Sasson: In the early 1970’s I was nominated head of the Hamburg branch of Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal), the official fundraising organization for our beloved motherland, Israel. The organization was established in 1920. The funds it raised helped build and develop many settlements as well as some cornerstone institutions such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bank Hapoalim, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the funds serve for immigration absorption, Zionist education in the diaspora, and social assistance programmes for underprivileged communities or at-risk individuals in Israel. It also took (a ﬁnancial) part in most of the rescue missions for Jewish communities abroad.
Keren Hayesod established its Young Leadership division in 1971, when the original leadership became, well, old, and they wanted to ensure that there would strong, young leadership who would continue this truly blessed work. The Young Leadership program centered on education and training, and through the leaders — developing and deepening Jewish identity, knowledge and understanding of Israel, as well as participating in actual campaign work.
Money is important, but another important goal was to strengthen the bonds between young Jewish leaders throughout the world, and between them and the people of Israel. As part of this goal, Keren Hayesod organized “Yachdav 77,” a mission of 280 young leaders from all over the world who traveled to Israel in July 1977. I went on this mission with my best friends Mouris Nassimi and Nejat Hakakian, the representatives of Keren Hayesod Germany. We visited important places like the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, Massada and the Good Fence in Metula on the Lebanese border; on the other hand, we went to see Kibbutzim, Moshavim, as well as some of the deprived communities we were helping. We met many important people, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Ephraim Katzir. But for me the biggest honor was meeting the IDF Chief of Staff, Mordechai Gur, a hero of the Israeli army.
Sasson: One day we toured in Jerusalem during the day, and during the whole tour, Hakakian kept telling us that he knows Jerusalem like the back of his hand, and there are wonderful nightlife places he’d like to take us to. We decided that after the official tour we would go together to “paint the town red.” The tour was over, we were all ready and excited to go with Mr. Hakakian to places that men like. We took a taxi, and he mentioned some name in the old city. He gave the driver directions, told him to turn right here and left there, and we went around and around, took all kinds of turns, realized we’re going in circles, and he couldn’t ﬁnd the place! After an hour and a half we said: “You know what? Take us back to the hotel.”
We came back to the hotel exhausted, without any nightlife! Since then I never took Nejat Hakakian seriously again.
Meanwhile, my poor wife was suffering in Hamburg.
Gollar: It was 1977, my parents and sister were already in Switzerland, and Sasson went to Israel. I was so mad at Sasson for leaving me alone! And if that weren’t enough, Allon was a very heavy baby. While carrying him around, I got a ruptured disc, and couldn’t move. My grandmother was with me to help me with the three children, and I asked my housekeeper, who helped me during the day, to stay longer hours because I couldn’t move. But my grandmother was old, our housekeeper couldn’t stay for 24 hours, 8 year old Nani was physically too small to help — she was a just a skinny child, 9 year old Isaac helped as much as he could, but that was not a lot. I tried to call Sasson, but couldn’t reach him. I called my father-in-law Aziz in Israel, but he said he hadn’t seen him either. After a lot of trying, I ﬁnally got hold of him. It turns out he was playing cards with Nassimi, Hakakian and Soumikh the whole night, every night, and that’s why they were not available in their hotel room (hard to imagine, that was before mobile phones)! During the days they went on tours with Keren Hayesod, and even on the tour bus they would play cards. Even his father didn’t get a chance to see him! As soon as I got hold of him, I told him of my condition and urged him to come home immediately, but he didn’t!
I didn’t know what to do. I was lying on my back, heavily medicated, and couldn’t move. I didn’t call my mother because my father also had back problems, and was in the hospital. I tried to manage, and apparently survived to tell the tale, but it was extremely difficult. Sasson came home only at the end of the planned Keren Hayesod trip.
When he came home, I was so furious! I gave him a piece of my mind: “Look at what happened — you were absorbed in playing cards, while I was helpless here!” And I told him that I forbid him to play cards ever again.
Sasson: I now feel terrible for being such a horrible husband at that time. I understood immediately how wrong it was of me to play cards on that trip and forget everything, so I stopped playing. However, it took me time to realize how badly I had been treating Golli, and correct my ways.
Gollar: When we had ﬁghts, I would always tell him “you’re right” in order to ﬁrst calm him down. Then, after a couple of days, I brought up the subject again, this time in a calm manner. Each of us would say what had upset him or her, and we realized who was wrong this time. With these calmer conversations, we learned how to live better with each other.