for a only a few hours, we took each one of them into our hearts as intimates/friends. Because conversations of such an intensity go below the surface.