Last week I had the most amazing opportunity to introduce two impressive women. One on a quest to discover her heritage, and the other struggling to maintain a long family history.
Daniela and Margalit come from two different worlds but share a deep love for the Jewish people.
Daniela was born in Lisbon, Portugal. She left the country at the age of 18 and moved to Germany, the place her father called home until 1939. She married and has two grown children. Her father never hid the fact that he is Jewish but it never carried much meaning. It was as if he would say ‘I’m blond’. Now, at 50, she is starting to find her Jewish roots and tracking down long lost family through Facebook.
Margalit Zinaty is 80 years old. She has lived all her life in the upper Galilee in the village of Peki’in, predominately Druze. She lives in the same house that belonged to her parents, her grandparents and even her great grandparents. According to Margalit and important historians, the Zinaty family has never left this home. They were never exiled like the rest of the Jewish nation. They have always been farmers on the land they inherited.
I first learned about the magical story of the Zinaty family when I discovered an old book in my mother’s library. The book was called ‘The People of Peki’in’ by Rivka Alper and was first published 52 years ago, the year I was born. This book tells the story of Yosef and Saada (Mazal) Zinaty and their two children, Shaul and Margalit. They were the only Jewish family living in this remote mountain village, surrounded by Druze and Muslim Arabs. They struggled to keep alive the Jewish heritage in the village and maintain an ancient synagogue, frequented by tourists and visitors.
My mother used to tell me stories of the unique experience she had as a teenager, arriving in the village during a hike with the Zionist Youth Movement. She would recount her story to me of meeting Saada Zinaty in the mysterious and ancient house of prayer. She would tell me the story of Margalit, a woman that never married or had children, and lived alone in a house that was passed down over the centuries.
Her story fascinated me. Margalit is a strong and opinionated woman that does everything she can to keep alive the once striving Jewish community of Peki’in. In her efforts, she even became a play actress!
I took Daniela to see Margalit tell the story of her life in a play written by Uriel Rozenbaum. Uriel arrived as a traveler in Peki’in some 13 years ago at the age of 25. He was mesmerized by this brave woman living all alone in a Druze village. He was also struck by the ancient synagogue; it’s state of neglect and a complete lack of state resources to keep the story alive. So Uriel decided to do something about it.
It was a remarkable experience being able to introduce Daniela, an exile with little knowledge of her Jewish roots, to Margalit, a woman who’s family had never been uprooted from the land of the Galilee.
Stay tuned for Uriel’s story next week.