rrelatively speaking
Margitte, 75, and Uri, 49. Photo by Ilya Melnikov
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Relatively speaking mother and son
Margitte and Uri, 1964.

Birth:

Margitte was born in 1936 in Copenhagen; Uri in 1963, in Magdiel.

Home:

Margitte lives in a town house in Kfar Vradim, Uri in an apartment in Tel Aviv.

Extended family:

Uri is divorced. His brother, Eli, 53, is an expert on water systems. His sister, Dina, 48, works for kindergartens as a consultant. Uri's son, Roi, 19, is a soldier and his daughter, Yasmin, 16, is a high-school student. Margitte has eight grandchildren.

On the way to New York:

Margitte's father was born in Warsaw, her mother in Berlin. Copenhagen was a stop on the way to New York, which was the target destination of her father and his parents. However, their money ran out and they stayed in the Danish capital. In 1943, when Margitte was 7, the Jews fled from their homes and the Danish underground hid them for a time in hospitals before smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats. (Some 8,000 Danish Jews were rescued, and only 500 were deported to the Terezin ghetto. ) The Danish neighbors looked after the homes of the Jews and they were restored to their owners immediately after the war.

Coming to Israel:

After completing her matriculation exams, Margitte went to Israel for half a year, attending an ulpan - intensive Hebrew-language course - at Kibbutz Sdot Yam. "When I started to date non-Jewish boys, my father took fright and asked a cousin of mine to take me to a Zionist youth movement," she says. "I decided to fulfill the ideas I learned there. My friend Moritz, who became my husband, came to me here and we stayed in Israel for eight months. We went back to Denmark and I went to a college for kindergarten teachers. Life in Denmark was tranquil, and we were also well off economically, but what we experienced in Israel was far more interesting. We took baby Eli and immigrated in 1961."

Having children:

They settled in Magdiel and then moved to Ra'anana. Moritz, who died seven and a half years ago, found employment as a mathematics and physics teacher in a Hod Hasharon boarding school. Ra'anana was still a small village. "People heard I was a teacher and said I should open a kindergarten," Margitte recalls. "I told them there were no children, so they said they would have some. I opened with my own two children, Uri and Dina, and another boy. It was not an ordinary kindergarten, but it lasted 18 years. The children had many levels of freedom. On Fridays we baked challah and welcomed Shabbat."

Sabra envy:

Margitte wanted to integrate and be part of the Israeli ethos and everything it represented, but was unable to shed her Danishness. "We were invited by friends and I said I wanted very badly to feel that I belonged to Israel. Then someone said, 'You have no idea how lucky you are that you can be both Israeli and Danish. It adds another dimension.' I didn't get it at the time. The sabras know each other from the army and the youth movement, and I felt like an outsider."

Uri's birth:

"He was like an angel. I experienced the birth more positively than the first one. In Denmark I was left to give birth alone, but here everyone enveloped me in love and I was terribly happy. After his sister was born he behaved like a classic middle child: nothing was good enough."

A pale child:

"Mother arranged photo albums for us, and under each picture she wrote a story in Danish," Uri says. "A few years ago, at my request, she made me an album with a translation into Hebrew. She described me there as a happy child who almost never cries and who sleeps a lot. After my sister was born, she wrote, 'Uri has changed; he is pale and cries a lot.'"

Uri at school:

Not outstanding, Uri says - middling. After a year in high school, he switched to the school in which his father taught. "I didn't get along well with the teachers in Ra'anana," he says. Margitte remembers that his teacher said she wanted a boy with answers, not one with questions.

Danish nose:

An old Danish saying has it that one should not lift one's nose too high. Which is why in the Sheftelovitz household there was no pressure to learn and excel; no one checked homework and there were no restrictions on freedom of movement. "I didn't have to say where I was going or when I would be back," Uri says. "I had an Iraqi friend whose mother used to run after him with a sandwich, a vegetable omelet and a banana, and I was really envious. My mother would say, 'I make one meal, in the evening; if you want lunch, make it yourself.' I even made sandwiches for school by myself. But for my father she made sandwiches."

Work ethic:

"We did not lack for money at home, but we were the last family in the neighborhood to get a television, a car and a phone," Uri says. "From a very young age, when I asked for pocket money I was told, 'Go and work.' I did babysitting, gardening and washed the neighbors' cars. In the summer I worked at the Tel Aviv zoo, cleaning cages and feeding the animals."

