Gracious living

An elderly couple finds a comfy home in a retirement community in Herzliya.

A visit to Beit Protea, the retirement home for English-speakers in Herzliya, proves that you don't have to give up on gracious living when you downsize your space. Ralph (known as Barry) and Asne Samuels have lived at Beit Protea for the last nine years after spending the first four and a half after they made aliya from South Africa in an apartment in Ra'anana. They had no doubts when they chose Beit Protea that it would be the right place for them. It had been founded by South Africans in 1992 and today the majority of residents are still South African although other English-speakers can be found there. Asne, who today is 88, had worked for WIZO all her life in South Africa. "The project for building a retirement home in Israel for South Africans was brought before the committee and we were all very impressed and voted in favor of it," she recalls. "I never dreamed I would live there one day." Barry, who is 91, says he feels comfortable at Beit Protea because it is populated by so many ex-South Africans and everyone speaks English. Asne and Barry have been married for 24 years but have known each other for 74. Both born in South Africa, they went to school together and Asne was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Barry to her best friend. They married each other after each had lost their first partner. They chose one of the larger apartments in Beit Protea, with three rooms, two bathrooms and two toilets. Getting their furniture into the small space involved some sacrifices, as many things had to go. But they have still managed to make a cozy and elegant home, using the period furniture they brought with them. THE LIVING room suite, consisting of two two-seater couches and two armchairs, fits in comfortably. When they acquired the apartment, it was carpeted in a pretty pink shade. "Usually, when new people come, they change the carpets, but we decided to leave them as the color fitted so well with the furniture," says Barry. Much of it is covered anyway in rugs - all brought from South Africa, where Barry had a carpet and curtains business. They had to get rid of their own kitchen furniture but find that the fitted table that came with the apartment is adequate for everyday meals. For more formal occasions, they dine in the small front room, furnished with a very old, highly polished oval table and four pink velvet chairs. The lounge and dining room are full of mementos of their lives. Certificates hanging on the wall attest to the couple's athletic achievements: Asne was the singles champion of the Israel Lawn Bowls Association in 1959, and Barry won a gold medal in lawn bowls at the 10th Maccabiah, in 1977. An oil painting done by Asne of her previous home in Johannesburg is on one wall; on another, her silver spoon collection, given to her by cousins in Riga in the Sixties. An exquisite antique wall fixture holding ornaments embellishes another wall. "I was driving with my first husband and we passed through a small town. I saw this piece in the window and liked it," remembers Asne. "He said 'Let's put it in the car' and that's what we did." The bedroom is big, with two windows and a separate bathroom. They look out over a school below but find the noise during term-time does not bother them. "You get used to it," they say. At Beit Protea, lunch is provided, but the kitchen is more than adequate to prepare other meals. They brought in a large refrigerator of their own, which fits nicely into a niche. They take part in many of the activities organized by the staff and have made many friends. "It's the place to be for old people like us," they say. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail