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  • Writer's pictureIris Saraf

My Grandmother Tova

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

My grandmother Tova was the living spirit and glue of the Reinharts family. She directed with a lot of wisd

om the whole tribe. A warm woman involved in the lives of everyone around her, family, friends and everyone in the village. She knew how to give everyone the feeling that they are unique and special, and that they have a corner in her heart, a corner that is only theirs

I had the privilege to grow close to this incredible woman Who loved to read, talk and listen. Who knew how to show love and care. Teach values of work and family, mostly through personal example.

On the Seder morning I walked along the Eucalyptus avenue to Grandma and Grandpa. The eucalyptus boulevard of Bustan Hagalil is long, high and dense. Shimmering sun, caressing wind, leaves rustling the story of the peaceful village on the beach. The only time I was allowed to help Grandma at her house was on Seder morning. I mean, Grandma's house is always brilliant in its cleanliness, but there are things to do only on Passover and Rosh Hashanah, for example, to clean the lampshades. And that's my job. only mine, always has been only mine. I recognize the importance of the job, but know that the speed and quietness with which I will work is no less important, because what is cleaning lampshades compared to Grandma's cooking. It is known that grandmother Tova is the best cook in the whole Galilee, and perhaps in in all of Israel. Her Krepplach, Gefilte fish and cakes are also famous beyond the Western Galilee. We, the family, had the privilage to eat from the delicacies she prepared whenever we wanted, but despite the accessibility to Grandma's magical kitchen, we all waited for the Seder, because the Gefiltefish had a special taste then, and the soup was even more fragrant than usual. As if reading the Haggadah and the story of the Exodus from Egypt only praised the food that was waiting in the kitchen, and brought out the best in it. I remember my grandmother Tova, a hard-working woman who did not rest for a moment, mostly in the kitchen. I think she spent most of the day there. For Passover, she cooked three days in advance, and even on the night of the Seder, she would cook the delicacies until serving time. Every year, Grandma would sit down at the seder table, the last to sit, of course, and see us all silent and busy with the plates in front of us. Instead of starting to eat, she would lean back in her chair, turn her eyes around at all of us, sigh a small sigh and mutter quietly: "Amechaye!" When I arrive, Grandma is busy cooking and has no time for me, just a hug and a kiss. Grandpa is already waiting for me in the dining area. I skip from the chair to the table. Grandpa keeps me from falling and I clean the lampshade. Then move on to the living room. All of us: the table, the chair, Grandpa and I. When I finish my chores, I say goodbye to both of them quietly. "Thank you Meydalle, I will see you at noon. Come early this time, okay Shushiniyu?" At noon I return to my grandmother's house, sometimes alone, sometimes with Danit, my cousin. This is a time when magic happens: in Grandma's little house I prepare the table for the holiday. The table crosses the house, starting in the living room and continuing almost to the kitchen. The sitting arrangements are fixed: "up" in the living room, grandfather sitting with Yigal's family opposite of Bilha’s family; "down" next to the kitchen, sits Grandma, Arik's family opposite of Danny's family, which is my family. Other guests are sitting next to their closest. Grandma announces, "This year there will be thirty-two people." First of all, as a prologue, I get on the kitchen table, reaching for the top cupboard on the right. This is the Secret stash of Passover. From there I take out and hand over to Grandma anxiously cardboard boxes with plates, a box full of wine glasses, a box of cutlery and a box of serving utensils. We do not open the boxes, we have a lot of work to do until we get to them. Second, we connect all the tables in the house, opening them to the maximum: the large and wide dining table "up" in the living room, next to Grandpa, and the small, narrow kitchen table, "down" next to Grandma. In the middle, the medium balcony table. Occasionally, as in that year, additional tables were needed, which Dad brought from the farm. Grandma goes back to the pots and pans, and I continue to prepare the table: after the tables are connected, I compare heights between the tables by tucking books under their legs (FYI: the most suitable books for this Delicate work are Erich Segal's "Doctors" series). The tablecloths are spread out on the tables: a new, bright, white tablecloth "up", on the big table, followed by a white tablecloth, with some stains from last year; Another tablecloth that was once white and saw better days than these, and finally a yellowish tablecloth, covering the little table, "down" by Grandma and my chairs. Now it's time for the complex and creative stage, where I am required to combine my sense of aesthetics with the love of crossword puzzles: how to make a festive and charming table for thirty-two people, using a variety of plates and cutlery from remnants of various utensil sets? This year has a surprise for me: already on Rosh Hashanah, Grandma came to know that on Passover a new set of glasses will be needed. That Rosh Hashanah, we, who were sitting "down", were drinking from tiny glasses of liqueur, which did not really fit the wine, so Grandma prepared in advance, and for Passover she bought twelve new wine glasses. When I opened the boxes I saw that it was not just clear and thin glasses of wine that Grandma had bought. No, she chose straight and upright goblets in a fiery red color, standing on a transparent leg. These were the most beautiful glasses I have ever seen. Excited I turned to make my craft: I mixed all the plates I had taken out of the boxes, with the napkins and flowers I had added, and created a festive and colorful harmony that adorned the holiday table. Throughout the years the large and beautiful glasses of wine were "up", the usual drinking glasses in the middle, and "down" the small and low glasses left over from various purchases over the years. But this year, so I decided while preparing the table, it will do historical justice: the large, transparent wine glasses will be "up", while the new, most beautiful red glasses I have seen in my life will be "down". I added saucers with salt water, a plate of Passover, a glass for Elijah with a turquoise stone set in the center. Last, I placed Haggadahs on the plates, each one and the Haggadah that suited him. When I finished, I looked fascinated at the beautiful table, adorned with fiery spring flowers, colorful napkins and red wine glasses, and it seemed to me that they were all singing together a famous song for the holiday: "Great joy, great joy, spring has come, Passover is coming!". I called Grandma to inspect the holiday table wonder. Grandma left the pots and wiped her hands with a towel. She also turned towards the set table and exclaimed aloud: "Oh, Shushinyu, what a beauty! More beautiful than last year, how floral, it's great!" Then she fell silent, her hands stopped at once and she moved her head from side to side in increasing movements: "What's that Irisl, why the new glasses down here? Replace them to be up, now!" "But Grandma, it's not fair! They always get what's new and we're always with the ugly plates and the glasses, for once we deserve to drink from the new glasses, why not?" Grandma flatly refused: "The new glasses will go up, to Grandpa. There is nothing to talk about!" I actually did speak, rock-hewn speech, about fairness and justice, and a sense of deprivation of years. Grandma faces my fury for a long time until finally she said "Do what you want" (Yiddish meaning: Do what I want and pretend that this is what you wanted in the first place). But I did not change the place of the glasses, I really did what I wanted, and left the table as is. Happy and cheerful I returned home to shower and put on new clothes. By evening, Grandpa and Grandma's house was already full with the smell of cooking. Bilha was already there with Amir and Neta (they always come first, because Yehuda wants to pray in the village), Yigal and his family also came before us. "Happy holiday!" "Happy holiday!"

