Mother and Son – Like Brother and Sister; Meet Uziela and Doron

Aviva Lori
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Aviva Lori

Uziela was born in 1932, in the American Colony on the boundary between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Doron was born in 1951, in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood.

Uziela (her parents called her that because they wanted a boy, whom they would have called Uzi) lives in an apartment on Vitkin Street in Tel Aviv; Doron lives on the same street, three buildings away.

Extended family:
Uziela’s husband, Tom Heiman, 83, is a philanthropist and the president of the Buchman-Heiman Foundation. Doron’s wife, Tammy, 53, is a film producer. They have a daughter, Shir, 28, who has an M.A. in decorative arts from the Wallace Collection in London (the museum runs a joint degree program with the University of Buckingham), and works for a company that seeks to reclaim Jewish art objects that were plundered by the Nazis. They also have a son, Amit, 14.

Tel Aviv mecca:
Uziela’s parents, Sara and Yitzhak Buchman, immigrated to Palestine from Russia in 1923 and settled in one of the wooden houses in the American Colony of Jaffa. Her father afterward built a home in the Bauhaus style in the Florentin neighborhood, which is still standing (corner of Jezreel Valley and Abarbanel streets). He established a business dealing in sacks and ropes, and later a textile plant. Her mother worked with him, becoming a well-known personality. “She was a wily businesswoman and was known throughout the Middle East,” Uziela says. “She traveled from Damascus to Cairo by train, selling the family’s products to factories and getting to know all the businesspeople of the time. Our home became a mecca. My father built a large synagogue for Rabbi Frankel across from our house, and all the country’s leaders came to us to celebrate the Jewish holidays and for the Simhat Torah festivities. They sat on the verandah and partook of my mother’s dishes Eshkol and Rabin and Peres and Dayan and all the mayors of Tel Aviv, from [Haim] Levanon to Chich [Shlomo Lahat], all dancing there.”

In 1942, Uziela’s mother created a fund that gave charity in secret, to assist refugees from Europe and in particular solitary women who arrived in Palestine destitute and wanted to establish a home in the country. “She made a deal with my father, according to which five percent of every sale he made went into her fund,” Uziela says. “She arranged marriages for the women, saw to it that they had housing, and helped in every way she could.” Doron, too, was active in his grandmother’s charitable work as a boy. “She sent me to people on holidays to distribute food packages secretly and sometimes also money,” he says. “She was very well known all doors opened for her. She would get up in the morning and call everyone in Tel Aviv and no one could resist her.”

Marriage by law:
Uziela attended Gymnasia Herzliya, the iconic Tel Aviv school, and was commander of the Scouts and the Gadna Youth Battalions there. “I was the only girl in the course at Jouara,” she says, referring to a Gadna base, “and in all the vacations I was in army courses.” But she did not serve in the army. Instead, she met her first husband, Amos Kochavi, whom she married over the strenuous objections of her parents (who apparently thought he wasn’t good enough for her), who almost cut her out of their will. “I did it to show them that I would do what I wanted and precisely because they were so opposed to that marriage,” she says. “I was enrolled in the law faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but my parents said that if I married him I could forget about law school, and they stopped paying my tuition.” Uziela made do with Seminar Levinsky, a teachers’ college. When she was 26, she received an offer to establish and manage a school in Jaffa for new immigrants and disadvantaged children. At the same time, she obtained an undergraduate degree in educational management and afterward a master’s in educational psychology. After she divorced Kochavi, her mother left her the foundation in her will, and it became her major life project. It assists outstanding art students, at-risk children, underprivileged Ethiopian children and Holocaust survivors.

American aid:
One day, 42 years ago, a photojournalist from New York arrived in Israel to interview the principal of the Jaffa school. “It was a very romantic story,” Uziela says. “He invited me for a meal, we sat and talked, I was 38 and he was 42 and divorced, and had an apartment in Tel Aviv. That’s how we connected. My mother was sick in the hospital at the time, half paralyzed, and he sat by her bed and said he would take responsibility for supporting the foundation and that it would continue to operate. He is from a very rich family in the United States, whose ancestors were Reform Jews in Germany. Afterward he invited me for a weekend in Italy. He proposed in Sorrento.” Tom is now the major donor of the Buchman-Heiman Foundation.

