Conversations With Naomi: Paz in Tel Aviv

I stayed at the fabulous Brown Boutique Hotel at Kalisher 25 in Tel Aviv  on my recent vacation to Israel. When I arrived at the Brown, I was somewhat ferklempt. I had driven from Walnut Creek, California at 4:15 AM to San Francisco International Airport, and then flown from there to New York City. I then grabbed a flight on El Al to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, and after the plane landed, I dashed for a taxi to Tel Aviv. I was greeted by the Brown's friendly, efficient and, savvy staff and promptly offered ice cold chilled Cava champagne, which really hit the spot.

There's a roof top deck bar with amazing views of Tel Aviv, which I discovered on my second night. And it was up on the roof where I met Paz, a bartender who agreed to do a short interview for this column.

Paz from Tel Aviv
I had ordered a Lemon Drop and Paz deftly took out his iphone and looked up the recipe. Of course I could tell that Paz had more intrigue and depth than just his talent for mixology. I began the interview by probing into his family history. And this is how it went:
Naomi: I am interested in knowing some of your family background, if you don't mind.

Paz: I had one grandmother who was a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. She lost her entire huge family and then emigrated to Israel. After that, she decided she would not be religious. My other grandparents came from Iraq. They brought my father here to Israel in 1951.

Naomi: I can see that you are an excellent bartender, but do you have any dreams for the future?

Paz: Yes, I am actually working on my visa to come the the United States where I hope to start a fashion design business. Besides that, I am also in the process of taking what's in my brain, all of my ideas for the designs, to paper.

Naomi: That sounds fantastic! What type of clothing do you want to design and produce? What is your concept?

Paz: It is 'Street design,' Israeli style.

Naomi:  I wish you the best Paz, and please, always remember to follow your dreams!

(example of Israeli Street Fashion)

food for thought: in Tel Aviv

My first Israeli breakfast, compliments of the Brown Boutique Hotel, in Tel Aviv, was at Tazza D’Oro in Neve Tzedeck. While I was waiting for my meal, the couple sitting at the table next to me struck up a conversation. If I had any nerves coming to Israel for my first time, they had disappeared. Everyone is friendly, kind, and helpful.

This young man was originally from California, and his shockingly beautiful girlfriend, a born Israeli. They had met several years ago on a kibbutz. He told me it took him several years to convince her that he was the right man for her. I asked the guy: “How long have you spoken Hebrew?”  He replied, “It is still very hard for me.”  I asked, “Did you go to Hebrew school as a child?’ He said, “No, I never went.” I told them that I had gone, and that I can read Hebrew, better with vowels. And I said that I wonder why they hadn't taught us conversational Hebrew, in addition to learning how to read the prayers. 

And what this native Californian turned Israeli said to me, was as poignant as anything that I have heard or read from the American political talking heads on the subject of Diaspora Jews vs Israeli Jews. He said this:

“That would have been the best if they had taught conversational Hebrew to Jewish Americans starting with the children in Hebrew school. There would be so much more communication and not such a divide. In my opinion, this is the main divide between Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews. We would be as one. We could be as one.”

We Never Lost Hope review by Walter Ko, Asia-Pacific WWII historian

I am proud to present a four star review for my book, We Never Lost Hope: A Holocaust Memoir and Love Story that was written by Walter Ko,  spokesman for Global Alliance For Preserving The History of WWII in Asia.
"The Global Alliance, a world-wide consortium, is dedicated to disclosing truthfully the facts about the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945). Only by accurately reconstructing and carefully studying the history of this period can justice be restored to millions of victims of Imperial Japan's aggression, invasion, and occupation of mainland Asia and island nations of the Pacific."
Here is the recent conversation I had with Walter Ko regarding my book.

Walter Ko: I posted a review 2 days ago. Hope you enjoy.

Naomi Litvin: Hi Walter. I had a chance last night to read your review and thank you very much. If it is o.k. with you, I will post it to the “review section” of my website. You are actually the first person to point out in a book review for my book that the Japanese did not apologize for their concentration camps.

Walter Ko: You are welcome to post it in your website. Yes, Japan does not come clean. We have friends in Holland demanding justice for their pain and suffering.

Naomi Litvin: I know they pretend to have a pension fund for those who suffered in WWII, my aunt (now deceased) from Binghamton NY (Piri, in the book) tried to get help before she died, but they put her through the hoops and then refused her application.

Walter Ko: They are still spinning on Rape of Nanking, slave labors, comfort women. Every year, officials come to worship the Tokyo Shrine where housed the Tokyo Trial and executed war criminals. I visited there in 1999. Talk more later.

We Never Lost Hope: This is a combined simple history of two Jewish families of Europe and America. Naomi, a freelance writer documented her family history from a small farm in Satu-Mare Romania in a peaceful and simple hotel business. However, They were rounded up tragically to Auschwitz. They managed to endure and survive the horror of Holocaust. Some families suffered both Axis brutality of Germany and Japan as they were in Dutch Indonesia.

As American Forces landed and liberated Europe, Edith Festinger met Nate Litvin and developed the romance. They married in France and she came to New York as the first War Bride under lime light. They led a new life in the land the free and the brave in post war peace.

It is one of the six million Jewish story with the testimonial of life and death, war and peace, holocaust and love, sorrow and happiness, old and new. The intimate narration of the family members is plain and simple but yet powerful. They were the lucky ones to endure with hope that the dark days of nightmare would soon be over. As Germany apologized and compensated significantly and meaningfully to Holocaust victims, her Axis partner Japan still is in the denial mode to Asians, Dutch and American POWs.

This book is a small page in the Holocaust with names, faces and designated stars. It is the hope and love to a new life. Naomi did a fine job in sharing that to live on is a victory over Nazis.

Walter Ko
May 28, 2012

We Never Lost Hope is my book to honor my parents

by Naomi Litvin
Foreword by Sir Martin Gilbert

trailer by Naomi Litvin

I want to thank everyone that has been so supportive of my effort to honor my dear parents. I sincerely appreciate all of you and thank you for reading my book which keeps my parents memory alive. They are with me in everything I do and every step I take.

We Never Lost Hope review

My sister Greta forwarded the following email to me with comments on my book from Rabbi Sarah Newmark. I am especially grateful for my dear sister's support and astonishing positive energy.

Dear Greta--

I read the book about your mother and family's lives during the Shoah on the plane to Mexico. I couldn't put it down, though it was, of course, very hard to read in parts. As I told you, I love to read these first person narratives--it's an important way in which for next generations to bear witness.
Of course, now I understand the significance of your name, and it has new meaning for me. I think the most chilling statement in the book was your mother's very casual line...."Do you have a Krups coffee maker in your house?"; It's the same company--they changed the spelling after the war."; I had no idea that this company was involved in slave labor and munitions during the war and, of course, was party to horrific brutality. It made me sick to think I'd given money to that company, even that long ago.

Your mother's spirit is hard to explain--she just refused to give up, no matter how horrific the situation. She and your aunt and uncle "lucked out" by being sent out of the camp--to another Hell, of course, but one without crematoria, thank G-d. It was amazing to see her embrace life so strongly after liberation, just as she had before the Nazis came to destroy the Jewish world.

Anyway, I will bring the book back to the synagogue at our next Shabbat service to return it to you.Thanks for letting me read it--

Rabbi Sarah Newmark
Gig Harbor, WA