It was about three months before the outbreak of the Six Day War when I first pulled up on my scooter to the house on Rehov Abarbanel for my first date with my future wife. Set on the tiny, tree-lined, one-lane street in Rehavia, her home had a small garden and was constructed of giant Jerusalem stone, similar to many of the buildings in this area of town. Outside the house a small name plate read: Prof. Felix Sulman, M.D., D.V.M. I was nervous. I had only been in Israel a year, having come as a volunteer. When my group returned to America, I chose to stay and had just started working at Israel Radio. Now I was entering a new, strange neighborhood, taking out a young lady I knew nothing about. A handsome, elderly woman opened the door and introduced herself as Edith Sulman. She left me alone in the living room while she went and told her daughter of my arrival. As I waited, I looked around the room, and heard classical music coming from some place else in the house. The walls were almost a yard thick and the ceilings were very high. There was absolutely nothing modern here. The interior reflected a combination of hippy, retro, Bauhaus and Arab designs. The living room had a library crammed with books on art, Jewish and Israeli history, biographies of Plato, Spinoza, Ben-Gurion and Leonard Bernstein, archeology of the Holy Land, all the works of Shakespeare and numerous books on anatomy, pharmacology, climate and hormone research. Organized clutter in the form of knick-knacks and small sculptures littered the room from floor to ceiling. I loved it, but felt I was entering some sort of intellectual world that I had never encountered in my 26 years. My house in Los Angeles, for example, was filled with Life magazines, bills to be paid, advertisements from Sears and a couple of tickets to a Dodgers game. Who were these people? What was going on around here? Just then the music got louder as the door to one of the rooms opened and I met Felix Sulman for the first time. He was distinguished looking, of medium height and reminded me of Sir Laurence Olivier. Straight away he asked me to move the piano from the dining room into the living room. His choir was coming in an hour and it was time to arrange the living room with chairs, the piano, his music stand and a table with refreshments. He showed me where he wanted the piano placed and I obliged. Little did I know that the responsibility would stick; by marrying his daughter, I became the official piano mover for his choir rehearsals every other Saturday night over the next 27 years. I am always reminded of this period of my life during the High Holy Days season. This is the time of the internationally renowned Abu Ghosh Music Festival. Sulman is the founder of this festival. Just after the War of Independence, he, together with his wife and a few friends, discovered a simple church with amazing acoustics in the small Arab village in the hills outside Jerusalem. They sang Bach, had a picnic and came back the next week with more people. By the early 1950s this minor musical event had turned into Israel's version of the Tanglewood Festival, the Lincoln Center's Outdoor Festival, Carmel's Bach Festival and the Hollywood Bowl. Today, under the brilliant leadership of Hanna Tzur, the Abu Ghosh Festival has achieved international recognition with noted musicians, choirs and conductors from all over the world performing Mendelssohn, Schubert, Bach and Mozart. But the seeds of this festival were first sown in the house on Rehov Abarbanel. In the 1930s, Edith and Felix Sulman joined thousands of German Jews in immigrating to Israel. In Jerusalem, Rehavia had become a mecca for German Jews and the couple moved to Rehov Abarbanel. In addition to having a musical background, Felix held degrees in general and veterinary medicine - he was able to treat humans and their pets in one sitting! He further developed his career by going into hormone research at the Hebrew University. By the time I entered the picture in the 1960s, Felix was professor emeritus and head of the Department of Applied Pharmacology at the Hebrew University. He had written numerous, important scientific books on hormones and climate, and was now a star in the global scientific community. Edith was no slouch either. She was also a scientist, pioneering pregnancy tests in the small lab they had in their Abarbanel house. On any particular day, the two would receive patients with the flu, dogs that refused to eat, women checking to see if they were pregnant and choir members discussing a certain passage in Brahms's requiem. On another day, Edith might be working on her memoir, editing her husband's scientific papers, checking her lab rats, giving advice to her daughters on papers they were writing on Socrates, Jane Austen or Mark Twain and suggesting to me people to interview or topics for my radio program. It was as if the house on Rehov Abarbanel were draped in some sort of Renaissance cloak. There were always dinner guests, from Nobel laureates, Supreme Court judges, professors of English literature and conductors, to kibbutzniks, writers and even a few politicians. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have been a part of this exclusive environment for 27 years. Sadly, when my in-laws passed away, the house was sold. However, the memories have remained with my wife, her childhood friends and me. Two years ago, on Israel's Independence Day, Rehavia hosted a guided, living, historical walking tour. As people entered Rehov Abarbanel, a choir sang in front of the former Sulman house. It was a lovely reminder of what had transpired in the house and who had lived there. The writer has an MFA from UCLA in television and film, worked for the Israel Broadcasting Authority as a producer and writer and then moved on to business. He now lives with his wife in Talbiyeh, a five-minute walk from the house on Rehov Abarbanel.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Think others should know about this? Please share