A very happy birthday to Rafi's late father, Robert Amsili. Today, November 20, 2010, would have been Robert's 53rd birthday. We lost Rafi's father three years ago to an unexpected and fatal heart attack on December 30, 20o7, just weeks after his 50th birthday. He was a man full of life who also had a larger than life personality. He had the kind of energy that Billy Mays brought to the small screen, always intensely passionate in his speech, exuberant and pompous in his ways and steadfast and stubborn in his point of views. He was the life of the party and always the jokester, smiling and laughing. I am sure this is where Rafi gets his unending optimism and his always smiling face. Even through tears, Rafi is somehow still smiling. Those who know him well can attest to this fact! A few pictures to remember Rafi's charming father:
And a few from his wedding day circa 1983:
Rafi's father was born on November 20, 1957 in Meknes, Morocco to Rafael and Miriam Amsili. Surprisingly, there is a large Jewish population in Morocco, though of Sephardic background. Sephardic Jews hail primarily from the Iberian peninsula, whereas Ashkenazi Jews (which is my own background) stem mostly from Eastern European and Russian descent. Most American Jews that you will meet are of Ashkenazi heritage. The Sephardic Jews, however, have distributed themselves over the years mostly to Spain, Israel, Mexico and Latin America.
Robert was the 7th of eight children born to his parents. In order, his siblings are: Maxim, Gilu, Yossi, Dina, Jackie, Danny, Robert and Rahel. His siblings are now spread out all over the world in Israel, Colombia and Miami, Florida. His siblings grew up speaking French, the national language in Meknes. At age four, Robert moved with his family to Haifa, Israel where he remained for his school years. He was especially close with his older brother, Danny, who many thought was his twin. After high school, he joined the Israeli infantry for three years in order to complete the mandatory service that is obligatory for all Israeli men and women. During this time, Robert fought in the historic 6-day war which resulted in Israel heroically reclaiming much of its original territory which had been ousted from them. As you all know, the complicated Arab-Israeli conflict continues on to this day.
After three years in the service, Robert decided to pack his bags and head over to Bogota, Colombia where his older brothers Yossi and Danny had already moved and made a name for themselves. The opportunities there, at the time, were appealing and plentiful. He became deeply passionate about Colombia, claiming that Bogota was the best city in the world. He began a career in textiles and eventually opened up his own factory later in life, called PerlaTex. Early on in Bogota, he met Colombian native and his soon-to-be wife, Esther, and married her in 1983. A year later, Rafi was born, followed by younger sisters Michelle and Perla.
I had the pleasure of meeting Robert in September of 2007, just a few months after Rafi and I began dating. Eager to travel, I insisted to Rafi that we take a trip to see his home base and to meet his family before he headed back to Israel to begin his studies. Boy am I glad we made that trip. You really just don't know what is going to happen in life. Thankfully, I will always have the memory from that trip to understand the man Rafi came from and the person he holds so highly in his eyes. Rafi, like his father, grew up speaking in one language and would spend the rest of his life communicating in another language. Also like his father, he served in the Israeli military for three years. Again like his father, he would move abroad from his home base and place of birth. Like his father, he would marry a woman from a different culture, taking his entire life somewhere new. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I think Robert would be honored to see what Rafi has done thus far with his life!
On a serious note, for those of you out there reading this blog, I want to encourage you to take the effects of smoking seriously. It is a silent killer and no one is invincible. Let today be the day that you put the cigarette down or encourage someone close to you to do the same. I encourage you not to deny the heavy impact that smoking has on our precious bodies. Many of us either don't know or don't want to know what smoking does to our organs. However, it is important to see it in images, and I hope it will be a wake-up call:
|A healthy heart and a smoking heart, side by side|
To Robert, we think of you each and every day and hope you are in a better place looking over us. Here are a few pictures of the places you used to call home:
|Haifa, Israel from the Bahai' Gardens|
Happy Birthday! Feliz Cumpleanos! Yom Huledet Same-ach! Once we get it uploaded, I would like to share a very special video of Rafi (a soldier at the time) and his dad in Israel from a surprise visit his father made years ago on a nationally aired television show in Israel. This video was shown at our wedding and I hope to bring it to all of you soon!