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Seeking Jacques in Caesaria

Ron Charach
From:   Forgetting the Holocaust. Frontenac House, Calgary, 2011


I keep returning to Jacques in Caesaria,
restauranteur and determined bon vivant who infused a powerful
   green tea with herbs
and left us by the edge of the sea with three kinds of
   complimentary gelati
to gaze past his canvas umbrellas at two shades of
   Mediterranean,
the harbour-side pure turquoise, the further a more exacting
   blue, if later valium-ized by the digital developing process.

I am seeking Jacques in Caesaria, recalling how, handsome and
   sun-baked,
he challenged us to guess his age, then confessed that his
   business varied
with the time of the day, and the weekend, and the threat of war,
and that it was nearing the point of success, which he could tell
"from the shrinking size of my overdraft".

I identify a slight French lilt to his voice, loud and resonant for 76,
and his sleeves are slightly rolled above the blue tattoo numbers.
He arrived in Israel from Auschwitz, Poland via Southern France,
"from the fry-pan into the fire", and, for a short time,
Reno, Nevada, of all places, and he proudly informs us,
   "I never speak
a single word in Hebrew; why should I,
when all you ever get is an argument?"

By the broad sweep of beach where there once stood
   a Hippodrome,
I keep conjuring this proud, melancholy survivor Jacques,
not because he helped us identify as Druze
the Arabic tourists with women in black dresses
   and white headscarves,
and not because he accurately predicted
   that not a single one of them
would stop by for his frozen gelati or powerful tea,
but because he remade himself on an ideal point
near the wind-swept jetty at Caesaria,
the last stand of a man who met the Nazis up close,
and for whom a big overdraft held no terror,
yet who, nearing 80, still sought to impress on us
   his success,

in all its temperamental form,
in a man no less argumentative than any Israeli
or Israeli-Arab cabby, though one grown accustomed
   to whitecaps
dancing on the soft sweep of broken sand at Caesaria,
where Romans declared order before mapping
their gentile empire by marching across it back home.


Ron Charach's works copyright © to the author.


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