From Trauma to Triumph: Exploring the Lives and Legacies of Uncle Moshe and Ori Reisman
“I long to paint portraits in complete silence, without the necessity of a storm of emotions.” – Ori Reisman
“Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver
In the world of my fantastical family mythology, my uncle Moshe Gal has an exclusive pedestal. Imagine Uncle Moshe as a ten-year-old boy, escorted and delivered by his older sister to a remote Kibbutz on Israel’s northern border, to be raised alone among strangers. He, who by an extraordinary miracle survived the Holocaust, in big part due to his mothers’ savvy; he, who suffered sickness and hunger; he, already a survivor by this tender age, is left to carve his path in a boarding school at Kibbutz Kabri. That sister is my mother, and every time she told this story, I heard agony and shame for that act of abandonment; it also cemented her deep love for Moshe.
At the age of eighteen, Moshe was recruited to the newly created special commando unit of the Israeli Navy – Shayetet 13 (The equivalent of the US Navy Seals). Moshe never told me about the daring military operations he partook in, yet I know he participated in many. I admired my uncle. Moshe was a role model of resilience, bravery, and physical strength. I, too, wanted to join Shayetet 13. I tried and did not pass the rigorous physical and mental exams, so I joined a paratrooper brigade.
Moshe and I never talked about his early experiences in the Kibbutz; he is a man of few words. I always heard anger and pain from my mother’s recollections of her experiences surviving the war, arriving in Israel, and being absorbed into a boarding school at a different kibbutz. I gathered that the experiences were traumatic and left her with many wounds and scars. I heard many food-related stories about how she and other survivor kids stole and hoarded food – although it was plentiful in the Kibbutz, their minds were still inflicted with hunger, cold, and fear.