FULL CIRCLE: Escape from Baghdad and The Return
- T R E A T M E N T -
BAGHDAD, June 1st, 1941
Night. A little girl, Berta, is standing on the flat roof of her house, looking up at the stars, while the other members of her family sleep nearby, inside the house. Her attention suddenly is drawn to a distant, orange glow lighting up part of the horizon. The glow is coming from the city’s central business district, where the Jewish and Muslim communities abut each other. As she watches, the glow gets brighter. Now she can hear sounds. Distant gunshots. Mobs screaming and shouting.
Pro-Nazi Arabs are attacking Baghdad’s Jewish community, killing, raping and burning. It is the start of a pogrom that will last almost three days and later become known to historians as the Farhood, an Arabic term meaning “violent dispossession.” For Baghdad’s Jews, who have lived in Babylon and now Iraq for more than 2,600 years, the Farhood will be their “Krystallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass.”
As the glow in the sky gets brighter, Berta goes inside her house, wakes her father, Silas, 38, and asks him what is happening.
Silas, his wife Salha, and their other children, Berta, age seven, Yedida, age five, Saul, age three, and Yeftah, age one and a half, jump out of their beds and rush out to the edge of their roof, which faces Baghdad’s downtown area. Silas’ eyes and the eyes of the other family members are all transfixed on the glow.
British troops not far from the outskirts of Baghdad also are watching the glow. They have just recently defeated the German forces in Iraq and caused the collapse of Iraq’s pro-Nazi government. People plead with them now to go into Baghdad and stop the slaughter. But a senior officer responds that the British government does not want its forces to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. The problem, he says, must be handled by Iraqi troops loyal to Regent Abd al-Ilah, who have just returned from exile.
Silas and his family members watch as the glow spreads from block to block and creeps toward them. Silas leads his family into his bedroom where they all climb into his big bed and cling to each other and pray as they watch the fires and destruction creep closer.
By mid-afternoon of the third day, the wave of destruction finally is ending. The Kurdish division of the Iraqi army, sent by the Regent, moves into the city and sweeps the neighborhoods, rounding up those responsible for the pogrom. One soldier is stationed in front of Silas’ door.
The carnage of the Farhood is horrific: 180 Jews dead, 240 children orphaned, and 2,120 people wounded. Countless numbers of women and girls have been raped and kidnapped. Babies have been disemboweled right before their parent’s eyes.
The dead are collected by the government, and eventually, all are buried in one mass grave. The Iraqi government severs all diplomatic ties with Germany and is now protected by British forces.
An uneasy peace settles over Baghdad. Silas returns to his work as a railroad official. The Jewish community revives and recovers. But tensions and distrust between many Jews and Arabs remain strong even after World War II ends.
Silas’ children, however, manage to have reasonably normal childhoods in post-war Baghdad. Typical scenes:
- Saul and his oldest sibling, Berta, walk down the street on a hot day. An elaborate horse-drawn carriage, which is a common type of transportation next to automobiles and taxis, passes by. The carriage is beautiful with leather seats, comfortable cushions, doors on both sides and candle lamps in front. Saul motions to Berta to follow his lead. He runs over to the carriage and hops onto its back axle to hitch a ride. Berta chases after him and does the same. He giggles and tells her they can use their bus fair money to buy treats. This is a happy day for the children.
- The family bathes in public at the steamy Turkish Bath. This is a twice-a-month, customary practice for every family of means in Baghdad. Saul, still a small boy, joins his mother in the women’s section on the right. Though they are fairly modest at home, the public baths are not places for shyness. Women of every age, shape, and ethnicity walk around and bathe completely naked, washing their breasts and private parts without any regard to young Saul’s presence or other young boys there, too.
- One day while Berta is babysitting Saul and his siblings, Saul, a little too curious about electricity and how the outlets work when you plug things into them, decides to take one of his sister’s hair pins and stick it into an electrical outlet. He gets the shock of his life, is thrown 10 feet across the room and left barely breathing. He is rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The next day, when he is back at home after nearly dying, his father says, “If you’re so curious about electricity, maybe you should study to be an electrician when you grow up.” Saul promises to consider the idea.
