PETER THE DIRECTOR
Peter was an inspired director, much admired in Israel. In fact, he was gifted in whatever he undertook..including cooking, painting, design--he would say that if he hadn't made his career in the theatre he could have been a Rabbi or a Psychologist. I think he could have done anything. I learned so much from him during the 21 years of our marriage.
When we married in Israel, I was 45 and Peter was 56. He said that we had waited so long that he would take me on a honeymoon every month. One month we went to stay in a Kibbutz Guest House in the Carmel Mountains. We arrived after the dinner hours in the evening, but we were hungry and they sent us into the dining room saying they would find something for us to eat. The only other people sitting in the dining room were three Germans, and of course Peter got into conversation with them and asked them to join us. They were members of a German-Israel friendship group, and were on a Christian pilgrimage. It was their first night, and the 3 were not together. The 2 ladies were teachers. The man, probably in his 40s, was changing careers. He had been in Insurance all his life and was studying to be a priest. Peter asked: "What is the difference??" He answered: "Not much. But now I have only one Client!"
We liked them so much, we invited them to visit us at the end of their tour, which they did. They came for lunch, and we thought it would be nice if they met other local residents. We invited close friends--an American couple, she an anthropologist, he a physicist. And a friend from our block of flats, a man, originally from Poland, with a number on his arm, a survivor of Auschwitz. It was clear that everyone got on very well with each other.
Suddenly Peter said: "I've had an idea. If you agree, I would like to do one of my acting excercises with you." He chose 5 of us...the anthropologist, the priest, one of the teachers, Anne, the Auschwitz survivor and me. He told us we could do what we liked, go where we liked, drop out if we liked, but we were allowed to say only one word: THANK YOU. It started slowly, but became an outpouring of affection as people hugged each other, sat on the floor together, danced together....THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Until Anne ran out from the room onto the balcony in floods of tears, and Peter stopped the exercise.
Peter ask us to describe what the experience had meant to us. When it got to Anne, she said that on the tour, they had been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, and as a Christan German she had been broken with grief and guilt at what her people could have done to the Jews, and to have the chance to say "Thank you" to a Holocaust survivor was overwhelming, which is why she had run out in tears. Then Simcha, the Auschwitz survivor, said that never in his life did he think he could ever talk to, much less say "Thank you", to a non-Jewish German. There followed such a joyous love-in, and the Germans insisted we all meet again the following evening, their last evening in Israel. There were gifts, letters, phone calls from them after their return, and I have remained friends with Anne to this day. She is the friend I went to Hamburg with last April (see 2009), she became a headmistress, and on her retirement has spent 2 years as a volunteer in Auschwitz.
It was an experience which changed us all.