Shavouot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) came early in 1994, right in the middle of May. It wasn’t as though in the diaspora, especially in Texas, such minor Jewish occasions were even noticed. But on that morning before my husband Tzvi left for work, we had made plans to take the girls to celebrate the holiday in the nearest synagogue.
Two hours later Tzvi was back; when he stood at the doorway, his ashen face made it clear that something was very wrong. He told me that he had just lost his job at IBM. It came as a shock; I was aware of of the problems at his lab. Still somehow I believed that he was needed and that his job was secure, and never even imagined a moment like that.
We didn’t go to services that night, instead we talked with our daughters about future plans; there was a lot to discuss. I remember that one of our daughters said in dismay “I didn’t think that people like my father could lose their jobs,” neither did I.
It was all very sudden and confusing and we were not sure what to do: there was an option of transferring to another IBM plant in the west coast. But those were very hard times for the company, and from what Tzvi had seen in his own lab he was pessimistic about the future of the company (he was wrong). He didn’t want to take the risk of moving the family just to face another wave of layoffs. Also, there was another, very Israeli, reason, being in California meant being even farther away from home.
In contrast, 1994 was a wonderful year for Israel: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had just signed a peace agreement with Jordan and people were hopeful. The economy boomed and we heard encouraging accounts from our family and friends. Even the skeptic Israeli newspapers sounded unusually enthusiastic.
It took us only few hours to make up our mind, we were moving back to Israel.
Four years earlier when we had been transferred from Beer Sheva Israel to Dallas Texas, Tzvi had a job waiting, IBM took care of our relocation, and paid for the expensive transatlantic move. This time it was different, nothing waited for us in Israel and we had to pay for everything ourselves.
Still we were lucky that we had a place to go back to, and felt especially fortunate to be part of the new optimism in Israel. After November 1995 when Rabin was assassinated Israel has greatly changed and I am not sure that we would have returned.
Although the day when Tzvi was laid off was one of the hardest in our family history, it brought about new life and different opportunities for all of us. That relatively minor loss, which required swift and flexible change of plans, also prepared me for the real tragedy of losing Tzvi. It may sound strange but at the time of his illness I often thought how much harder it must be to be away from home when bad things happen.
Every year around this time I am reminded of that morning in May, but then another, more cheerful, memory comes to mind. I see myself waking up the following day thinking “my world, as I know it, has come to an end," and then another thought: “but it is not really the end of the world." Next I get up and start making the necessary arrangements for the move.