Batya and Galia Sadan

Aviva Lori
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Aviva Lori


Batya's given name was Beatrice, and she was born in 1946 in Buenos Aires. Freddie Mercury, Susan Sarandon and Donald Trump were also born that year. Galia was born in 1967 on the Upper Galilee kibbutz of Yehiam. That same year, Yael Arad and Nicole Kidman were born, and the first heart transplant took place in South Africa.

Batya and Galia Sadan.Credit: Ilya Meknikov


Batya lives in an apartment in Nahariya, and Galia in an apartment in Tel Aviv.

Extended family:

Batya's husband, Zvi, is a food technician; her brother, David Alberto, works in the Jewish community in Argentina. Her other children are Alon, 42, deputy CEO of a bio-technological firm; Ehud, 31, who is "searching for himself"; and Sharon, 28, studying for an M.A. in special education at the University of Haifa. Itamar, Galia's son, will soon be 6. Batya has four grandchildren.

A show of virtuosity:

Batya's mother, Riva, immigrated to Argentina from Russia. Her father, Raymundo, was the grandson of Baron Hirsch settlers, worked in a textile factory and also had a grocery store. The Jews of Argentina, Batya says, all wanted to be self-employed; like when dancing a tango, every one of them wants to show his virtuosity independently. "Being a salaried worker has low status," says Batya. "It doesn't matter if they own some sort of pathetic stall, what's important is that no one must tell them what to do. I visited Argentina with my husband and we were kibbutzniks at the time. I met my cousins and they bragged that they had businesses and felt sorry for us, the poor, miserable kibbutzniks."

Like in "Exodus":

Batya made aliyah to Israel through Aliyat Hanoar, when she was 16, out of ideology. She grew up in a Zionist home at a time when there was severe anti-Semitism in Argentina. Her mother died at a young age and her father did not send her to a Jewish youth movement for fear that she would go to Israel. "I saw the film 'Exodus' and identified so strongly with it that I told my father I wanted to go to live in Israel." She joined a group of young people from Cuba and Venezuela that went to Kibbutz Yehiam. "There I met Galia's father, who had arrived from Venezuela." Batya studied education at the Oranim teaching seminary and worked as a nursery school teacher on the kibbutz. In 1974, the whole family went to Mexico for two and a half years, during which the parents served as emissaries of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and the Jewish Agency. On their return, Batya did a preparatory academic course at the university and completed her studies as a registered nurse, specializing in intensive care. She then worked at the hospital in Nahariya, and continues to work there on a voluntary basis and also as a nurse on Kibbutz Gesher Haziv.

The army:

Batya served in the Nahal paramilitary brigade; Galia was a munitions instructor and served also as an officer in a ballistics unit near Hebron.

Too much ideology:

In 1993, Batya and her husband felt that kibbutz ideology was false, and they left. "When I understood that everyone gave according to his ability, but received according to how much he shouted, I was very disillusioned," Batya says. The straw that broke the camel's back was the issue of children's homes. Batya was in favor of children sleeping in their parents' home. At first the kibbutz members were opposed to this, but later agreed to it after the homes were expanded and made suitable for children. "Even though there was a decision not to break up the old framework until everyone had an arrangement, soon some of the families did not return the children [to the children's house] on Saturdays and Fridays," says Batya. "Then there were arguments about the fact that one person got something faster, and another got more than others, and I couldn't take it any more. I told my husband that either we would leave together or I would remain an outside resident and pay for my living expenses, and I would be able to say what I thought. In the end, my husband couldn't take it either and he gave me the go-ahead. He very soon found work in a food firm and I worked at the Nahariya hospital, and gradually we found our feet. We learned the living skills of a young couple at an old age."

Galia's birth:

"It was an easy birth. When they took me on a stretcher in the hospital from the delivery room to the ward, they put a bundle in a blanket in my hand. I was dazed and put it on top of myself and then felt it was moving. At first, I couldn't say she was pretty," says her mother.

Galia as a student:

"She was a very good student," Batya says. "We never got surprises at the parent-teacher meetings. But the investment in studies and success was to her disadvantage because she was different, from the social point of view. It was not accepted practice on the kibbutz to do well at your studies. Some of the kids stopped studying in eighth or ninth grade and went to work in the fields, and no one got upset about it."