A few years after the Farhood, Silas and his wife make it a point to explain to their children the plight of the Jews and how their ancestors had been brought out of Israel in bondage to Babylon 2,600 years ago. They tell them that many other Jews had immigrated to other countries and lived well for a time. Then, they were expelled from their homes, finding yet another county in which to live, but never really feeling at home. Silas and his wife then pledge to their children that someday they will return to their old homeland, Israel. There, they vow, they will live in freedom and pride, without any fear.
BAGHDAD, May 15, 1948
It is the day after Israel has been proclaimed a nation. Middle East nations are declaring war on Israel and sending forces toward Palestine to take it back for the Arabs. The small, ill-equipped country has only Israeli freedom fighters from its underground to mount any kind of defense. However, these brave fighters will overcome the Arab forces.
The beginning of this war brings new anti-Semitic tensions and dangers for Silas and his family. But their troubles really are just beginning.
Upon the return of the Iraqi army, defeated and humiliated, the government tries to appease their Arab population by blaming their army’s defeat on Jewish Zionist “spies.” They turn anger toward the Jews within their own country. The government begins compiling lists of the richest and most prominent Jews in Iraq. These Jews are rounded up and jailed for treason. Their property and possessions are confiscated, and many Jews are sentenced to public hanging, a spectacle the Arabs enjoy.
Saul is shocked to learn that 23-year-old Yehuda Saddik, a close friend of his family, will be hanged. Silas takes Saul down to the city square to witness the execution. “No matter what happens, you are not to show any emotions,” his father warns him sternly. “No crying, no shouting, nothing, until we get back home.”
A few months later, Silas’s name appears on the blacklist. He cannot continue to work in his government job, so he stops going to work. Not knowing how long he can live without being discovered, Silas wonders how long it will be before he is hanged like other Jews. Since Jews are forbidden to leave Iraq, Silas tries to figure out how he can escape. It is becoming apparent to Saul that if his father and their whole family cannot escape, at least some of them should find a way to Israel where they will be safe.
An aunt, who lives on the other side of a bridge, gives Silas and his family shelter in a place known as Bab-el-shargi. They are treated well and housed and clothed, and the children are sent to nearby schools. They stay there for three months until Silas finds and rents a small apartment for them to live in.
Saul and his siblings befriend other Jewish children in the building. Saul’s mother befriends a woman next door, and this gives her someone to talk to. The only way for them to find information on Israel and its dream of statehood is to listen to Kol Israel, the voice of Israel’s broadcast on shortwave radio. This is considered treason and is punishable by death if they are found out. Silas gathers his family inside a closet, with blankets thrown over their heads to muffle the sound. They listen for 20 minutes at a time, and these secret radio sessions bring particular hope to their family.
Silas and his wife decide that they must save some of their children by smuggling them out of Iraq to the promised haven of Israel. Silas chooses his two oldest sons, Saul and Yeftah. He then makes contact with some members of the Zionist underground, and tells Yeftah and Saul that they will be leaving one day soon but he does not know when. They are not to discuss this matter with anyone, even other family members.
August 12, 1948
One hot summer evening around 8 o’clock, when Saul is doing his homework, he hears a soft knock on the door. It is his father, dressed in his usual English-tailored suit and conservative tie. He looks grim as he sits on the edge of the bed. “Saul, my son,” he starts, in a quavering voice, “It’s time to get ready. You know what I’m talking about.” He cups Saul’s face in his hands, a single tear welling in his eye. “You and your brother are leaving tonight. You will join a small group of people, starting a long journey toward the state of Israel, our promised land, the land of our forefathers.” “So soon?” asks young Saul, a look of fear in his eyes. “Yes, Saul, tonight,” answers his father, knowing how his young son must feel.
Before Saul leaves that night, Saul’s father signals for him to follow him into his bedroom, a place he is rarely allowed. Silas points to the bed and tells Saul to sit down because he has something very important to tell him. Saul does as he is told, not knowing what to expect. “As you know, we paid a great deal of money to the Arab guides who will lead you and the others across the border into Iran. Of course, we don’t know these people very well. That is why they are not to be trusted. We don’t know what to expect from them. They could take our money and lead all of you into a trap. If that should happen, you would all be caught and shot on the spot. Then, the authorities would seek out the families of everyone who attempted to flee and execute them, as well.”
