by Elizabeth Stephens
A Whirlwind Courtship on an Israeli Beach
On “May 14, 1948 the British hauled down their Union Jack. And then the same day, Israel proceeded to raise its newly designed flag featuring the Star of David. My father David saw Ben-Gurion declare Israel a State and become Israel’s first Prime Minister. Chaim Weizman later became the first President of the new Republic. Within minutes, President Truman issued a statement extending de facto recognition to Israel as a sovereign nation. ” Few would have believed that a nation could be born in a day. Before the day ended, Egyptian planes were already bombing Tel Aviv.
“Bebs” had saved her money to go on vacation to Hawaii, but the family told her she needed to spend her money in their ancient homeland, Israel as it was engaged in a War for its Independence and she needed to support the cause. I am sure they wanted her to find a nice Jewish boy and settle down there.
The family seemed to have some means, so I was surprised that she was traveling alone during such perilous times. She must have been very brave.
When my Mother Bebs stepped off the cargo ship in Haifa, Israel in August 1949, there was a heightened sense of euphoria in the air as the modern State of Israel experienced rebirth. As soon as my Father David saw Helen it was love at first sight. He immediately told his buddies that she was the girl he was going to marry. There was no time to lose as there was a nation to build.
According to her sister Mim, “Maybe meeting David–love at first sight–made her decide not to get back on board the ship for the next port. She was a very independent thinker.”
Helen spoke no Hebrew or Italian; David spoke no English, so they conversed in French. After a whirlwind courtship during a two week period, they fell in love and were married. According to a relative, Helen and David met the day she arrived in Israel. They made a very handsome couple.
Helen wrote on the back of one her last single photos,
“Tel Aviv—8/13/49~ When I (Helen) was still free & unmarried.
Taken at a sidewalk café on Ben Yehuda St. after we decided to be married the 15th.”
The wedding of my parents.
How beautiful my Mother Helen looked in her veil & her groom, David so very attentive.
David and Helen’s Marriage Certificate.
David carried this piece of paper around in his wallet. It was found among my mother’s things. It seemed very special and it made me believe that he had truly loved his wife.
David and Helen at a table celebrating
Helen then returned home and later David was to follow her to America. I have several postcards beautifully written in Italian sent to my mother from her new husband.
Don’t Forget Me
He seemed to be saying, ‘Don’t forget me.’ When I studied some of the addresses I wondered how these postcards ever got delivered.
I am sure the family was in shock that she had married a soldier. I don’t think they were pleased at all. But then David was finally was on his way to be reunited with his beloved Helen.