Sunday, December 6, 2009


     Flustered at being tardy to a guest lecture, she quickly gathered her notebook and purse before slamming the car door shut. Of all the days to be late. As a grad student in her last year, she’d never been late before and this was a lecture she didn’t want to miss.  Imani Aliyah walked frantically down the hall as her thick two inch heels clacked loudly on the marble floor. She cursed under her breath for insisting on having waiting for her chai latte from Starbucks on the way. The drive thru line had been long and she’d wanted a chai so badly, now she was five minutes late and these types of lectures almost always started on time.

Dr. Isaak Silverman was giving a lecture on Ethiopian Jews and their journey to Israel. He is also going to cover the history and lineage of the Ethiopian Jews. Dr. Silverman, a noted professor, anthropologist and speaker, works for the IAEJ, (Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews). This organization was established in Israel to work exclusively in advocating for the full and rapid integration of Ethiopian Jews into mainstream Israeli society.

Imani, whose father is an Ethiopian Jew, and part of the Kessim, the Ethiopian rabbis of their small local community in Atlanta, reached the lecture hall in two minutes from the student parking lot on the other side of the campus and in heels no less. She opened the doors and stepped in. To her surprise, the room was only half filled. When the door slammed shut behind her, everyone turned around to see what the commotion was. Imani felt her face burn with embarrassment as Dr. Silverman looked directly at her.
“Ah, sorry, sir,” she mumbled as she picked the closest seat to her and sat down.
“That’s quite alright Miss….” Dr. Silverman smiled at her. He’d noticed her even before the door slammed. A tall, slender brown skinned woman in an elegant navy linen suit with a gold colored blouse that seemed to match her tawny golden eyes. They were so familiar, she drew his attention immediately.
“Aliyah…Imani Aliyah sir,” she spoke up nervously.
There were a few murmurs and whispers as she settled into her seat with her chai latte in hand, notebook on her lap.
“Aliyah, that’s Hebrew, isn’t it?” he smiled. For a moment it seemed they were the only two people in the room.
“Yes, my father is from Ethiopia, he is also Jewish,” Imani beamed, proud of her heritage. Her mother was a Polish Jew born in New York City. Her unusual eye color came from her grandma on her father’s side.
“Ah, then you have a personal interest in my lecture. Would you like to sit closer? I’m sure no one will mind.”
Imani paused a moment, she didn’t want to draw any more attention to herself than she already had. With deep sigh, she decided to accept his offer. She stood gracefully gathering her things and walked to the front of the room, taking a seat on the half empty front row.
Dr. Silverman continued his lecture after Imani was settled in her new seat. He was tall, medium build with salt and pepper hair. Though in his mid forties, he looked to be in his early thirties. He’d been a keynote speaker for last five years and a strong advocate for Ethiopian Jews in
Israel for fifteen years. Every time he looked Imani’s way, she held his gaze, loving the honey brown color of his eyes.

He spoke eloquently and passionately about Ethiopia and Israel. He was born in a suburb of New York to Jewish parents and his maternal grandparents had died during the holocaust. Both of his parents died in a car accident ten years ago. He’d never married, his focus always being on his work.
Imani listened intently as Dr. Silverman spoke of the history of the Ethiopian Jews. Because there are no historical data or written records only oral traditions, there are three possibilities of how the Jews came to Ethiopia. One, the Ethiopian Jews is the descendants of the lost ancient Israelite tribe of Dan. Secondly, they may be the descendants of Menelik I, the fabled son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, as set down in the folkloric, biblical and aggadic Ethiopian Kebra Negast. Thirdly, they might be descendants of Jews who left Israel for Egypt following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.
His personal belief is the third possibility; he believed the Queen of Sheba had been Ethiopian and that she had a son with King Solomon. Isaak loved the people he worked with both in Israel and Ethiopia. He helped many to find housing, learn Hebrew and assimilate into life in an industrialized society after coming from a rural one.

When the lecture ended, Imani purposely stayed behind to speak with Dr. Silverman. She wanted to know more about him, picking his brain. She was also attracted to him, his warm smile, his voice and his passion for his work.
Isaak had hoped Imani would stay behind. He wanted to ask her to stay but wasn’t really sure how to go about it. He wanted to know more about her. Only one woman had captured his heart once, but she’d died years ago.
“Aliyah, you aren’t related to Obadiah Aliyah, are you?” He asked curiously.
“Ah yes, he is my father.”
Isaak couldn’t believe his luck!
“I thought your last name sounded familiar. I’m headed to his house this evening for dinner, will you be joining us?”
Imani laughed sweetly. Her father asked her to come to dinner tonight that he had a gift for her, but he mentioned nothing about a guest. Now she really wondered what her father was up to.
“Yes, I will be there.” Imani’s eyes lit up.
“Good, I’m going to be here for two weeks and your father kindly offered for me to celebrate Hanukkah with him and his family.”
Imani’s heart skipped a beat; this gorgeous man was going to be in her father’s home for the next eight nights of Hanukkah! Her father had never allowed anyone to stay before and she wondered what made Dr. Silverman so special. They began to walk to the staff parking lot.
“That’s very interesting, he’s never mentioned you, and how do you know my father?”
“We met in the 80’s in Ethiopia, when several Ethiopian were trying to cross the Sudan, making their way to Israel. I convinced his family that it was not safe to go that way and I promised to make other arrangements. His family waited and made it safely to Israel due to Operation Moses in 1984. I only wished my girlfriend’s family had waited.” The deep sadness in his eyes made Imani want to hug him.
“Your girlfriend was a refugee?”
“Yes, her father insisted they go by foot. About 4,000 people, including my girlfriend, perished during the journey.”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Silverman, you must have really loved her.” Imani brushed his arm.
“Please, call me Isaak and yes, we were to be married in Israel.”

Imani could stand it no longer; she pulled him to her and hugged him. He smelled of soap and Old Spice aftershave. She nuzzled his face and neck with her cheek.
The hug caught him by surprise, but what surprised him even more was his reaction. He dropped his briefcase and held her. She was warm and soft as he held her tightly. He leaned into her, feeling the curve of her body against his. The sweet smell of her short black curly hair and the softness of her skin stirred things low in his body. She made a sound that sounded almost like a purr.
If she’d had the strict Jewish upbringing like he did, she would know that what they were doing at this moment is wrong. He didn’t care, but he didn’t want her to regret it. He pulled away suddenly.
“I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me. You are a respectable woman and I …”
“Shhh,” Imani pressed her index finger to his lips. Her eyes glowed like a cat’s eyes in the darkness.
“It’s alright, “she whispered.
Isaak blinked to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. He took a step back and jumped when Imani’s cell phone went off.
“It’s my dad, we better get going.”
Isaak picked up his briefcase and sighed heavily. There is something about her that unnerved him a bit, yet he felt drawn to her even more.
“Do you know the way or do you need to follow me? I’m parked in the student parking lot.” Imani said after telling her dad she was on her way.
“Why don’t I give you a ride to your car and then I’ll follow you?” Isaak smiled.
“Works for me,” Imani laughed.


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Blessings and Happy HanukkahSolticeChristmasKwanzaa!


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