Sunday, September 23, 2007



When Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, then-President Clinton, all the bumber stickers and the CD issued in his memory said "Shalom, Chaver" - which means "Goodbye, Friend".

However, in the vernacular "chaver" is what you call your boyfriend and "yedid" is what you call a dear male friend - not a boyfriend.

So - as a bow toward my late friend, Robert - who was a great fan of Yitzhak Rabin - I am calling this SHALOM, YEDID.

Robert was a will-o-the wisp who came into my life some ten years ago or so - lit my life up for most of that time - and then took his own life just before Rosh HaShana. And it's taken me until now just to be able to write about him - it - the terrible tragedy that befell all of us - and him.

Robert was a tortured soul - brilliant - witty - a great cook - funny - ambivalent about his sexuality - sharp - vicious upon occasion - well travelled - well read - a good writer - a great friend - an implacable enemy - a charming host when the spirit moved him - an autocratic host when that particular spirit moved him - sometimes manic - sometimes depressed - sometimes embracing life - sometimes suicidal - in short - just Robert.

He had an enormous circle of friends whom he brought together at his various soirees - small dinner parties - large dinner parties - anything having to do with food. His friends ranged from Jews to Christians to Arabs to intellectuals to business people to professionals to people in government - actually, anyone who had something to say for themselves. That seemed to be his only criterion. He embraced us all - and he pushed us all away.

And when I received the phone call telling me of his death - well, what words are sufficient to describe my emotions? Disbelief? Shock? More disbelief? And great, great sadness.

For Robert and me our main connection was food - shopping together at the shuk - having a moveable feast, which meant going from place to place and having only one course at each place - talking about food - cooking together - comparing recipes - exchanging recipes - but also going to films - and discussing books - and fighting about politics - and planning parties - and listening to music - and spending countless hours on the phone (he loved to talk on the phone). He thought nothing of calling me - sometimes at most inappropriate moments - and saying "You must come over right now to taste my new recipe". Or calling to say "I've just been to the Old City and have bought the most fabulous hummus for you which I'm bringing over right now".

So that when it came time to say good-bye, about forty of his friends - by no means the sum total of all his friends but only those whom we could contact - came together to send him to his final rest. He had no family in Israel. He had no parents, his favorite nephew lives in New Zealand, and his sister in England had just undergone surgery and couldn't make the trip. And even though he had a love-hate relationship with all of us - we never stopped loving him and caring about him. In fact, at the cemetary I couldn't help wondering if he knew just how many friends he had and how much we all loved him - and how much we will all miss him.

And on a beautiful, hot, sunny day we buried him - and prayed that he has finally found the peace and tranquility he so longed for.

Shalom, Yedid.

Yalla, Bye

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