Last Friday, at a dinner following a funeral, I met a young woman with a remarkable story. A friend introduced the young woman to me, saying he thought I would be interested in listening to her amazing tale. I noted with curiosity that the young woman, fair skinned and blue eyed, had a last name of distinctly Middle Eastern origin. She looked to be in her late 20’s.
She began her story by explaining that her mother is an American citizen, but her father was from Jerusalem. He is essentially unknown to her, having left mother and child when she was about four months old, and he never contacted either of them again. As a child, she was told that he was from Jerusalem. She knew nothing else about him.
For many years she tried to find out something about her father. By the time she reached her 20’s this had “become an obsession.” Unfortunately, her father was an illegal immigrant and had left no paper work behind. So there was no way for her to trace him. She went to great lengths, anything she could think of, to find out something about her father, including hiring a private investigator. Nothing came of her efforts. Still, she was driven by this deep desire to learn of her family origins and the identity of her father.
About two years ago, after considerable preparation, she made a trip to Jerusalem, continuing her search. At the hotel where she was staying, she told someone about her journey, perhaps an odyssey, to find her father and his family. A suggestion was made that she visit Old Jerusalem, which she did.
As she walked along the street she saw a shop selling photographs, scenes from the city of Jerusalem and nearby countryside. She loved the pictures and selected many. When she made an attempt to pay by credit card, the owner said he had no machine to process it. He asked her to go to the merchant next door who would take care of the transaction.
Walking into the store, the young woman decided to ask this merchant an important question. Repeating the name of her father, she asked the man if had ever heard the name, adding, “Is it an Israeli name or is it Palestinian?”
For a moment the shopkeeper stared at this fair-skinned American woman, and then, seeing something familiar in her face, he exclaimed, “I translated the letter you wrote to your father.”
The young woman protested saying she had never written a letter to her father. Then she remembered something her mother had said about her father having other children. She suggested that the letter may have been written by a half sister, whom she had never met and only barely heard of.
The merchant insisted he was on the right track, exclaiming, “I’m your cousin!” Then he picked up his telephone. “And I’m going to call your uncle.”
She continued to resist, pointing out that they hadn’t yet proven she was part of the family. However, the shop keeper was adamant. “Why, you look just like your father,” he asserted. “There’s no mistaking the similarity between your face and his.”
The uncle hurriedly came to the shop. “The resemblance is unmistakable!” he shouted with glee. “We’ve found his daughter.” Embracing her, he told her gently that her father had passed away a few years ago. She was deeply disappointed, but delighted to have found this connection. She was soon taken to the uncle’s home and family members began to gather. In a matter of no time she was surrounded by a house full of relatives. Among other things, she was given a chart showing her ancestors back to the 12th century. The quest was over and has just begun.
A year has passed since that remarkable day in Old Jerusalem. She made a return trip a few months after the first trip and by now has met three uncles and an aunt, all siblings of her father, and about thirty cousins. Today, she’s back in the US and is corresponding regularly with several of her newly-discovered relatives.
Thomas Edison said, “Restlessness is discontent. Discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man [or woman] and I will show you a failure.”