To me, she is that photo. That one photo, where she looks so satisfied. She is younger than I am, but to me she’ll always stay older. She is my grandmother.; the mother of my father. Without her I wouldn’t be here. And I don’t know her. She is a mystery to me. A young woman with a sad story. But she is more than that one photo and a tragic story. Who was she? How come she made a decision that ended her life so young? And do I look like her?
She was only nineteen. My father was her first, and eventually only, child. Right after she gave birth she got pregnant again and decided to have an abortion - a decision that would end her young life forever. A decision that ended in a family drama with lasting consequences.
My father grew up with his grandmother and would later find out who his real mother was. This left a major impact on him. This troubled childhood affected his life, despite all the love he received. They didn’t speak much about his mother, my grandmother. There is only one photo of her and a story of her death where the word ‘abortion’ is very present. That’s all there is, we don’t know more of her. But there are people, my family, that were there when it happened, that experienced this consciously and can tell us who she was and why she wanted to do this abortion. That can tell us exactly what happened, but we have never truly asked. Before it’s too late, before my grandmother really dies forever, now is the time, sixty years later, to get the answers.
We will take you on a search, lead by me, where we will look for a woman whom not much is known about. The search will lead us from the Netherlands to Israel, the place it where it all happened sixty years ago. We will meet all the family, everyone in a different town, everyone with a different story. Our journey will take us further to Boston, USA, where my uncle who experienced the family drama from up close now lives, and can share with us the details that my father and I desperately need to know. We will end our trip with my uncle in Toronto. He should have a suitcase with him, with all her information inside. The content of that suitcase is never been seen by us, the offspring of Safta Judith.
It will be a journey where we will experience a development of identity, where we will get into a family drama, where we’ll go back In time to fix a mistake that was made sixty years ago, where we will learn about being woman and choices that can change our lives forever.
As long as I can remember, my grandmother Safta Judith, without really being there, played a big part in my life. She was that beautiful woman on that one photo we have with that satisfied smile. She was a Tunisian Jewish woman who immigrated to Israel, she died way to early, a big loss. Her story caused a lot of confusion when we found out she didn’t die of a stomachache like they always told us, but abortion is the cause of her death. She only is that one photo and an incomplete story.
But who is she truly?
For me, she has become that photo. Often I see myself in that photo. I have her eyes, I think. I’m looking for myself in her.
But there is more than that photo. There are stories! Stories my family can tell us. Stories that till now, never have been told. Stories that were locked up in living rooms for sixty years. Stories that now, before it’s too late, must be told. Before my grandmother dies with the rest of the family, I want to know who she was and what happened to her. I think I have that right. For me, but also for her. She can’t disappear in a mystery,
The world where she died in seems so far away from mine. That part is still unknown to me. As a modern, western, Dutch woman, I want to discover that mysterious Jewish - Arabic world where we come from. I want to understand that world. I want to get closer to my roots, closer to my family. By looking for my grandmother I want to get closer to myself.