Georgina Meyer-Düllman. Identity Through Art
My Jewish Roots: The Book Childhood Adulthood Germany 1 Israel 1 Germany 2 Israel 2 Yad VaShem Gallery

My New Existence in Israel

In 1987 the city of Bonn began building a huge hotel right on the spot where once the Alte Synagogue (Old Synagogue) of Bonn had stood until she was destroyed during the pogroms of the Krystallnacht in 1938; the foundation walls of The Old Synagogue, that had been built in 1879,were still standing. Together with a friend we occupied the square where now the construction work was in progress and Michael lived for a whole month in a tent across the street from the building site, protesting against the city's decision, over the tent he had hung a Tallit ( Jewish Prayer Shawl).

Twice a day, before and after work I would bring Michael some food, until he declared during a press conference that he was starting a hunger strike. I managed to organize a small rally to support Michael and our issue and hundred and fifty members of the peace movement, many of them holding torches, came to show their solidarity. Eventually the Jewish Community took notice of our action and of Michael's strong commitment to the cause and the city of Bonn agreed to a compromise. Though they refused to stop the construction of the hotel and our appeal through the green party to the city council to erect a memorial for all the people that had been murdered by the Nazi regime was rejected, a monument created by a Jewish artist commemorating the Jews of Bonn murdered by the Nazis, was placed where Michael had set up his tent.

Every year on the 9th of November, the day of the Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) a ceremony is held there by the Jewish Community and Israeli official guests coming to Bonn, all visited the memorial site. Still, the Jewish Community preferred to ignore the fact that the monument was only erected thanks to Michael's initiative and our active involvement.

Michael continued to actively take part in all kinds of rallies, sit-ins and actions organized by the peace movement; he was among the demonstrators in front of the Israeli embassy for peace talks with the PLO, he demonstrated in front of the South-African embassy on behalf of Nelson Mandela and joined the peaceful blockade against the American arsenal of poison gas in the Pfalz, the Rhine River region.

In 1988 Michael and various members of the peace movement began to receive fines for the various law infringements they had committed during the demonstrations and rallies they had been to, they were charged with coercion and the violation of the traffic regulations and other minor transgressions. Michael refused to pay the fines and put the official reminders that followed them away in a drawer and just forgot about them.

In the summer of 1990 while Rebekka and I were in Brazil, the police came to the house, entered our living room through the open back garden door and after asking Michael, who sat reading in his chair if he would now agree to pay the fines in the amount of over 4.000,00 German Marks, which he refused to do, they took him into custody and he was put in jail. From there he was later transferred to the prison in Wuppertal. As soon as Michael was incarcerated he began a hunger and drinkstrike and after sixty four days, when his condition became extremely critical, the prison's director sent him back home; by then he had lost 80 pounds and the prison's doctors feared for his life. 

When Michael was arrested the police gave him hardly any time to pack some personal belongings, let alone a few minutes to make a phone call to Brazil and let me know.

So when we landed in Bonn's airport, tired after the long flight back, carrying our heavy luggage, we couldn't understand why Michael wasn't there to pick us up like he always did, neither could we imagine the reason for his absence from home when we got there. Only after I called my mother the next day, to let her know that we were safely back home and she told me that Michael had just phoned and asked her to let me know that he was in jail, did I somehow manage to control my fear and anxiety. Now I also understood the reason for the old news papers and the hard bread on the kitchen table. I grabbed poor Rebekka and run to the police station, only to be told by a friendly policeman that it was exactly five o'clock now and that I should come back the next morning. Somehow though, I managed to find out why Michael had been arrested and that he had been meanwhile transferred to the prison in Wuppertal.

Rebekka had to be enrolled in a German school again and I had to find a job, but of course Michael's hunger strike and imprisonment needed all my time and energy now. I called our old friends at the peace movement and asked them to help me release Michael or at least to convince him to end his hunger strike and start taking some food.

Only once did I dare to pay one of those fines behind Michael's back; Rebekka was still very young and since I was planning to fly to Israel for two weeks and I feared that he would be arrested in my absence and Rebekka left without care, I paid the 500,00 German Marks from my own money, without letting Michael know. In the beginning I often tried to make him understand that at least for Rebbeka's sake, for her peace of mind, he should fight for his convictions in a less extreme and persistent manner, but unfortunately Michael would never agree to any concessions.

Rebekka refused to stay with friends while I visited Michael in jail, she cried so hard and was so upset that most reluctantly I eventually agreed to take her along. After a year away from him, Rebekka shouldn't see her father in prison and in such a bad shape; when the heavy door made this horrible squeaking noise and behind the jailer walked in a skinny and thin Michael, his eye glasses looking oversized on his thin nose, we both started to cry.

A Piece of Wood
at the Seashore
After our long separation all I managed to say to him was to please stop this madness, but he would neither listen to me nor would he accept any of the fruits and drinks I had brought for him.

I was amazed to see how strong he still stood for his convictions and how determined he was to continue his fight. He hoped that his extreme hunger-thirst strike would lead to the release of other political prisoners sitting in German prisons; meanwhile he had added Iraqi dictator Hussein's threat to attack Israel with scud missiles, to the issues he was fighting for or against.

As the weeks passed and Michael stubbornly continued his hunger and drink strike, in my desperation I turned to the Jewish Community asking for their help and Rabbi Hochwald from Duesseldorf, visited Michael in prison. By now his condition had worsened so much that the prison director, fearing for Michael's life, ordered his transfer to the prison's hospital, but Michael would neither be moved nor artificially fed. After consulting his superiors, the director signed Michael's release from jail and called me to come and "get my husband…". After he had spent sixty four days in jail, friends from the green movement, who owned a car, brought Michael home.

