Vikings, Germans, Italians in Galilee

31 Aug

The year: 1970

The place: Northview High School, Covina, California.

I’m seated on a green lawn under a tree.  It’s lunch time.  Students line up to get burgers and fries.  Originally from Israel, it’s my second year in California, more specifically, Covina, some 25 miles east of Hollywood, in smoggy San Gabriel Valley.

Doretta with her daughter Angela and her son-in-law, Stefan

Doretta with her daughter Angela and her son-in-law, Stefan

The school’s mascot, the Vikings, is painted on the school wall.  I bite into my tuna sandwich and watch the horns on the Viking’s helmet.  The Vikings crossed the Atlantic to America centuries ago.  As a 15 year-old, I’m in a new land as well. Behind me, I hear a lively conversation.  It’s not the content, but the heavy accent that catches my attention.  It’s foreign.  Foreign?  Could there be another “alien” on campus besides me?

Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

I turn around.  A girl, blond, is seated cross-legged, hippie-style.  She’s talking to another girl. They giggle.   “Hello,” I offer.

The blond girl introduces herself: “I’m Doretta.”

I tell her and her friend my name.  I soon realize she’s not American. “Where are you from?”

“Roma, Italia,” she says.  She detects my accent, most likely.  “And you?”

“Israel.”

And so began a friendship that spans more than 40 years.

I later learned she was an exchange-student for the year.  Her friend Beverly was her American host.  Doretta was a Junior then; I a sophomore.  During the school year we hung out together, spoke of our “Mediterranean” background, marveled at how Americans were strange yet wonderful.  We spent some weekends together playing tennis, eating fast food, lounging by the swimming pool in my apartment complex.  1970: Funny bathing suits.  Chlorine.  Weird hairstyles.  Rock and Roll.  Big cars.  Smog.

Bride and Groom in traditional Moroccan costume

Bride and Groom in traditional Moroccan costume

And then it was over.  She returned to Italy at end of the school year.  A year later, in 1971, I returned to Israel.

For the next three years we became the best of pen pals; she in Rome, I near Tel Aviv.  We sent each other long letters, colorful postcards from our travels, gifts, record albums.

“Surprise! I’m coming to Israel,” she announced in one of her postcards.

Doretta arrived in the summer of 1974 with her friend, Claudia.  I had them over my house, took them to the beach, to the south, to the north, to Jerusalem.  They then decided to tour the Dead Sea on their own.  Doretta sat at a bus stop, saw an Israeli soldier in uniform, fell in love.  Must be something about uniforms and guns that make women swoon.

She went back to Rome only to pack her things, and returned to Israel, to her man, David.  Doretta, a Christian, converted to Judaism, studied the Torah inside out.  She’d become Jewish.

Who was have guessed?

In 1982 I attended her birthday party in Israel.

I did not see her again until some 13 years later, in 1995.  My wife Pnina and I vacationed in Rome.  I told her about my childhood friend.  I reached for the hotel phone book and looked up Doretta’s maiden name, thinking I’d call her mother and tell her to say hello to Doretta in Israel.

Bride and Groom, Prince and Princess for the Night

Bride and Groom, Prince and Princess for the Night

“She’s in Rome,” her mother told me.  “David and Doretta have been in Rome for many years.  They have a daughter, her name’s Angela.”

We rushed out of the hotel and met up with them, spoke about old times.

Three years later, they came to visit us in Los Angeles.

Fast forward to 2013.  Doretta’s on the phone with me.  “Angela got married in Germany last month, to a German, but we’re throwing a wedding party in Israel in August.  You must come!”

And here the story came full circle.  Again I attended a wedding, this time her daughter’s, not half a mile away from where Doretta had wed 30 years earlier.

David, a Moroccan Jew, held the wedding party at Marrakesh, a Moroccan restaurant.  Most of the guests were his extended family and friends.  The groom, Stefan, and all his brothers and family came from Dortmund, Germany.

Doretta watches belly dancer move

Doretta watches belly dancer move

It was the most unusual party starting with Doretta, an Italian who’d become Jewish; David, an Israeli of Moroccan extraction, and a bunch of jolly Germans drinking and dancing to the sounds of Moroccan love songs, shrill cries to welcome the bride and the groom, drum beats, an alluring belly dancer, gold-laced costumes and fez hats from Casablanca.

I looked about the room.

No Vikings.

