In Memory of Sylvia Mandelbaum
By Shifra Shomron
Once she gifted me with an elegant wallet. It was black leather with golden clasps. I thought it very handsome, but I was a mere teenager and didn't feel comfortable accepting it from an elderly lady. But she insisted I take it. And being Sylvia Mandelbaum, she won her point. She nearly always did… She was a determined person. Spunky too. She fell in love with Gush Katif when on a tour there at an advanced age ("my age is nobody's business but my own") and moved there. In the early days, while her villa was being constructed, she lived in a caravan adjacent to my family. And she determinedly brought back floor tiles for her house in order to move the building process along quicker.
Her Neve-Dekalim villa-neighborhood house was lovely. She had long, colorful, glass-stained windows, the house was spacious, and the furniture nicely arranged. Her garden was a dream. A well-kept lawn, large sweet-smelling rose vines, tall mimosas and several fruit-bearing tangerine trees. In the villa neighborhood the children all affectionately knew her as 'grandma' – a fact which filled her with pride. She would regularly host spaghetti dinners in her garden for them so their parents could rest from cooking. Sylvia laughed telling me that the mothers would show their thanks by sending her portions of the meals they made. Sylvia was amused saying that she certainly enjoyed the Israeli cooking, but what she enjoyed more was having the young children around her…
She had a fascinating history. Since I know I won't possibly do it justice, I'm quite reluctant to even try. She started by designing shoes. She told me that she was very good at it. But she didn't remain at that job. She married, she had children, she moved to California (for the climate), she was a real estate agent, later she made Aliyah and she also wrote many articles over the years and authored books. She also introduced Gishur (divorce by mediation) in Israel which is quite a feather in her cap. I'm convinced I don't know all of it. Despite my willingness to listen, she wasn't one to dwell much on the past – she was interested in the present. She listened to the news and kept herself up to date. And when the Disengagement Plan first breathed air she was very worried as to the future of the nation, and as to her own future. She had reason to be.
When I first started writing articles she insisted on reading them. She told me I was lucky; that I had discovered very early in life where my talent lay. And to my great embarrassment, she insisted on my autographing for her every article I wrote.
Mrs. Sylvia Mandelbaum has passed away today.
It is three years to the expulsion of Neve Dekalim.
She was buried in Jerusalem at 3:30 this afternoon in Har HaMenuchot, at the entrance to Jerusalem.
And what remains to me are memories of an ardent Zionist and independent thinker. She was certainly an activist and a doer in her lifetime. And I continue to fondly use the wallet.
Shifra Shomron is the author of the historic novel, Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim, (Mazo Publishers, 2007).
"Travel beyond time and beyond location – into my Gush Katif"
Visit Shifra's website: www.geocities.com/nevedekalim