Both me and my parents were born in Israel (Tzabars), but my grandparents on both sides lived in Diaspora until the late 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s. Until I were 18 years of age, I didn`t know there was a difference between my both sides. I just knew they were my grandparents, that looked a bit different from one another, ate different food, talked in different languages and had different religious points of view. I didn`t asign it to their origins since it never came up. I grew up without any distinction between east or west.
My father`s family
Both of my father`s parents were born and raised in Europe (Ashkenazi Jews). My grandfather was born in 1925 in northern Romania, at a small town called Campulung la Tisa (“Hoszumezo” in Hungarian), at the Maramures county in Transylvania. The town is located 12 km south to the city of Sighet, and the river Tisa (“Tisza” in Hungarian), which crosses it north to south, is situated 300-400 meters west to my grandfather`s house. At least 4 generations of my grandfather`s family were born and raised in Campulung, Romania. He had 5 more brothers and sisters, and his family was very religious. They spoke Romanian, Hungarian and Yiddish.
My grandmother was born in the Carpathian Mountains in 1929 (where old Czechoslovakia used to be; today it`s Ukraine). When she was 8 years old, the family moved to the city of Berehove, until the Nazies took them to the ghetto in 1944, and 6 weeks later to Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp. Most of my grandparents` families were wiped out during the holocaust, and only a few survived to make it to Israel (Aliyah) and to the U.S., and start a new life.
After the allies of World War II freed Europe from the Nazies, my grandparents met randomly near Munich, Germany, in January 1947. They got married in June, and one day after the wedding set out to Israel. They left Germany and came to Austria. Than, by foot via the Alps, came to Italy and boarded a ship to Israel on January 1948. After a 7-day cruise they were apprehended by British soldiers, near the shores of Israel, and were sent to a prison camp in Cyprus.
They dug a tunnel and escaped in a small boat in September, along with 30 more people. My grandmother was already pregnant with her first child, and was allowed in Israel. My grandfather was recruited to the army 24 hours after escaping Cyprus, and got to Israel two months after my grandmother. They moved to Petach Tikva, where both their sons were born (my father is the youngest).
Although my grandfather was born to a very religious “Hassidic” family, and even learned Torah in a “Hedder”, he eventually lost his faith after the holocaust. My grandfather passed away in late 1994 from cirrhosis, at the age of 69. My grandmother is 80 years old.
My mother`s family
My mother`s parents came from the city Mahabad, south to lake Urmia in the Azerbaijan district of northern Iran (Sephardic Jews, Mizrachi Jews).
As long as I can remember, they had a funny language which sounded a bit Arabic – but wasn`t (I still remember a few words of it). It turned out they are descendant from Jews, who were exiled from Israel by the Assyrians and the Babylonians between the 8th and the 6th centuries BC.
By mid 6th century BC, almost all Jews were exiled from Israel, and were sent mainly to the depths of the Assyrian kingdom. It`s also called the Babylonian Exile (“Galut Ba`vel”) – a main reason why Jews had to reclaim Israel in mid 20th century (AC).
During the exile, starting late 8th century BC, some Jews came to the area of lake Urmia at the northwestern Assyrian kingdom (Today`s Iran, near the borders with Turkey, Iraq and Azerbaijan). They didn`t come back to Israel even after the Persian king, Cyrus (Koresh), declared they were free to return to their homelands (538/9 BC – 50 years after the destruction of the first temple). They stayed in the secluded mountain area of Urmia, and continued speaking Aramaic, Persian and Azarian.
They preserved their culture and their language, calling it Lishan Didan – “our language”. A certain form of Aramaic was spoken since the days of Abraham, 4,000 years ago, and also by Jesus, 2,000 years ago. In time, Aramaic influenced old Hebrew, to create our known modern Hebrew (probably along side with few other local languages, like Greek etc).
My mother`s family lived in a 2-story house, with a large walled yard. They had excellent relationships with their non-jewish neighbours – a harmony which came to it`s end by late 1970s, when the Persian Shah of Iran was overthrowned by Khomeini. The boys learned in Persian schools, since there was no Jewish education at hand. The girls weren`t allowed studying with the boys, and had Hebrew and mathematics lessons with a Rabbi.
Some of those Jewish families in Persia, Turkey and Azerbaijan started coming to Israel in 1895, in 1905 and in 1924. Most of them, however, came to Israel and to the U.S in the 1950s, and among them my mother`s parents. In 1950 they moved to Teheran for two months, where they got on a flight to Israel. They already had 4 sons and 2 daughters when they came to Israel, and 2 more daughters were born here (the youngest was my mother).
Only after the Jewish community got to Israel, they called themselves “Nash Didan” (“our people”) – as opposed to when they were in Diaspora.
My grandfather passed away in the late 1980s, at the age of 82, and my grandmother at 2001. She was illiterate and didn`t know her own birth date. She was probably 90+ when she passed away.
To this day I don`t really know whether my mother`s parents were Persian or Kurdish Jews, since Nash Didan includes them both. My grandparents spoke some kind of Persian-Aramaic language, and prepared Persian-Kurdish food – just like all Nash Didan people. In 2005 there were roughly 14,000 Nash Didans in Israel, most of them in the city of Holon.