My Father - The Last of The Noble Iranians Jews

A touching and true story of one family

9 DECEMBER 2013,
Lavi's father © Pierre Lavi a
Lavi's father © Pierre Lavi a

The first thing my father did when he descended from the plane that brought us from Iran to Israel was to bend down and kiss the ground. "Then I stood up, looked up at the sky and prayed to him". "To whom?" I asked. "To God. I asked him to help me raise my family in this country and to help me find a decent job".

That was my father, who passed away six month ago. He always thought about us, his family, about others, and rarely if ever about himself. We came from Iran to Israel, to Jerusalem, having almost nothing. We were seven, and two more were expected to join us in the following years.

1963 was a very important year. Names like Kennedy and the Beatles were famous. In that year too, a new born baby, only four months old, was carried in its father's arms to an airplane which was on its way to a young country surrounded by enemies. My father spoke only one language, Farsi, and had no occupation. And he had my mother and five children to support.

Those already living in Israel didn't try to make my father's life easy. The two-bedrooms flat which was offered to us in a border neighborhood of the divided city of Jerusalem was too small, but my father didn't complain and we spent our whole childhood in it.

Slowly but surely, my father picked up the Hebrew language and found himself a job. He worked five days a week, and on Friday evenings he worked a night shift which I remember clearly to this day, because I would always wait for him to come back home on Saturday morning, and jump on his back and beg him to tell me a story before he took a nap. And he would always tell me a story in his Hebrew mixed with Farsi.

His job wasn't easy. He was devoted to helping elderly, chronically sick people in a small hospital. He did it with love, compassion and dedication. At the end of every month, he went to the bank to get his salary and bring it to my mother so she could manage the household and kept for himself only a few coins to get a pack of cigarettes, the only pleasure in his life he wouldn't give up.

The six days war between Israel against seven Arab countries and the victory brought us to a stage which we never dreamed about. My father took me to visit many places in Jerusalem which were liberated and which were forbidden to us until then. We learned together about the unified city of Jerusalem and about the new Israel which its borders were extended dramatically.

At that time my father was too old to joint the Israeli army but he served our country in the civil guard, helping families who lost their beloved children or husbands during the war.

We kept some Persian culture at our home but my father insisted that we learn and adopt the Hebrew language and the Israeli mentality. He would always say that school will bring us a better life then his. He never showed any regret leaving Iran or missing it, but at the same time he never gave up traditional Persian food.

Years later, after I divorced, he asked me to take him abroad. "Take me to London as long as I am still alive".

I took my father to London. We spent five wonderful days together and then I decided that one day I will write a book and dedicate it to him. On 2009 I wrote the book "The Dream Weavers from Teheran", about five orphans who were kidnapped by a Persian carpet dealer who kept them locked up in a cellar in the south of Teheran and forced them to weave rugs which he sold in the Teheran market. I dedicated this book to my parents, and especially to my father.

Everybody remembers him as a gentleman just as I do. Some people thought he looked like the last Shah of Iran. And in fact, they did look alike. One scene I'll never forget occurred when my father spent a few days in a nursing home because of his Alzheimer's. When I brought him a glass of tea with some biscuits, he took one and offered it to an old lady who was a total stranger to him.

It was then, while we were sitting at the nursing home, that he told me his complete story. This was the first time he told me this and the first time I learned that his father, my grandfather, cursed him and didn't give him anything when he told his father that he was moving to the Promised Land. And when my father told me that, I could see tears in his eyes. That was the only time ever that I saw my father cry.

In the Jewish tradition, one speaks of a "tzadik". This is an expression referring to a human being, who is very close to God, especially also if he passed away on Saturday. My father's name was Mirza, which means "Prince" or "Noble", and he was a "tzadik". My father passed away on Saturday and I was born on Saturday in order to continue his path.