“Does anyone have a birthday (yom holedet) today?”, asked Annie.
She was greeted by the customary deafening silence.
“I ask especially because this week we also celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut - the birthday of the modern State of Israel and its independence.
“My birthday February,” piped up Tzivia.
“That’s great. But today is 23 April when there are two important events in England. Does anyone know what they are?”
As an immigrant from Britain with minimal Hebrew, Annie Ilan posed the same question whenever she began an English class at the old folks’ club in Nesher, Haifa.
“It’s a good ice-breaker. It might cheer your students up a bit.” Yoel, the office manager, had advised.
“O.K.,” continued Annie beginning to wish the lesson was almost over.
“Today in England it is ‘St George’s Day’ which is named after the famous Roman soldier who killed a dragon. He is also remembered as a Christian who was executed by the Romans for his faith.
“It is interesting that this non-Jewish hero is buried here in Lod, near Tel Aviv.
“What else happens in England today?”
“Maybe big football match,” offered Shmulie. “I like Manchester United!”
The rest of the class roared with laughter.
“You must like Maccabi Haifa,” scolded Evie. “You Israeli now!”
Shmulie, originally from Munich, boasted that he had been a talented soccer player as a boy who could have become professional if Hitler hadn’t intervened.
Annie waited for the giggles to subside.
“In England today we also say ‘happy birthday’ to a famous writer. Who knows William Shakespeare?”
Every hand shot up.
“I like Shakespeare,” beamed Bennie. “I did Romeo and Juliet with my girlfriend on balcony back in Poland.”
“You very bad boy. You get smack!”, grinned Penina.
“Me,” she added, her voice fading, “I lost boyfriend to Nazis in Ukraine. To be, wasn’t to be. My Moishe’s curtain came down far too quick.”
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 23 April 2012)
* This story and another which follows were inspired by Calum Kerr of National Flash Fiction Day. I was too tardy to meet his deadline so I offer my humble contributions here. N.I.W.