The little house was filled with peop

le and great joy. Kisses and Hugs. Danit and I compare dresses, sharing a sweet sec

ret, Yaniv and a blue-eyed Amit cuddle with Grandpa and roll with laughter, "Grandpa, will you help us find the Afikoman?" From Tel Aviv, Moshe, Grandma Renia and little Alon also join in. Grandpa receives them with a blue smile full of pride, and Grandma with a big we

lcome and open arms.

Then we start the Seder.

Yehuda reads: "Kadesh, Rechatz, Karpas, Yachats" And then we sing. Pour the firstwine glass, and to my amazement I see that Grandma changed the glasses! She moved the red glasses "Up", and we were left with the regular, everyday glasses. "But Grandma, why? Didn't you tell me to do what I want?" "Irisl, this is how it should be, even if you do not understand why, now leave it and sing Meydalle, sing" I've never drank from those glasses at Grandma's holiday table. The red glasses, the most beautiful I have seen in my life, were packed all year round, while on Passover they were meant for the "Up" table only. Every year I tried to convince Grandma so the glasses would be down; And every year, on Seder night itself, the glasses were up.

After Grandma passed away, Yigal said that whoever wanted could take a souvenir from Grandma's house. Yaron took the pan of the schnitzels, Yigal kept the blue iron ashtray and I asked for the red

glasses. Yigal said he could not find red glasses in Grandma's house, and I asked him to go up to the upper cupboard on the right, where all the Passover vessels that had not been used for more than twenty years were. Since then, the red glasses are with me in Jerusalem, in the glass cabinet in the living room. I use them a lot, not for drinking but for serving personal desserts to my guests. My guests, most of whom have not met the legendary cook from Bustan Hagalil, receive the dessert and say: "Beautiful! These are grandmother Tova's red glasses!" And I lean back in my chair, turn my look around to my friends holding the most beautiful glasses I have ever seen, sighing a small sigh and saying to myself quietly,

" A m e c h a y e ! "

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