Tuvia Shlomo born 1958, Rehovot, Israel
My father and mother were both deaf and mute. I don’t start with this statement in hopes of accumulating pity. I begin with this because the foundation of my life was built on this fact. Growing up, I didn’t really understand my parent’s disabilities. I envied all the other kids who could simply sit and talk with their dad and mom. Why can’t I? Why is my life different?
My parents were Holocaust survivors. They emigrated from Romania to Israel. My mother worked as a cleaning lady. My father worked in construction. They didn’t make much money.
I was born in Jaffa, a city by the ocean. We were the only European family living in an extremely poor, North African neighborhood. There was not a bed to sleep on. My younger brother and I slept on a pull out couch. My mother slept on the sofa and my father on the balcony. The streets weren’t paved. There was only dirt and sand. Donkeys roamed around outside. No one ever wore shoes. I grew up in the streets.
I knew my family was poor at age six when the black and white television was invented. Less than a handful of families in our neighborhood were able to purchase one. I caught a glimpse of a television in an old lady’s apartment that lived across from my building on the second floor. I sprinted outside and climbed the cypress tree that put me level with the old lady’s window to watch the TV inside. I was mesmerized. I went home that night sad. All I could think about was how much I wanted a television of my own.
The next day, I hopped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to my Aunt’s house. I told her I wanted a TV. Shlomo, you’re poor. Give it time, she insisted. I began to cry. I cried the entire bike ride home. I jumped off my bike and left it in the front yard. I ran into the house.
“I want a television! You both work so much! What money do you have?” I shouted at my parents. “I want a TV now. I’m not going to wait! Tomorrow I will have a TV!”
And the next day I did. I took what little money my mother and father had to offer. I knocked on every single neighbor’s door asking for money. I went straight to the city. There was a little TV store on the main street. I walked up to the cashier and emptied all the money in my pockets.
“I want a TV,” I firmly said.
The cashier counted the money. It was short. The cashier said he needed to call my parents. I told him they couldn’t hear or speak and I wasn’t going to leave until I had a TV. I’m not sure if the cashier admired my determination or pitied me for the sake of my parents, but he took my money and I went home a black and white television owner.
It was delivered to my house the next day. The TV was bigger than I was, at least a quarter size of the living room. My parent’s actually enjoyed it, too. They couldn’t hear, but it pleasured them to see images in motion. The black and white television was the first time I realized I had the power to manage situations.