Doron’s birth:
“I will never forget it in my life,” Uziela says. “I was in labor for 55 hours in a hospital and the whole of Tel Aviv heard my screaming. My mother rushed to all the rabbis to help him come out, but he didn’t want to. In the end I had a C-section and a beautiful baby came out.”

Doron in school:
Doron was a good student, Uziela says. She never helped him with his homework, was never summoned to school because of bad behavior on his part, and heard no complaints from the teachers about him. “I didn't have any tutors,” Doron says, “and that is a lesson I pass on to my children.”

Rebellion with a cause:
Doron was a good boy. He did not slam doors and did not listen to loud music without headphones. There was only one time that he manages to dredge up from his memory. “I was 16 and I wanted a moped. That was the cause of a serious confrontation that went on for a year.” “Ah, it was nothing,” Uziela says now. “We just didn’t speak for a few days.”

Doron was a career-army officer in the 8200 intelligence unit.

Tel Aviv-Los Angeles:
Doron has a handsome collection of academic degrees: undergraduate degrees in sociology and economics, along with master’s degrees in law and business administration. In addition to running a law firm which specializes in real estate, he is active in dozens of public organizations. Naturally, he is an executive in his mother’s foundation and also manages a fund that assists young theater actors. He met his second wife, Tammy, who is American, in New York in 1990 over sushi at a time when he didn’t even like sushi. He was on a father-daughter trip with Shir and wasn’t thinking about dating. “A friend invited me to dinner and said there would be a very nice girl there from Los Angeles and that we would have sushi,” he recalls. “I told him I didn’t eat sushi and I was completely focused on my daughter. But he nagged me so much that I finally agreed to come for an hour, and in the end I ate sushi and met Tammy.” For more than two years they only corresponded. She then came to Israel with a film she had produced and their relationship changed. There were a few more trans-Atlantic flights across a few years before Tammy decided to move to Israel and they were married.

Reflections in the mirror:
Despite the many similarities between them they are both perfectionists who do not brook shortcuts and are straightforward, warm and unostentatious Doron comes up with at least one difference: “She is warmer and more sensitive than I am. I am colder, because of my accursed profession.” Uziela sees in the two of them a seismograph for human problems and a shared powerful need to help others out of the goodness of their heart.

I will never be like my mother:
“In certain things,” Doron says, “I do not accept her naive outlook or the fact that she does not know how to give herself credit.” And do you give yourself credit? “Not so much.”

Lots. Doron recalls one of the fiascoes of his life. “On a trek during a Gadna platoon commanders’ course, in summer vacation after the ninth grade a very difficult course that lasted two months I suddenly see her emerging from a field, the lady. My mother drove out in her red Simca to see if I was still alive. No other parent showed up during the whole time. She really shamed me.” And there’s more: Both of them get seriously irritated over exactly the same things. He thinks she is too responsible and centralized in her work and that she drives everyone crazy, especially him, so things will run efficiently. A bit nagging and opinionated. Boy, is she opinionated. Uziela returns the compliment: He is very obsessive in his work, she says, is an incorrigible “centralist,” is incapable of taking a break, doesn’t know how to enjoy a vacation, and in short is a workaholic.

Doron regrets having been an only child, though it wasn’t his fault. “I would have been happy to have had a brother or a sister.” Uziela, after giving the matter deep thought, arrives at the conclusion that she has nothing to regret. That, all in all, she was a pretty good mom.

Most important in life:
For Uziela it’s work, her life project and family. “It’s nice to be honored,” she says, “but in my work I have achieved maximum self-fulfillment.” Here too they are alike. “Apart from my family,” Doron says, “what is most important in this life is giving and public activity.”

Uziela had a fantasy that came true: to pull people in her wake through the energy she radiates. As a youth, Doron sang the Israeli song “You and I will change the world,” and meant every word of it. He wanted to become a social or political leader. “I would be very happy if I could change things here,” he says.

Uziela Buchman-Heiman and Doron Kochavi.Credit: Ilya Melnikov
Uziela and Doron, 1956.