Saul shrugs, pretending to be brave. His father smiles and goes on. “You know our history well, son. I’m proud of you.” He pats his shoulder, and then adds soberly, “We will have no contact with one another till we meet again someday in the land of Israel, God willing. It may take years. But we need to know that you and your brother made it across the border.” He then reaches into his pocket for something. He opens his hand out to reveal two marbles. “Look, here are two beautiful glass marbles. One has your name inscribed on it, and the other one has your brother’s. These are not for you to play with. You must keep them hidden. One is for you, and one is for your brother. When you make it safely across the border, I want you to give them to one of the Muslim guides, saying to him, ‘Here, take these marbles back to my father, Silas Fathi; he’ll reward you handsomely if you do.’ When the marbles are brought back to us, we will know that you are safe, that, at least, you have crossed the Iraqi border alive.”
Saul swallows, then asks: “But, dad, what if only one of us makes it alive across the border?” His father stands up suddenly, and then just as suddenly pulls Saul against him, burying his face into his stomach. He finally says, “Then, my dear son, give the guide only one marble to bring back to us.” He pushes Saul away to look at him. “You will have to give one of these marbles to your brother, to keep in his pocket, so that whoever survives will be able to give his marble to the guide. But, don’t give the marble to your brother just yet. He is so little. He can’t keep a secret like this. But, you are older. You’re a man now. You have a great sense of responsibility. I know I can count on you.” He offers Saul the marbles again. “Here, keep them inside your jacket pocket, and put your handkerchief over them.” Though Saul is only 10 years old, he realizes his father thinks of him as a man of great responsibility, for he truly becomes his brother’s keeper. Saul regains his composure and says, “O.K. Let’s get going.”
Silas walks his son to the front door where his mother and sisters and brothers are waiting for him. Suddenly, a thought occurs to Saul. He runs back to his room, closes the door behind him, and pushes the night table beside his bed away from the wall. On the wall he writes: “I left my room today, perhaps forever, August 12, 1948.” He restores the night table to its original position, covering the note on the wall, and dashes back to join the rest of his family near the front door. The family says their goodbyes, and Silas tells his sons that this is as far as they can go. They are on their own from here on out. Seconds later, Saul and his brother sneak out of the house and are taken into a crowded car and pulled onto the laps of people they believe are strangers. They drive off into the dark night not knowing what awaits them.
Three cars are involved in their caravan travel through the city. Each maintains their distance of at least 100 yards apart. To the boys’ surprise, two familiar faces grin at them. It is their Uncle Moshe, who is nineteen, and Uncle Salman, who is seventeen. To stifle any surprised cries of recognition, the uncles put their hands gently over the boys’ mouths, but keep grinning at them. Saul looks around to notice that two other children are in the car, a three-year-old and an infant, held in the laps of their parents who both keep the children’s mouths covered with their hands. A man about 40 sits in the front next to the driver. The silent car speeds onward into the distance.
The cars arrive in Basra, Iraq’s main seaport, eight hours later. The cars stop in front of a house, and one by one the passengers are rushed into the house’s basement. For sixteen days and nights, Saul, Yeftah and the others live in the cramped basement, talking only in whispers. Then, an Arab guide finally meets with them. He tells them to be completely quiet throughout the entire journey that night as they cross the river into Iran. He says that if the border patrol notices them crossing the river, they will shoot them and sink their boats. The crew is split up into two groups, and they are told to lie down at the bottom of rowboats and not make a sound during their journey. In Saul’s boat, he and the others all lie squished together on cushions with little room. The man and woman from the car are next to them; the woman keeps her hand over her children’s mouths to make sure they don’t cry or speak. Just one little sound could get them all killed.
When everyone is on board, the boat owner signals with his hand to the other boat. They began to row, slowly at first, then faster. Danger hangs in the air all around them. Then, just as they come to the middle of the river, it happens: Out of the infant’s muffled little mouth come cries of discomfort. The boat owner waves his hand, trying to get the baby’s mother to shush the unhappy child. Soon, others in the group begin to whisper to the mother: “Hey, quiet. You’re going to have us all killed.” The whispers soon rise and profanities are used, creating more noise than the little child’s cry. Spurred by fear in the voices of the others in the boat, the baby’s father reaches over and covers the mouth of the three-year-old. The mother then uses both hands to silence her infant. With a hand over its mouth and another on the back of its neck, she silences the infant. The baby’s cries have stopped, and it is quiet again. The panic is over, or so they think. Suddenly, bullets whiz over the boats. The sides of the boats are thumped dully as bullets are embedded in the wood. Instead of maintaining their silence, members of the group start yelling and praying aloud. This only helps the border patrol correct their aim. The more the adults scream and yell, the more bullets hit the boat and pass over their heads. The owner of the boat yells at the group, telling them he will throw them all into the river and that they are going to get him killed and get his boat sunk. This fortunately stuns the adults into silence. Everyone huddles together, crying and praying in silence, trying to save themselves, unaware of the other boat’s fate.