Rebel with a cause:

When Uri was a teenager, Margitte says there were "very difficult periods when he was very angry at us. He closed himself off and did not want to share anything with us. I didn't really know why, because we never opened it fully." Uri: "Why was I angry? My father was a difficult man, angry and silent. He was frustrated. He chose mathematics and physics, but that was not what he really liked. As a result, it was totally clear that I was going to do only what I liked."

The army:

Uri was drafted into the naval commandos, but removed himself ("because of unrequited love" ) and completed his service in the combat engineers' reconnaissance unit.

Salmon in Alaska:

After his discharge, Uri went on a trip to the United States with his sister and stayed to work on a fishing boat in Alaska. He then traveled in China and returned to Alaska for a second and third season of salmon fishing. Back in Israel, he studied biology at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva and completed his studies at Tel Aviv University. "In my third year I met the woman who became my wife, Tami, a stained-glass artist, and we went to the Orient. We sold pictures in Japan and backpacked in India. But I didn't know what I would do when I grew up."

Not by bread alone:

As the son of a woman who baked challah with the kindergarten kids, Uri decided to investigate the subject. "When no one was home I would play at being the cook, the waiter and the diner, and make myself a meal," he recalls. "Because of the opposition my father aroused I went to the feminine side. There was also a period when I knitted." In the 1990s, Uri and his wife went to Denmark, and Uri enrolled in a baking and pastry school. After completing his studies, which included an apprenticeship in leading Copenhagen restaurants, he took advanced studies at Lenotre in Paris and learned about the secrets of sugar in Switzerland. Returning to Israel in 1993, he worked for the caterer Ran Shmueli. He later connected with the owner of the Arcaffe chain and set up a food line for them: sandwiches, cakes and bread. Ten years ago, after another trip to India with his wife and children, he opened a bakery in Tel Aviv called Lehamim (Breads ). He now has branches at the Farmers' Market in Tel Aviv Port and in the Carmel Market.

Bucket of water:

Even as a baker, Uri remained the perpetually-unsatisfied boy. He saw the loaves that got burned and not the ones that came out well. One day, he found himself at a self-awareness workshop and stayed to listen. "Suddenly I could see the thread that passed from my parents to me in its negative contexts. It was very hard. I felt as though a bucket of water had been poured over my head. Within a day, residues connected to my father rolled off me; it was like removing 20 kilos from my heart. It was also clear that the story with my mother was not over, that I had not forgiven her. I was always ready to pounce on her and was angry at her for not protecting me from my father's anger."

Something that was left unsaid:

"Now I can say that I have forgiven her," Uri says. Margitte: "It was very hard for me to hear that."

Regrets:

"I did what I knew how to do," Margitte says, "and all I can say is that I am sorry he dragged it with him to this day and needs therapy." It took a long time before Uri was able to differentiate between his parents as a poster-like concept in his consciousness, and flesh-and-blood parents. "I understood that my mother was not all white and that my father was not all black," he says. "Nowadays I can look at the places of nothingness and remain alive."

Reflections in the mirror:

"Uri is creative, like me, and has similar tastes," Margitte says. Curiosity and searching - those are the qualities Uri thinks were passed on to him by his mother. "To leave everything that is familiar and known in Ra'anana and move to Kfar Vradim, to start over - that is not self-evident."

Nerves:

"She doesn't always listen," Uri says. "She is very occupied with herself, and outward appearance is very important for her." Margitte thinks the same about her son: "I start to talk and he stops me; he doesn't have the patience to hear me out."

I will never be like my mother:

Uri: "At home everyone laughed at me for once saying, 'I never got anything.' My parents used to say, 'With us everyone gets the same.' I will never say anything like that to my children. Or to my employees. Every child and every person has different needs."

Fantasy:

Margitte had no pie-in-the-sky fantasies. All she wanted was to stand out and excel at something. "To a degree, I excel at what I do and I bring a great deal of happiness to people, and that is sufficient for me." Using crochet, Margitte creates large works of art. She has participated in many exhibitions and runs a group "for people who know how to work with a crochet hook and want to leave square frames behind." At the age of 16, Uri worked in the first tea house in Tel Aviv and dreamed of having a similar business one day. "It's not the ringing of the cash register that makes me happy, but working with the bread, which is something that touches almost everyone. My fantasy now is to open a branch in New York." He will work on the harmonious family fantasy later.