Moroccan Belly Dancer

Moroccan Belly Dancer

What started out as a casual talk in California by a timid Israeli boy with a good-looking Italian led decades later to a multinational, transcontinental fiesta only writers come dream up.

So, what do you think?  Was it all a random, chance encounter or was it destiny?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

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13 Responses to “Vikings, Germans, Italians in Galilee”

  1. Sandy Galfas August 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Not sure whether it’s fate or not, but it looks like everybody’s having a great time. Here’s to a small world where we all get along. Sandy

    • Maurice Labi August 31, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      It’s only one of many such stories where people hitch up for no known reason. Thanks, Sandy

      • Meg September 1, 2013 at 5:34 am #

        Hey Maurice:
        What fun! & What friends!!! You know the saying “the student finds the teacher when he/she’s ready” – well, I believe we are lucky enough to have people enter our lives for a purpose; sometimes good, sometimes bad but always an experience. I’m glad I met you & Pina. Cheers, Meg

  2. Mark August 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    How twist and turns take many of us to our destinies. It’s the journey that’s so wonderful.
    Mark

  3. Rachel August 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Love this story. Small world, indeed!

    • Maurice Labi August 31, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Hi Rachel, good to hear from you, always

  4. rachel bar August 31, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    What a great story! Luck? Destiny? Coincidence? Serendipity? I say all of the above.

  5. Adi Harari September 1, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    Lovely story about Doretta Maurice. And what happened to Claudia?

    • Maurice Labi September 1, 2013 at 6:34 am #

      Hi, Adi, I’m glad you had the chance to meet them years ago.

  6. DORETTA COCOZZELLO September 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    HI, THERE…I’M DORETTA AND I CAN SAY THAT THIS STORY IS TRUE AND VERY VERY REAL… THANKS TO MAURICE THAT IN FEW WORDS HAD DESCRIBED A BIT OF MY FAMILY LIFE THAT IT SEEMS A LITTLE COMPLICATED AND FOR SURE NOT BORING.
    I THINK THAT OUR LONG LASTING FRIENDSHIP IT WIL LAST FOR EVER AND HE WILL ALWAYS BE ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS EVEN IF MANY KILOMETERS HAS TOOK US APART ALL ALONG THIS YEARS.
    MY FALMILY AND I ENJOYED SO MUCH HAVING THEM TO SHARE THE MAROCCAN WEDDING OF MY DAUGHTER ANGELA.
    TO ANSWER TO ADI: CLAUDIA IS STILL ONE OF MY BEST FRIEND HERE IN ROME WHERE I ACTUALLY LIVE.

    • Maurice Labi September 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      MIlle Baci, Doretta. Forward the story to your family in Germany!

  7. Stefan Philipp Meissner September 3, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Maurice,
    Angela and I just read the story.
    And you know what…
    In written words it even seems unreal for us, too.
    Before reading we just thought about the miracle or destiny??? That Angela and me met and fell in love.
    The Ruhr university bochum in general and a dusty bar, where hectoliters of cheap beer is been drunk, specifically, is not likely a usual Place where beautiful female exchange students from Roma hang out.
    And to complete the story with my parental generation…
    It is also random that my parents left beautiful Bavaria because of job possibilities and moved with me to the dirty, polluted, industrial Chile mining Ruhr area 600km northwest.
    No matter how long you think about…
    And we do since the last 8 years 🙂
    It is still a miracle or destiny for us that we arrived at our own wedding party where family and friends from different countries with different ethnical and cultural backgrounds and five different spoken languages came together to party.
    Did we improve Babylon? 🙂
    Your story brought it all up and goes straight to the heart.
    Thanks for being part and write about your experience.a piece of common memories.
    Angela and I really appreciate this.
    WE’ll pass the story forward…

    • WALLY September 8, 2013 at 2:09 am #

      HI MAURICE.
      SO MANY STORIES ABOUT LIFE ETC START OUT LIKE YOU TELL IT PEOPLE MEET ANYWHERE AND YEARS LATER END UP GETTING MARRIED ETC –IT IS ENDLESS–HOWEVER I AM INTERESTED ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON AT THE HOME FRONT IN REGARDS TO SYRIA ETC ETC –LOOKS LIKE YOU WILL BE BROUGHT INTO THIS MESS WITH NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN–LET ME KNOW IF YOU GET A CHANCE .

      FONDLY
      WALLY

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