The kibbutz:

At the age of 17, Galia left the kibbutz and joined an urban commune in Jerusalem. Among other things, she had become disillusioned, in a way that surprised even her, about the lack of gender equality and the old-fashioned stereotypes in Yehiam. "I was extremely idealistic," she says. "I was disturbed by the gender definitions on the kibbutz that left the women working in traditional jobs. I was a counselor in the youth movement and this was very important to me, and on the kibbutz people didn't care about studies and it was no longer cool to be in the youth movement." She was captivated by the ideas of Naomi Zion, who had set up an urban kibbutz in Sderot. "I was very excited about it, and in 12th grade I went to live in a commune in [the Jerusalem neighborhood] Baka, which was a poor neighborhood at that time, and we did projects with the children. I did all my matriculation examinations there."

Reborn at the age of 17:

This is what Galia says of her new life: "That was the most important decision I took in my life. I gave expression to new directions. I studied theater, I went to plays, I had a social and ideological framework. We worked in the [poor] neighborhoods, we connected with people, I was independent and no longer under the watchful eye of Big Brother: the kibbutz. I couldn't stand that life any more - the petty gossip and all the nonsense, the framework that demanded that everyone toe the line, and the questions asked of anyone who didn't do so and who was considered deviant."

Rebel with a cause:

"The fact that she left home was her rebellion," says Batya.

One religion replaces another:

Before going to the army, Galia did a year of national service at the Education Ministry's Zionist institute at Oranim. This apparently determined the path she would take later. Any rebel or newly religious person has to destroy his previous religion or views to make room for new ones. With Galia, it was Judaism that entered the ideological vacuum that was created. "I was at the commune and we were counselors at the seminars on Zionism and Judaism," Galia recalls. "That was where we met the counselors from the Reform Movement. I visited Lotan, the Reform movement's kibbutz in the Arava, and I made connections with people there." In 1989 she left the kibbutz and went to live in the big city, and ever since has been in love with Tel Aviv.

Collecting degrees:

In Tel Aviv, Galia worked in an accountants office and they sent her, at their expense, to study accountancy and economics at university. "After two years, the university and I both understood that accountancy was not for me," she says, "and I changed to Hebrew literature and linguistics. I completed a B.A. and an M.A. and since then I have been dallying with a doctorate. In the meantime, I did my rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem."

Since being ordained in 2003, she has been the rabbi at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv. She is responsible for the congregation's 200 families, she conducts marriage ceremonies and bar mitzvahs, does conversions and is in charge of the Reform Movement's rabbinical council in Israel. Galia had a 12-year relationship that ended. "After a number of years of living alone, I decided that I wanted a child," she says. "Itamar was born from a sperm donation. We talk openly about it."

God does exist:

Galia grew up in a household where there was no God and no divinity. His presence and image were nowhere to be found and were not even hinted at. And now? "Not only does He exist, but He watches over me," she says. "One religion has replaced another. That is what people say about us, the shmutznikim [members of Hashomer Hatzair movement]. When I was doing my year of national service at the Zionist institute, I heard about the Talmud for the first time and the prayers said when lighting candles. On the kibbutz, the blessings are poems by Lea Goldberg, and God has been removed from the Hagaddah of Passover. When they mentioned the siddur [prayer book] at the institute, I asked whether they were referring to the work schedule [siddur avoda in Hebrew]. I think that is where my acquaintance with religion began. I remember that when I was on Kibbutz Lotan, I said that my inner resources came from God ... and we gradually became friends, me and God." Her parents are less friendly toward God. "I don't accept this," says Batya, "but I respect it. If Galia feels good with it, let her have God. But the family took it very badly."


Despite the understanding and the acceptance, Batya has not come to terms with the path that Galia has chosen, and she is not shy at voicing what she calls "my critical views - and not only about religious affairs. About everything. When she would get a grade of 98, I would ask why it wasn't 100." Galia doesn't let that pass without a response: "Her critical attitude drives me crazy. She wants to rule the world. She thinks, for example, that she's a wonderful swimming teacher even though she doesn't know how to swim, or that she can teach someone how to ride a bicycle even though she herself doesn't know how to ride. And I take every remark of hers to heart." Regrets: Galia regrets the long years when she was not in touch with her mother; Batya thinks she should try to moderate her critical attitudes. Reflections in the mirror: Short-tempered and extremely intolerant - they share these traits, Galia says. Also the fact that both of them work with people. Disappointment: It is hard for Batya to reconcile herself to the fact that Galia does not have a partner and she is skeptical about her chances of finding one: "People who grow older and learn to live alone find it hard to bring other people into their radius." Something never said before: Galia: "I didn't say this enough to you: I love you, Mom." Fantasy: When she was in Argentina, Batya dreamed of marrying at 17, having a house and children. Galia wanted to be a doctor and play the harp, "but on the kibbutz, they said to me: 'First play the piano well and then we'll send you to study the harp.'"