When the boat finally nears the far bank of the river, Saul, Yeftah and the others all scramble out into the water, running toward the shore and collapsing onto the sand. They are alive and safe and out of the nightmare in the water, and for this they are more than grateful. Soon after, the group from the other boat joins them. They are loaded into an open-bed truck like cattle and dash through the desert toward the interior of Iran, away from the border patrol and the gunfire.
The mother of the infant, realizing that her infant is dead, has a hysterical breakdown in the back of the truck, calling out to God for what she has done. Tears fall from the others’ eyes as well. All feel ashamed and guilty for what they said earlier in the boat. An hour later, they are left in the desert in the darkness with one of their guides. The guide tells them that they are safe now and will soon be honored guests of his friends, the Bedouins, who will offer them food and drink and a place to sleep for the night.
In less than an hour, several Bedouin men appear out of the darkness. They lead the group to a cluster of tents amid some cows, lambs, and camels. The guide has his teenage son dig a grave for the dead infant. He offers the family his condolences and tries to coax them into burying the baby. “No! Please don’t make me leave my baby here in the desert. I can’t!” screams the mother. Her husband hugs her and tells her it’s the only thing they can do, and finally convinces her. Later that night, the guide tells another man that he must leave now; they are all in good hands.
As the guide is leaving, Saul knows he doesn’t have much time. He whispers in his brother’s ear for him to give him his marble. Yeftah puts his hand inside his pocket but is surprised that no blue marble is there. “I can’t find it,” he says meekly. “You must find it,” says Saul. But his brother cannot. Saul quickly takes out a pen from the inside of his jacket and writes his brother’s name next to his own on his marble. He hopes the ink will hold. He runs after the guide and grabs his arm and very quietly says, “Take this marble back to my father, Silas Fathi, as a sign that my brother and I both survived. He will reward you handsomely when you bring this to him.” The guide takes the marble, examines it closely and nods. “I will take it to him within three or four days. I promise.” He gives Saul a small smile, then turns and slips away into the night. Saul looks back at him with an unsure look, not knowing whether he can trust this man, and remembering his father’s warning.
In the morning, a truck comes to pick them up and takes them to Ah-bah-dan, where they will board a train to Tehran. In Tehran, they arrive at a refugee camp where young children from all over the world have been gathered for an organized trip to Israel. Saul and Yeftah remain there for three months, until the day of relocation arrives. They are driven to the airport in several buses and put on an unmarked Constellation airplane. As the plane takes off, all of the one hundred and fifty passengers clap their hands and sing their favorite Hebrew songs. The guides tell them that they will not be flying over any Arab country, and the flight will be four to five hours. They touch down at Lud Airport (later renamed Ben Gurion Airport). They step off the airplane, and all kneel down and kiss the ground. They are young Jewish children, home at last…
Saul’s young uncles, Shlomo and Moshe, take him and his brother to live with their Uncle Yehuda and Aunt Ruthi. Yehuda and Ruthi become responsible for the boys. Yehuda owns a restaurant and Ruthi is a most popular and quite famous fortune teller in her area.
For nearly two years, Saul and his brother cannot make contact with their Iraqi family. But Saul learns that his father is on a list of prominent Jews in the country who have been sentenced to be hanged. Not knowing if his father is still alive, he prays for him daily, along with all other enslaved and persecuted Jews still in Iraq.
