Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

Most people reading this will not have heard of Ezra P. Gorodesky. If you look him up on the Israel Museum website in Jerusalem, he is described as a painter, born in 1928.

Ezra P. Gorodesky passed away this week and thousands of people suddenly felt very sad and empty. So what was so special about this gentleman that i feel compelled to write about him?

He was Philadelphia born, who arrived in Israel in 1960 and then decided to give up his American citizenship. He was an avid collector. In his conversations with me, he was particularly proud of his manuscripts and teapots. But his story is deeper than that.

Ezra could always be found walking around the centre of Jerusalem. You had the feeling that all the shop owners and coffee vendors knew him. Whenever I ventured into town, I would often factor into my day an ‘extra five minutes for Ezra’. Somehow, he would always find you.

You would see him emerging out of the crowd. In later years, his walking stick was his trademark. He always had a smile. Never a bad word. Never a coarse word – although he was full of double-entendres with a endearing wink.

He was the bedrock of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was always first there on Shabbat mornings, setting up the place. It was only when he was way past 80 that he would agree to any kind of assistance.

It was here that I met him for the first time in 1983. A few years later, when I married, his first conversation to my wife was as if she was a long-time friend. He always had bundles of time for our children – in fact , for every member of the community whatever age or background. You saw him and you felt good.

My daughter has this wonderful story about Ezra. She had a summer-holiday job, working in a coffee shop, close to the Old City of Jerusalem. In he walked. She was thrilled. They gave each other a big greeting.

The owner was stunned. How did she know him? Her reply is so appropriate, even today. “Everyone knows Ezra”. And we will continue to cherish his supreme values. Thanks Ezra for everything.

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