Samson Talkar came to work in Israel with no intention of settling here.
By GLORIA DEUTSCH
Arrivals: From Bombay to Netanya, via Cairo
Naomi and Samson TalkarBirthplace: Bombay
Ages: 38 and 43
Aliya date: June 10, 1996
Occupations: CPA and business consultant
Family status: Married, plus two
Samson Talkar came to work in Israel with no intention of settling here. He'd lived in Cairo, in Kenya and in many other places, and this was just another business stop in his job at the time, manufacturing clothing for an American company.
He brought his wife, Naomi, and their son, Rishon, from Cairo for a visit.
"Then, one fine day, we decided we just didn't want to go back to Cairo and we wanted to stay in Israel," he recalls. "I just couldn't envisage going back to living in Egypt after the freedom of being a Jew in Israel. I'd always kept a low profile and people thought of me as Indian, not Jewish. But living here changed something. Even though we'd already registered our son in the American school in Cairo, we decided our heart just wasn't in it. We went to the Jewish Agency and made aliya instead."
Their daughter, Sharon, was born in 1999 and the family is happily settled in Netanya.
Both Samson and Naomi were born in Bombay (Mumbai) and lived not far from each other. Their marriage was arranged by a professional matchmaker as is the custom for established middle-class families in India. The two mothers, both widows, were friends and both felt the backgrounds were similar enough for the match to work. The two young people liked each other, but Naomi was in the middle of her studies to be a certified public accountant and wasn't ready to let anything stop her.
"We managed to drag it out for six months, but eventually agreed to get married," recalls Naomi.
Samson points out that Jews have lived in India for 2,000 years and their families go back at least three generations in Bombay.
As an employee for an American company and not a new immigrant, Samson was given accommodation in Usfiya, a Druse village near Haifa. Naomi and Rishon had been visiting for a month as tourists and living in the pretty village, far from any Jewish life. When Samson suggested they make aliya, her biggest worry was for her career.
"I'd worked hard to reach my position as a CPA and I had no intention of giving it up," says Naomi. "I made contact with the Auditors' Council and told them I didn't know Hebrew, but had qualified with honors in India. They were helpful but told me I would have to requalify."
She set about learning Hebrew and requalifying, determined to succeed. Life was very hectic for her at that time, studying the language, requalifying and running the home in what was for her a strange country. Samson was able to continue with his work and today is a consultant to several well-known clothing manufacturers. As soon as they decided to stay, they left Usfiya and moved to Netanya.
Samson's day starts at 4 a.m. when he sits at the computer and connects to his Chinese suppliers. Since he works from home, he carries on at the computer until just before 7, when it's "sandwich time" and very often breakfast-making time as well. Samson believes that the husband should be an equal partner in running the home and raising the children. He might go out during the day to check on clients, but if he is first home he's the one to put a dinner in the oven so the four family members can sit and eat together.
At the end of the school day, Rishon picks up Sharon at 4:30. Naomi gets back from a hard day's accountancy work and sometimes goes straight into the kitchen to cook the dinner.
"We always have dinner together and review our day, then go over homework with the children," says Samson.
"Mostly our friends are English-speaking like us and many are also Indian. We are working toward having an Indian synagogue, and we already have a prayer-hall which has 250 people on Yom Kippur. We know a lot of Israelis, but can't say we are bosom friends; they have a different set of values."
Home is a five-room apartment on a high floor of a luxury development overlooking expanses of golden sand and wine-dark sea. Comfortably furnished with a few mementos of their previous life in Bombay, the apartment has a large balcony off the kitchen, their favorite place for meals if the weather is warm enough.
With both partners in full-time jobs and earning well, money is not a problem. Samson is particularly proud of how successful Naomi is at her job. They manage to go abroad quite often and eat out together sometimes.
"Shabbat is the best time of the week for us," they say. "It's very spiritual and when I light the candles, it brings holiness into the house," says Naomi. The two mothers or other family members often visit and after dinner they all sit around and watch the television together.
Naomi was determined to learn good Hebrew so she could work in her profession. She was able to complete the first and second ulpan courses, sitting for five hours at a time with her baby son, and studying the language which today she speaks fluently. She also took a course in professional Hebrew. Samson uses English in his work, skipped ulpan but has picked up a working knowledge of Hebrew. Rishon is bilingual, but Sharon refuses to speak anything but Hebrew.
"We see ourselves as Israeli, but we cannot forget our Indian roots," Samson says. "The values on which we were raised, the emphasis on respect and education, the old-time legacy of Britain and its influences; these are all things which have left their mark."
For him the future includes plans to expand his business. Naomi intends to study further and acquire a PhD.
"It's not that I need it for my work, I already have a master's in commerce and economics, but I just love to study," she says.
After 17 years of marriage, it is clear that the matchmaking system worked for them.
I wonder if they would continue the tradition and arrange matches for their own children. "I don't think so," they both answer in one voice.
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