After six months of living with Yehuda and Ruthi, Saul and his brother decide to run away and hitch a ride to Tel-Aviv. They are caught by authorities and sent to Tiv-On, a children’s camp in a beautiful region on the Mount Carmel range near Haifa. They enjoy it there and live with displaced children from around the world whom find peace with each other’s company. Three months later, the boys are divided into groups and sent to different destinations in Israel. Saul and his brother arrive in Kibbutz Ma’anit. They are met by a man named Murdi who tells them that they will have a lot of fun here and will work a little and learn many things. He will act as their supervisor and teacher and a substitute father. He tells them to come to him with their problems or anxieties--he can help them. Here, they learn to speak Hebrew. Saul is given a horse which he takes care of. The horse is named Malchik. Before Malchik, Saul had never touched an animal of any kind, much less ridden and cared for one. He surprises himself one day when he learns to gallop. Malchik and Saul share a beautiful, happy, and mutually beneficial relationship. Murdi suggests the children all write letters to their families and loved ones, even though there is no way to deliver them. The children feel good about this, it allows them to vent their anger, express their love, and even whine a little. Saul begins to write a diary and swears to make a daily entry, no matter what.
IRAQ, August, 1950
Two years after Saul’s and Yeftah’s escape, Silas and his wife are permitted to register to emigrate from Iraq, as long as they sign papers renouncing their citizenship and all claims and possessions. They also have to promise never to return to the homeland where they were born. They fly to Cypress and then Israel, with their remaining children, plus two boys the ages of Saul and Yeftah that they have gotten from a local orphanage. They have done this not only to hide the fact that they had permitted their sons to escape, which they would have been punished for, but also to help the orphans to have a new life in Israel.
One day while Saul and his brother are doing their daily chores at Kibbutz Ma’anit, they are called to the office. Murdi sits behind his desk with a big grin on his face and tells them that their parents and siblings have arrived safely in Israel. And they have found Saul and Yeftah by searching government archives that said they had been placed at this Kibbutz. Saul hugs Yeftah very hard at the news. His parents arrive two hours later. They have a joyous reunion. Saul is ecstatic during their conversation. “Did you get the marble we sent? Did you read both names on the marble? Did you believe the guide that we both survived?” His parents admit that it was hard to trust the guide. They sometimes lost faith that their two boys were alive and cried in their beds. “The important thing is that we are now all together,” his father says. “Safe with our own Jewish people--back to our ancient home. I am so happy.” He looks at all of them. “No one can hurt us now.”
Soon after this day, they all move to another nearby camp. Saul visits the library five miles away in Rehoboth. He parks his bike and goes inside; this is a place where he will now spend a lot of time. He says hello to Mrs. Newtoff, a woman who has taught him to love books. She is only five feet tall, walks with a cane, her back hunched over. To him, she is beautiful because of her intelligent and well-read mind. She will be waiting for him with a new stack of books; history, poetry, philosophy, and classics, the types she knows interest him.
Saul passes an entrance exam which allows him to study and work for the Israeli Air Force Academy of Aeronautics at a military base in Hatzor for four years, specializing in aircraft electronics. His cousin Yeg-Al studies at the academy with him.
At the end of their training, they are issued impressive certificates of completion and given recommendations for jobs. Saul is hired to work as an electrician at the Sukrer Power Station, the super-secret underground power station that was bequeathed to Israel by the German company Telefunken, as part of a reparations agreement between the two countries after World War II. The power station was built to withstand attacks and air bombardment, with six-foot-thick, reinforced concrete walls and ceilings. Saul is stationed in the ultra-modern control room, where huge consoles are devised to monitor the production, distribution, and maintenance of the power. Millions of feet of wiring are used to accomplish this. Together with eight other technicians, Saul squats under the consoles all day long to wire hundreds of instruments, closely following the detailed and complex original German Telefunken blueprints. The power station is operated 24 hours a day. One particular night, a nice old man with a mop and a broom, Mr. Almuzninoo, clocks in after Saul’s shift, as is his usual routine. His job is to clean the room and prepare it for the next morning. However, the next morning, the man’s wife calls saying her husband didn’t come home the night before. The supervisor asks Saul and the others if they have seen Mr. Almuzninoo or if they gave him any additional chores the night before. “Negative,” they answer. Hours later, the supervisor again asks the men if they have seen the cleaning man. One of the technicians notices part of the man’s broom under his console. “I think this is his broom,” he states. The supervisor then crawls under that console, scans around the space, and suddenly screams. “Oh, my God!” Everyone rushes to see what is going on. One by one, they are shown a pile of black carbon, with visible bones among the ashes. It is Mr. Almuzninoo. The old man had gone into the console to clean the wire debris with a wet mop and was instantly electrocuted. Two hundred twenty thousand volts fired through his frail body.