Our family doctor told me over the phone that Michael had only himself to blame for the condition he was in and refused to see him. My uncle from London came in suddenly and I was lucky and grateful to have him with me. Rebekka was going to stay with one of her class mates after school and also spend the night at her house;  I neither wanted her to see Michael in such condition nor did I want the photographers and journalists that posted themselves since the early morning hours in front of our house, to drag her into this in any way.

Michael's political engagement and hunger-drink strike had attracted the media all these past weeks and by now he was widely known; also Petra Kelley, a well-known activist and Bundestag deputy for the Green Party, had written about him in one of the major newspapers.

I angrily chased all journalists and photographers away and when Michael arrived, a walking skeleton carrying a box with books in his arms and a smile all over his thin face, he was warmly welcomed by his closest friends from the peace movement who had been waiting for him at home.

He greeted us all and after he had rested a while, he asked for food but refused to follow the doctor's orders and eat the diet he had prescribed and that I had prepared for him.

Michael recovered quite fast and we were all very grateful for the fact that despite this trying experience, his health would not be affect by any remaining damages.

Years later when Rebekka and I were already living in Israel, I read that all the files for the peace movement activists had been closed, their still pending fines cancelled and the money they had paid so far, returned to them by the German state. Peaceful blockades had been legalized by the Supreme Court. Michael refused to accept any payments, though.

As time passed by, it became more and more obvious that Michael had changed since his return back home. He seemed emotionally paralyzed, totally detached of all things that had been fundamental to our marriage and our life together. Our commitment to Judaism, the political issues we used to care for and the activities we used to engage in, no longer played a role, nothing seemed to interest him anymore.

I was completely alone and felt that I no longer needed to remain in Bonn at his side; I was finally free to go back to Israel where I wanted to be and where I knew that I belonged.

With Michael's consent, Rebekka and I left Germany and on March 21st, 1994 we landed in Israel; to me though unintended, it was the perfect timing, I was returning home to my true country, during the week of Passover.

Today I no longer wait for Michael, the Sabbath candlesticks and the rest of our household that I left behind in Bonn for him to bring along, trusting that he would soon follow us. I got used to the idea that he would not join me and Rebekka in Israel as he had promised.  

In spite of the unbridgeable misunderstandings that eventually lead us both to agree to a separation and me to file for divorce, I kept hoping that things would change somehow, and that a new start would still be possible for Michael and me in Israel.

Nevertheless, I was happy to be able to start anew at the age of fifty and to build a new home, a new life and a future for Rebekka and me. The process of adapting and adjusting to our new home, especially for Rebekka who had to start high school and make new friends with very little knowledge of Hebrew, was very difficult and we were both at times under a lot of tension and stress.

But with G-D's help I managed to see us through this rough period and now I am happy to say that we have both settled down well; Rebekka became a very good student, finished high school, developed her own circle of friends and interests and eventually joined the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) where she chose to train and serve as a tank mechanic. For the past five years she has been living as a riding instructor in Kibutzim in Northern Israel, while finishing a BA in "Political and Social Sciences". She plans to do a MA in Pedagogy at the University of Haifa.

The fist two years I worked with a company that managed construction projects and was building a new Magnesium plant down by the Dead Sea; I was the assistant to the manager at the company's offices here in Beersheva. But in 1996 the company moved to the Dead Sea, and I decided to dedicate my time to the art I so much love; I set up a small graphics atelier at home and began giving art lessons as therapy for children and adults and to paint again. Besides, until 2003 I worked as an art teacher at the rehabilitation center for the disable IDF soldiers, took mandolin lessons at the Beer-Sheva Conservatorium and lessons in computer graphics. Since 2001 I have been workingas a volunteer art teacher for seniors, children of low-income families, and the blind.

Occasionally I organize art exhibitions for my students and for myself at various institutions in town.On the fourth of December 2005, I was rewarded for this work in a specail session at the city councel of Beer Sheva. In 1997 I founded the "Pri Ha-Shalom" (Fruit of Peace) organization in Israel, where Muslim, Christian and Jewish artists are committed to the advancement of peace and coexistence in our region; a place where artists and children of all three religions come to meet, work and create art together, with art exhibitions in many countries. Our 'fruit of peace' organization has Jewish and Arab members from throughout Israel's peripheral areas, the unrecognized villages an dthe Arava. We have chosen to use art as a unviversal language to achieve our aims, which are:
  • The advancement of peace and coexistance between population groups using the language of the arts.
  • Development of bonds of friendship between artists of the city and region through direct contact.
  • Organization of exhibitions and workshops to permit meetings between the artist and the public.
Pri-Hashalom has created a special forum for the State of Israel's cultural mosaic of religions and for its citizens old and new. These have joined together to form a cultural profile which is creative and unique in our region.Our member artists include Bedouins from the villages surrounding Beersheva. As the cultural environment serves the artist as a source of influence and inspiration, the art created in this manner has the potential of influencing the society as a whole as well as its members individually.And most important of all, I can finally lead a Jewish life in Israel, the way I had longed to do for so many years. I regularly go to synagogue for Friday evening and Sabbath services; I attend lessons in Torah and other religious topics and find Judaism to be a never ending source of comfort and joy in my life.

But above all I thank G-D, then only His guidance and provision allowed me to fulfill my dream.

G-D's support saw me through some days of despair and sadness, without His help I know, I certainly wouldn't have made it. And last but not least, I am deeply grateful to my ancestors Rabbi Akiva Eger and Rabbi Samuel Ephraim Meyer whose love and devotion for Torah and Judaism were an inspiration for me all these years.  

Wingate Park,
For our wedding ceremony on March 27th of 1975 Michael and I had chosen a verse in the book of the prophet Micah (6/8) to guide us in our marriage and future life together: "He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God" and I try to live by its contents to this day.