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June 27, 2014

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 27, 2014 Judith Mertz Judith Mertz, shown as a little girl sitting with her family in early 1950s Israel, lives in Pennsylvania now but says she has family in her native land "from Metulla to Eilat." By Hillel Kuttler The "Seeking Kin" column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. BALTIMORE (JTA)-Judith Mertz still recalls plenty of the Indian words she learned from her friend Miriam El- Chai when they were high school friends in Israel and embarking on teaching ca- reers together. And when Mertz next makes one of her frequent trips to Israel, she expects to see EI-Chai for the first time in a half-century. "I always tell my family about my Indian friend," she said. "I remember lots of words she taught me." E1-Chai, a native of Cochin, India, grew up in Kfar Hasidim and Rechasim, villages east of the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Mertz, whose parents emigrated from Egypt and Libya, was raised in the Tel Aviv-area town of Bat Yam. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the girls - then known as Miriam Efrayim andYehuditChatab-became fast friends while attending Ohr HaChaim High School, a haredi Orthodox boarding school in Bnei Brak. When they graduated and enrolled in a monthlong teacher- training program in Tel Aviv, E1-Chai lived with Mertz and her large family at 10 HaH- alutzim St. The new teachers embarked on their careers together, working at a school in the Upper Galilee community of Yuval, along Israel's border with Lebanon. But then they changed jobs, E1-Chai mar- ried and the friends lost touch. Five years ago E1-Chai, fondly recalling their youth and grateful for the Chatabs' hospitality, began searching for Mertz--someone "who rests in my soul all these years," she said. E1-Chai heard that her friend had moved to the United States and gave her a call. No one answered, so she left a message. The ringing phone awak- ened Mertz near midnight at her Pennsylvania farmhouse. Her daughter-in-law had been killed recently in a car accident, and Mertz and her husband, Mick, were helping to raise their grandchildren. Her mind wasn't attuned to renewing a long-ago friend- ship, even a close one. Besides, E1-Chai hadn't left a phone number. But when EI-Chai's grand- son, Elad Eliyahu, contacted Mertz recently on Facebook, Mertz confirmed that he had located the right person. She was concerned that his reach- ing out meant somethingwas wrong, that perhaps her old friend was ill. El-Chai is fine, as is Mertz. "She is very special, and her friendshipwas on ahigh level," El- Chai, a retired teacher with five children and 15 grandchil- dren, said from her home in Rechasim. "When I was 18, she took me in to her home. I don't know how we lost touch, but I always wanted to thank her and also to ask her forgiveness for anything I might have done to cause the separation." No conflictwas responsible for their drifting apart, said Mertz, a massage therapist who, like E1-Chai, is 68. While the twowomen spoke separately with "Seeking Kin" in early June, they haven't chatted with each other since the connection's renewal. But they plan to, with each saying she fondly remembered the other over the years. Their friendship resonates, too, with the young man who helped reunite them. "I realized itwas important for my grandmother to find her [friend]," said Eliyahu, 21, who is serving in the Israeli military. "I feel great that I helped my grandmother. She said she'd wanted to close a circle from her youth." EI-Chai also was inter- viewed on the Israeli radio program "Hamador L'chipus Krovim" (Searching for Rela- tives Bureau). The show's host, Izi Mann, asked "Seek- ing Kin" to lend a hand by calling several possible Judy Mertzes another listener had located in the United States. For Mertz, hosting EI-Chai during their training course came naturally. Her parents, Renato and Rachel, seemed to be constantly welcoming relatives and friends into the two-floor home where Mertz ACCI~D Information 866.~12.6655 www.cornerstoneh, www.serio,usill-ness.o /conlerstone MEDICARE, MEDICAID, AND MOST COMMERCIAL INSURANCES ACCEPTED 5019096 OmClNtone HOSP|C:E & p;~LLt;,~I1VE,~RllE ~Vatcr ~oca~, notj~r~pr~Sfi~:Hasp~, ~ice~ ~i~ce 19~. grew up as the youngest of 16 children, several of whom died at birth or in infancy. "We had at least 10 friends stay with us for a year," she said. One of Mertz's friends who experienced problems with her own parents lived with the Chatabs for three years. "At dinner, it was never just my parents and me," Mertz recalled. "Always there was someone at the table." The open-door policy con- tinues at Daisy Field Farm, the Mertzes' property in the Pocono Mountains, where the couple runs a horse-riding academy and wildlife roam. Their daughter's friend lived there temporarily because of problems at home. "If someone says they're go- ing to Israel and has nowhere to stay, I tell my family to host them. I have family from Metulla to Eilat," Mertz said. It's a clan of approximately 250, a staggering number that a niece and nephew are trying to make order of in a family tree. On her visits to Israel, relatives fight good-naturedly over hosting Mertz. Next trip, as always, she'll spend time with her remaining siblings, sisters Victoria, 93, and Miriam, 91. And she'll see EI-Chai. "I love Miriam Efrayim," Mertz said."Ifwe get together, we could sit a whole week and not cover everything." If you would like "Seek- ing Kin" to write about your search for long-lost relatives and friends, please include the principal facts and your contact information in a brief email. "Seeking Kin" is sponsored by Bryna Shuchat and Joshua Landes and fam- ily in loving memory of their mother and grandmother, Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong uniter of the Jewish people. Lawmaker: kidnappers are not terrorists Knesset Hanin Zoabi JERUSALEM (JTA) -- An Arab-Israeli Knesset member said the kidnappers of three Israeli teenagers are not ter- rorists. "They are people that can- not see any way to change their reality, and they are forced to use these means until Israeli society wises up a bit and sees and feels the suffering of the other," Hanin Zoabi of the Balad party said Tuesday in an interview with Tel Aviv Radio. Zoabi participated in the May 2010 flotilla to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and was pun- ished by the Knesset Ethics Committee for her actions. She was aboard the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which nine Turkish passengers were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos. Several Israeli lawmak- ers called for Zoabi's arrest on charges of incitement to violence or terror, and for her removal from the Knesset. "Not only are the kidnap- pers terrorists, Hanin Zoabi is a terrorist, too," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said following the interview. Aday earlier, Zoabi had lev- ied harsh criticism against a teenage relative, Mohammad Zoabi, who posted a video on YouTube calling for the release of the kidnapped Israeli teens and showing his support for Israel. The video was in Eng- lish, Hebrew and Arabic. Police on Tuesday arrested three of Zoabi's relatives from Nazareth for threatening Mohammad Zoabi. Ever/doy thot you're outside, you're exposed to dongerous, but invisible, ultroviolet (UV) sunlight. Left unprotected, prolonged exposure to UV radiation con seriously domage the eye, leading to cotorocts, skin cancer oround the eyelid ond other eye disorders. Protecting your eyes is important to maintaining eye heolth now and in the future. Shield your eyes (and your family's eyes) from harmful UV rays. Wear sunglasses with maximum UV protection.