Next, Saul works at the Israel Electric Company for a little while, and then is transferred to the Weitzman Institute in Rehoboth. He is trained to wire scientific control panels at the new physics research building. At the building dedication, he is in the fortunate position to be close enough to photograph David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, along with one of the great scientific minds in the world, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, who had managed the American scientific team, known as the Manhattan Project, which had developed the first atom bomb. Saul knows that one day this picture will be of historic value.
Saul has a Japanese pen pal named Nagako, from whom he has just received a letter. He shares her letter with his family. His father, Silas, expresses his concern that he fears their pen pal relationship may lead to something else. He tells his son that he is proud he is polishing his English through this correspondence, but says he does not want him to get his hopes up, since his female pen pal lives so far away.
It is September 19, 1958. Saul is 20. Feeling claustrophobic in Israel, he longs to see something other than the buildings he sees every day, new places and new people, but most of all, he longs for adventure. He decides to immigrate to Brazil; a country he believes is one of endless possibilities. Two weeks before he is to leave, he sits his parents down and tells them he has bought a one-way ticket on a passenger ship to Barcelona, Spain. From there, he will figure out how to get to Brazil, some 8,000 miles away.
Saul will be leaving behind his family and friendship and correspondence with Nagako, as well. His cousin Yeg-Al, surprises him by announcing he will be joining Saul on his adventure. They leave by ship. After four days on the open sea, they dock at the port in Genoa, Italy. They are allowed to leave the ship and explore the city. They join a friend they made on the journey. The friend tells them of a palm reader, not too far from the port, who is amazing in predicting the future. Saul laughs, remembering his Aunt’s clever observations of human behaviors. But Yeg-Al wants to see the fortune teller.. After making their way down ancient alleys, they find the fortuneteller’s place. They enter a darkened foyer of an apartment building, and find her sitting behind a tiny table. During Saul’s reading, the woman tells him: “You are going far away. Long time no return, long, long time. But don’t worry, everything all right. You are successful. Make money, but you no go home very long time. This I see, yes? I’m sure.” Saul is amazed at how accurate she is, and her words stay in his thoughts.
In Brazil it is tougher than Saul expected. He struggles with difficulties of finding work. One day while looking for work, he comes across a man who tells him he will pay him a specific amount if he can fix the sign to his store that hangs on a telephone pole. Saul climbs the pole and attempts to fix the sign when he is almost electrocuted. The man pays him a small amount for his attempt, and then Saul is taken home by some of the garage owners who are passing by. That night, when Saul lies down to bed, he feels as if he might not wake up the next morning. He decides to write his last will and testament then and there. He tells his family he is sorry for being so far away and that they should know that he has done a lot of traveling and seen a lot in his young life, and if he dies they should take up a collection in order to bring his body home for burial in Jerusalem. The next morning, instead of death, he is woken by a knock on the door. At the door, Saul finds one of the garage owners who gave him a ride home the previous day. The man offers Saul a job in his garage as a truck electrician where he will earn in one week what most employees in the area earn in a month.
After living and working in Brazil for nearly two years, Saul gets a student Visa and heads to New York where his sister and her husband now reside. There he enrolls in night classes at Columbia University. One night, after exiting a movie theatre alone and opening his wallet to find he only has a few dollars left, he comes across a uniformed soldier surrounded by a pile of books on a long table. Not knowing why, he immediately tells the solider of his problem, he has a student visa but can not keep attending college unless he has the money to pay for it. The soldier says “Why don’t you join the Army? You will be able to stay in the U.S. and continue your education in the service. In fact the government will help you pay for it.” Surprised at what he hears, Saul asks if a foreign student can join. The man tells him where the nearest recruiting office is.
Soon after, Saul is enlisted in the U.S. Army. His first experience in the army is an unpleasant, unexpected physical. He stands in line with other men of all ages, sizes, and races, and is asked to drop his pants. He swallows and then shyly does as he is told. He makes the mistake of glancing over at one of the other men. A big black nurse puts on a glove and then inserts her finger into the man’s rectum. Saul swallows.
At the conclusion of basic training, Saul receives his orders and gets to choose between going to Germany or Korea. At first he is stunned. “What about the college education I was promised?” he asks an officer. The officer tells him the Army delivers what it promises and that Saul will take correspondence courses either from the University of Maryland or the University of Virginia, and then at the end of his tour of duty he can take his exams. Though skeptical, Saul obeys his orders. He chooses Korea over Germany since the Holocaust is still fresh in his mind.
Aboard the military ship, Saul can not resist the urge to get in touch with his old pen pal Nagako. She agrees to meet him in person. Saul is excited to meet her at last. He meets her in Yokohama and they have lunch. She looks different now, bespectacled and skinny in a nice conservative suit. She has trouble carrying on a conversation in English and has to keep consulting her pocket English dictionary for words to complete a sentence. They have to write notes to each other in order to better communicate. Saul promises to write her once he arrives in Korea.
One of the first things Saul learns in Korea is the abundance of available, easy girls. In order to minimize the possibility of catching a venereal disease, the higher-ranking officers “go steady,” with a prostitute who is exclusively reserved for them. The Madam is called the mamma-san. Saul makes arrangements with a young girl, Kim’s, mamma-san so that when he comes over, Kim and he can take a sponge bath and spend the night in her hooch. One wild night, they make love six times. Saul’s energy seems endless, inexhaustible. Kim is surprised, though accommodating. In the morning, Saul discovers bloodstains on his shorts. He is flabbergasted! Could Kim have fooled him? Had she been seeing a lot of other soldiers besides him?? Saul rushes straight to the medic. After he tells him what happened, he examines him and then tells him that he just over exerted himself last night. It is his own blood on his shorts. As Saul leaves, he hears the medic say, “Six times, ha? You devil, you!”
Saul’s life story intrigues reporters from military publications. Three stories on him appear in two newspapers, The Bayonet and Stars and Stripes. There is a picture of Saul in uniform, smiling, on the cover of one of the publications. The article mentions how Saul plans to make the Army his career, and he aspires to become an army pilot.
On his return from the Far East on October 23, 1962, Saul is processed out of the Army and given a certificate of Honorable Discharge. He boards a Greyhound bus to New York so he can see more of the United States. As he sits in the back by a window, he looks out and draws in all the wonderful scenery along the way.
Saul moves back to New York. He gets a job at the Alpha Business Machines as a service manager. After constant persuading by a fellow co-worker, Manuel, Saul agrees to go on a blind date with a young woman named Rachelle. Surprisingly, they hit it off. Six months later they are married. Rachelle’s parents, Saul’s friends and boss from Alpha Business Machines, and his parents all attend.
Years later, Saul, who is now a Technology Consultant to some of the world’s largest trading companies, sits in the beautiful backyard of the nice 4-bedroom home he bought for his family in Long Island with the above average salary he receives from a career that has given him many perks and travels. His wife, his three grown daughters, his son in law, and several family friends fill the yard. A barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers cooking is placed next to a table. Saul’s wife is busily setting the table with plates, food, and silverware. Saul takes a moment to look at his family and friends and smile. He has been to hell and back in his lifetime and is comforted in the fact that he knows he is a lucky man and has been blessed in more than one way. He is eager to discover what awaits him on the road ahead, and though he can not erase the past and it will often bring him memories of pain, he can do his best to teach others of his life experience and all that he has endured, maybe even write a book about it…
Saul Silas Fathi
27 Broadlawn Drive,
Central Islip, NY 11722
Full Circle … Chronicles a prominent Iraqi Jewish family’s escape from persecution
through the journey of one family member: A 10-years old boy who witnesses public
hangings and the 1941 Krystallnacht (Farhood) in Baghdad. After a harrowing escape
from Iraq through Iran, this boy begins a life-long search for meaning and his place in
the world. His journey takes him to the newly-formed State of Israel, then to Brazil
and finally to the United States. He joins the U.S. Army and serves in Korea and returns
to a fascinating career in three Fortune-500 companies. Following September 11, 2001,
he volunteers to work for the F.B.I. Genre: Youth and adult, anyone interested in the
history of the Middle-East, the Jewish people, and Sephardic life under Islam.
410 pages, including 68 photos. (ISBN# 978-0-9777117-8-9) www.saulsilasfathi.com